By Jim Goodwin on Jul 17, 2019 10:48:18 AM
When you watch this week's BowlTV Vault video of the 1985 Queens, you may think that the production was a lot simpler then, but there is a lot to smile about, like seeing a bowling legend in the early days of her incredible career.
When you watch this week's BowlTV Vault Video of the 1985 Queens, you may think that the production was a lot simpler then, but there is a lot to smile about, like seeing a bowling legend in the early days of her incredible career.
Aleta Sill was only 22 when she won one of bowling's major tournaments at Ducat's Imperial Lanes in Toledo, Ohio . . . but believe it or not, she was a seasoned veteran on the women's pro tour in 1985. It was the second Queens victory for the '84 Bowler of the Year. She won her first national pro title at 19 in 1981 and her first major at 20 in the '83 Queens.
Sill simply had one of the most remarkable careers in professional bowling history . . . 31 titles from 1981-2000 . . . '84 Bowler of the Year with five titles . . . TWO Triple Crown Titles . . . First to earn $1 million, which earned her the nickname "Sillionaire" . . . won the elite Merit Mixed Doubles three times with three different PBA partners.
In the '85 Queens, on what appears to be a tough condition for her four opponents, she makes it look like a walk in the park, rolling a near perfect 279 for the title. It is hard to understand where such a young player finds that kind of composure under the pressure of a major event.
When we spoke to her at her bowling center in Michigan, she said "Gosh Jim, I really don't remember much about that one. I do recall that it was sponsored by Maxim Coffee and they gave me some coins in a coffee jar after I won, but most of it is a blank. That was a long time ago."
Yes it was long ago, but the still vibrant 56-year-old Sill sounded like the young bowler I remembered when we spoke . . . she grew up in Michigan using words like 'gosh' to start her sentences, and she is true to her roots; happy and running her 32-lane bowling center and pro shop in Farmington Hills with partner and fellow tour mate Michelle Mullen.
She shared that they have been running the pro shop for 15 years, and that they took over the management of the center with an option to buy a couple of years ago after the previous owner took his own life.
"It was very tough for everyone here," she said. "But the league bowlers and the community have gotten behind us and, we really are looking forward to good days ahead. We are very happy with the progress so far."
A few more interesting aspects of this 34-year-old video . . . the announcers are legendary sportscaster Duane Dow and a very young and nervous Jeanne Maiden (Naccarato), who also went on to a Hall of Fame career and now owns a couple of bowling centers of her own. Faces in the crowd include WIBC President Helen Baker and the remarkable Alberta Crowe. Baker presents the necklace and tiara always given to the Queens champ.
Sill defeats amateur and Team USA member Linda Graham for the title, but it was also fun to watch Pat Costello and Shinobu Saito on the show. Costello was 38 at the time and already a legend, and Saito was perhaps the best of many Japanese pros who made their mark on the Queens . . . they won in '81, '82, and '84. Sill won is '83, finished second in '84, and won again in '85. Saito never won the Queens, but she owned 40 titles on the Japan Pro Tour at that point.
1985 was also a transition period for bowling balls - you will see plastic, rubber, and urethane balls on this video . . . resins would arrive a few years later . . . but Aleta Sill is the shining star of this video, and absolutely deserves to be in the conversation about the greatest of all time.