Best bowler who brought power to the sport, Mark Roth dies at 70


Mark Roth, whose explosive power play made him one of bowling’s all-time greats and the second to earn $ 1 million in career earnings in the sport, died Friday in Oswego, NY. He was 70 years old.

The cause was congestive heart failure, said his wife, Denise Roth. Since 2009, he has had two strokes – the first ended his career – and two heart attacks and was in a long-term care facility when he died.

Roth was a star of the Professional Bowlers Association in the 1970s and 1980s and a mainstay of his PBA tour. He won 34 titles, a record eight in 1978; won $ 1.5 million on the tour; and has been named the PBA Player of the Year four times. He was inducted into the Association’s Hall of Fame in 1987 and in 2008 was voted fifth best player.

Roth brought an almost violent approach to bowling, an approach he once likened to “ripping the cover off the ball.” By twisting his wrist severely when he released the ball, he created significant speed and spin, causing the ball to hook towards the punch pocket.

“Sometimes I throw rockets,” Roth told Sports Illustrated in 1978. “My ball can even dominate track conditions sometimes.”

Marshall Holman, a longtime Roth rival, said in a phone interview: “Mark has brought together power and precision, which has made him so dynamic and arguably the best aftermarket shooter the game has seen in the past. last half century.

Roth’s most famous spare – knocking down the remaining pins with the second bowl thrown into a frame – took place at a tournament in 1980 in Alameda, California. He became the first bowler to convert the notoriously tough 7-10 Division – knocking down both pins in opposite corners of the back row – on national television.

“He had a small smile on his face,” said Holman, who was training on a nearby track. “But I was going crazy. It was the coolest thing I have ever seen.

Roth’s aggressive release couple caused his right hand to become callused and his thumb to bleed. At first he soaked his thumb in foot soap, but then eased the problem somewhat by changing the angle of his bullet’s thumbhole so that he could release the finger more easily.

Mark Stephen Roth was born April 10, 1951 in Brooklyn. Her mother, Hilda (Rocker) Roth, was a legal secretary and her father, Sidney, was a postal worker. Bowling began to dominate his youth after Rainbow Lanes were built near his home.

At 13, he was on average 160 years old; at 17, his GPA was 195 (he often averaged 210 as a professional). He also worked in bowling, first as a garage owner, then as a mechanic operating automatic bowling machines. He played for the Sheepshead Bay High School team and traveled to other bowling centers besides Rainbow for doubles matches, sometimes with Johnny Petraglia, who would also be inducted into the Hall of Fame of the PBA.

“I’ve been kicked out of a lot of places,” Roth told Sports Illustrated. “They got tired of me winning, so they said, ‘Get out and don’t come back.'”

After graduating, he competed in local tournaments until he made enough money to compete in the PBA Tour in 1970. But his unorthodox, self-taught style had its skeptics.

“Before I went on tour, people were like, ‘You’ll never make it. You won’t last three years, ”he told the Bowlers Journal in 2018.“ I was so determined to silence these people. “

“The same thing happened on tour,” he added. “They said, ‘You have to throw it straighter,’ and do this and that. I was determined to do it my way, and that was it.

His success came gradually. In 1970, he only won about $ 1,000, and he didn’t win his first title until 1975, at the King Louie Open in Overland Park, Kan. He won three tournaments in 1976 and four more the following year. After winning eight tournament titles in 1978, he won six more in 1979.

In 1984, one of his four wins, at the Grand Detroit Open, pushed his career earnings above $ 1 million; with that, he joined Earl Anthony as the only other bowler to reach this level at the time. This was a particularly notable achievement for a sport whose cash prizes are modest compared to other sports.

Roth and a partner purchased Rainbow Lanes in 1984, and he remained the owner until the mid-1990s.

He won his final tournament on the PBA Tour in 1995, winning a first prize of $ 45,000 at the IOF Foresters Open in Mississauga, Ont., A suburb of Toronto. He joined the association’s senior PBA50 circuit and won a title in 2001 and a second in 2002.

“What Mark did seemed impossible when he did it,” said Tom Clark, the PBA commissioner, in an interview, referring to Roth’s power play. “Technology has evolved so that balls grip more and hit with more power – doing what it did naturally.”

Roth had a severe stroke in 2009 that partially paralyzed his left side; Through physical therapy, he was able to walk with a quad cane, occasionally bowling, and teach at a bowling center in Liverpool, NY.

“He should have been bowling on the senior tour for the past 12 years,” Ms. Roth said in an interview.

He married Denise McKinney in 2003. A previous marriage, to Jacqueline Dente, ended in divorce.

In addition to his wife, Roth is survived by a daughter, Stephanie Roth, from his first marriage; one daughter-in-law, Kimberly Gorton-David; one stepson, Mark MacIntyre; three step-grandsons; and a step-granddaughter.

Roth was known to be shy and calm. But in 1978, Sports Illustrated was on hand to observe his eccentric morning hotel room ritual before heading to a tournament: he was screaming, punching the bed, stamping his feet, repeating the word “Firp” over and over again. again and slam a pillow against the wall, letting his feathers fly.

“I do it because it makes me feel better and it helps me bowling,” he said. “It took me a while to try my routine on the tour. Since I started I have bowled better.

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