1981 PBA National Championship

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Imperial Lanes, Toledo, Ohio, Mar 1-7, 1981
Holy Toledo! Anthony Again

Having already won the PBA National Championship a record three times (1973, 1974 and 1975), Earl Anthony added another to his collection by outlasting Ernie Schlegel, 242-237, in a tense, spirited championship match in the $135,000 PBA National Championship in Toledo, Ohio.

Anthony could not claim victory until Schlegel, shooting last and needing a strike to win, left a 2-pin on a shot light to the headpin.

Anthony had kept the door open for Schlegel by leaving the 1-3-6-10 spare combination in the 10th frame which he converted. Still, as he sat down to watch his destiny being decided by his opponent, Anthony prepared for what could have been another in a long series of second place finishes.

"It isn't often you can sit on the bench and win," said Anthony after the nerve-racking triumph.

"I really wanted to win this bad because it gives me four National Championships and it's going to be hard for anyone to top that," he added, savoring the prestige of a major tournament win as well as the $21,000 first prize.

It was also Anthony's third win in his last four tournaments on the Winter Tour and he had finished third in the event he didn't win.

Anthony took control of the 56-game qualifying and match play event after the fourth round and went on to build a 285-pin cushion over Dick Weber, the 51-year-old bowling legend and hero of a generation past. Weber had out-maneuvered Schlegel for the second-seeded position with Schlegel getting third, followed by two-time PBA National Champion Dave Davis, in fourth, and Gary Dickinson, runner-up in the 1980 National, in fifth.

It was a veteran and much revered finals cast with three having already been elected to the PBA Hall of Fame (Anthony, Weber and Davis) and the other two debating about who was the youngest (both 37, Schlegel was 15 days younger than Dickinson).

Despite a foul midway through the opening match, Davis edged Dickinson, 204-203. Then Schlegel stepped in to crush Davis, 245-171, and eliminate Weber, 236-204, to move into position to win the first major title of his career.

As nearly 2,000 people watched first-hand at Imperial Lanes in the enthusiastic bowling city of Toledo, Anthony and Schlegel stood even after five frames. Anthony pulled ahead with strikes in the seventh, eighth and ninth frames which proved to be enough to win the 22nd annual National Championship of the Professional Bowlers Association.


Pos. Name, City/State Total Amount

1 Earl Anthony, Dublin, Calif. 242 (1 game) $21,000
2 Ernie Schlegel, Vancouver, U.S.A. 718 (3 games) 11,000
3 Dick Weber, St. Louis 204 (1 game) 6,000
4 Dave Davis, Tinton Falls, N.J. 375 (2 games) 5,000
5 Gary Dickinson, Burleson, Texas 203 (1 game) 4,500

PLAYOFF RESULTS – Davis defeated Dickinson, 204-203; Schlegel defeated Davis, 245-171; Schlegel defeated Weber, 236-204; and in the championship match, Anthony defeated Schlegel, 242-237.

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39 Comments on “1981 PBA National Championship”

  1. This was my favorite day and time of the week… Just hearing the opening music brings back so many memories… Thank you!

    1. I couldn’t agree more. I would watch with my Grandma (who bowled for 50 years and actually bowled a 300 game once) my Mom and my brothers. Great times, great memories!

  2. This was one of the few remaining bowling centers that maintained a lacquer finish on the lanes after most centers had switched to urethane. Lacquer was petroleum-based and flammable while urethane was water-based and nonflammable.

  3. If the lineup had included Jeffrey Lebowski, this tourney would’ve been perfect. Robe, white russian, and Schenkel saying ‘another double for the Dude’

  4. Vintage Ernie Schlegel.. the inspiration for Bill Murray’s Ernie McCracken character in King Pin.

  5. Earl Anthony prevails when Ernie schlegel left the 2 pin on his first shot in the tenth frame to win the PBA national championship

  6. 7:40 plagued by 10 pins ๐Ÿ™‚ What a world!!!! ROFL!!!!!! I have horrible nightmares involving standing 10-pins.

    1. Captain Ricco tell me about it nothings worse than hitting the pocket perfect and watching the 3 pin spin around the 10 ๐Ÿ™ lol

  7. 1:15:13 โ€œPlayers are allowed only one re-rack per match, that was his second oneโ€๐Ÿ™„

  8. Ernie bowled a 700 series here for natl championship finals, with his line he had to pack it in the pocket perfect and its hard to be perfect with everything on the line in last shot.

  9. Earl got his clock cleaned by many
    ( including 18 yr old Norm Duke ).
    However, it was the consistency that made him great, 40+ wins and 40+ 2nd compressed into 14 yrs. That’s less than half the time it took others to attain the same numbers

  10. I loved to watch the Earl Anthony Show. Because I amazed that I saw him in New Orleans But PBA tournament was at the Expressway Lanes in Gretna La. Also, He did not won I was disappointed that hurricane Katrina destroyed the building. It did not rebuilding. Owner did not interesting to rebuilding.

  11. 1:04:48 Proof from left-hander Johnny Petraglia that left-handers have a cleaner, truer line to the pocket and therefore an advantage.

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