Believe it or not, there was a time when professional bowling ranked among the most popular sports on television.
For more than three decades, from the early 1960s to late 1990s, the Professional Bowlers Tour was a staple of Saturday afternoon sports programming on ABC, as the prelude to its iconic "Wide World of Sports." Bowlers like Dick and Pete Weber, Earl Anthony, Marshall Holman and Walter Ray Williams Jr. became household names (at least for many) and fixtures of the weekly stepladder finals.
Those days seem long gone amid the media saturation of mainstream sports like football and basketball, and the emergence of popular new ones such as mixed martial arts. But the professional men’s and women’s bowling tours have chugged on in the recesses of cable sports television, with new stars (and more fashionable attire). And with a new Fox Sports deal, the Professional Bowlers Association Tour will make its return to broadcast television in 2019, though it would be premature to expect the ratings to return to the sport’s heyday when Chris Schenkel and Nelson Burton Jr. called the action.
To honor the enduring legacy of a sport that has never completely gone out of fashion, here’s our list of the 30 greatest bowlers past and present.