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Huntsville - Madison County Athletic HOF Member

NAME:Richard Smock
BORN:  
INDUCTED:  2018
SPORT:  bowling
  
Ever heard the story about the time Richard Smock, one of Huntsville’s best-ever bowlers, went head-to-head against Earl Anthony, maybe the greatest professional bowler of all time? Remember the late Earl Anthony, the smooth left-handed assassin with the crewcut? Won 43 titles on the regular Professional Bowlers Association tour. Won seven more on the Senior Tour. Won 10 major tournaments – the PBA National Championships six times, the Tournament of Champions twice and the ABC Masters twice. His nicknames included “Square Earl," “Earl the Pearl” and “The Doomsday Stroking Machine.” Anthony, Dick Weber and Don Carter were household names a generation ago and dramatically increased bowling’s profile and popularity with their frequent TV appearances on ABC’S Wide World of Sports. “I can always say I once beat Earl Anthony in a big tournament," says Richard Smock. “Not everybody can say that.” More on the Earl Anthony story shortly. At tonight’s 26th induction banquet, Richard Smock becomes the 11th bowler from the Huntsville area to be inducted into the Huntsville-Madison County Athletic Hall of Fame. Many local devotees of the sport believe only the late Jimmy Certain, inducted in the inaugural class in 1989, was better. In fact, Certain and Smock are the only bowlers from Huntsville who ever won a PBA Tour tournament. Smock’s win came at a PBA regional in Houman, LA, in the early 1990s. “After I won, they made me an Honorary Cajun," he said. “I was glad to win the money and glad to be an ‘honorary’ anything. Those Cajuns know how to have a good time.” Smock considers the Houma tournament and winning the 2005 Eric Defietas tournament in Atlanta a dozen years ago as his top accomplishments in bowling. Smock, the third of Robert and Elva Smock’s four children, was born in 1958 in El Centro, Calif., where the senior Smock was working as a civil servant at the Naval Proving Grounds. The family soon moved 2,000 miles eastward when Richard’s father took a job at Wright- Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio, and they all came to Huntsville in 1963 when Robert Smock went to work at Redstone Arsenal. Richard was 5 at the time. He was “9 or 10, somewhere around 1968,” when he discovered bow ling after spending the night at the home of a childhood friend, David Blevins. “David and George Carlyle were the ones who got me started," Smock recalled. “David and I went to Pin Palace the next day and I was just hanging around, watching him bowl. It looked like a lot of fun. George Carlyle came over and told me, ‘Don’t just stand there. Go get you some shoes and a ball.’ I said, ‘I don’t have any money.’ He said, ‘I run this place. You don’t need any money. Go get some shoes and a ball.’ So I did, and that was where it all started. I immediately joined the junior leagues. I liked it and my parents backed me and supported me. For some reason, I excelled at it more than most of the other kids. Guess I just had a knack for it. Nobody in my family bowled except me. But my sister, Mary, was a fan of mine and she kept pushing me to get better. So really, I blame George Carlyle and my sister for me getting hooked on a lifetime of bowling.” Incidentally, George Carlyle wasn’t kidding about running the place. A year after Pin Palace opened just off North Parkway in 1963, Carlyle leased the snack bar. The following year, after the facility expanded from 24 to 36 lanes, he became the assistant manager, and eventually the manager. Pin Palace was aptly named. For years, it was probably the premier bowling alley in the state. When he was 14, Smock bowled a 298 game at Pin Palace, leaving a 4-6 split on his last ball. The same year, he joined the men’s adult league. “I was beating everybody else in my age group," he explained, “and I felt I wasn’t going to get any better until the competition was stronger." By then, Smock had already caught the eye of everybody in the local bowling community, including Jimmy Certain. “Jimmy was a mentor of mine – a hero – because I loved bowling so much and because he took me under his wing. Basically, he just told me to do it my way.” Certain had been a bowling prodigy himself in the early 1950s. At 13, he won the Tennesssee men’s state tournament, singles and all-events, and went on to win virtually every important amateur event in Alabama over the next several years. He joined the professional tour in 1967 and was runner-up to Mike Durbin for Rookie of the Year. He competed off and on the tour for 22 years, and then won first place and $13,000 in his first event on the senior tour, the ’89 Showboat Senior Invitational in Las Vegas. “Around here in those days,” said Smock, “every bowler wanted to be Jimmy Certain.” By his senior year at Johnson High School, lots of bowlers around town were probably saying the same thing about Richard Smock. He and friendly rival Tony Churchy at Grissom High were two of the hottest young bowlers in the northern tier of Alabama at the time. Smock’s bowling accomplishments after nearly a half-century include these: Huntsville’s Bowler of the Decade (1980-90); winner of the Huntsville Bowling Association city tournament 15 times; HBA Bowler of the Year three times; HBA Hall of Fame inductee in 1990; winner of 15 titles in the Alabama State Bowling Association; ASBA Hall of Fame inductee in 1999; has bowled a perfect 300 game 65 times, including one in the 1993 ABC Masters; also has several 299 games (“I try not to think of those,” said Smock). Now for the Earl Anthony story: In 1980 at the age of 22, Smock and Tony Churchy set out on a 13-stop bowling tour, starting on the west coast and working their way east. When they reached Waukegan, Ill., a northern suburb of Chicago, they called Janis and Jan back in Huntsville and invited them to drive up to Chicago for the Waukegan tournament. Jan was Tony’s girlfriend and now his wife. Janice was Janice Spray, Richard’s girlfriend then and now. “Janis is the love of my life," Smock said. “We’ve been together 44 year s. Maybe we’ll get married someday. But neither one of us want to rush into anything." So Janis and Jan drove to Waukegan to cheer their guys on. About mid-tournament, Smock found himself matched against America’s “Mr. Bowling.” At the time, Anthony was just two years away from becoming the first bowler to amass $1 million in career earnings – big money in that era. “I was bowling cross-lanes with Mr. Bowling," said Smock. “We had something like 200 or 300 people watching the two of us, and I feel pretty strongly they weren’t there to watch me. Earl marked in the 10th frame, finished with something like a 210, and the crowd was clapping and cheering like it was a football game. I’m up in the 10th frame and I wound up with a 279. I heard a little light clapping from the crowd, and most of it was coming from Janice. Afterward, Earl Anthony came over and shook my hand. Then he put his arm on my shoulder and said, ‘Don’t worry, son. I got the same treatment back when I was a rookie.’ ”