In a sport that flourishes on near anonymity—professional bowling—Earl Anthony is still known as “Mister Anonymous.” This is so despite his record-breaking earnings of more than $96,000 this year and a clear shot at becoming the first bowler ever to earn $100,000 in one season.
The self-effacing Anthony began bowling when he was 21 years old and joined the pro tour in 1970, when he decided he would rather bowl full time than work a night shift as a grocery receiving clerk. He finished second in his first tournament, went on to win $26,000 his rookie year and so far has amassed $243,263. His average of 219.4 points per game this year is an all-time PBA record.
The Anthonys still live in the $25,000 house they purchased 15 years ago in Tacoma, Wash., although he admits: “We could live a lot higher. We just want to be able to send the kids to college.” The kids are Jeri, 16, Mike, 14, and Tracy, 11. During the summer they join him on the tour, clapping politely whenever he effortlessly rolls a strike. Once in a while, just to prove he has nerves, he tosses a white towel in the air after rolling a bad ball. “But basically,” says a pro bowling official, “Earl is as steady as a machine.”