BY JILL WINTERS
Hammond, Indiana – John Burkett is a two-time Major League Baseball All-Star and now a PBA50 champion.
On Thursday, the tall righty earned his way into the stepladder finals at the PBA50 South Shore Open after striking out in the 10th frame in the round of 16 match play to defeat No. 1 seed Chris Barnes 738-733. He then beat No. 8 seed Brian LeClair 693-674 to claim the No. 3 seed in his second-ever stepladder finals.
The former MLB pitcher is used to throwing strikes from the pitcher’s mound; now, he did that with a 900 Global Reality bowling ball in his hands inside Olympia Lanes. It was a ball he hadn’t used all week until his match against Barnes.
“I put 360 on that and tried to break the lane down to give me something to hook off of,” he said about the ball of choice. “Nobody else was throwing it that far out. It gave me some room and I was off to the races.”
He battled his way past Parker Bohn III in his first TV match. Bohn III needed a mark in the 10th to win and instead left the 4-6-10 split. Burkett won 197-194.
The strikes came in his next match against Lennie Boresch Jr. Burkett had seven strikes in eight frames for the 234-211 victory. In the championship match, he took on defending champion Eugene McCune.
Burkett kept delivering strikes throwing five over his first six frames for an early 43-pin lead, while McCune got his first strike of the match in the seventh frame after making a ball change. Burkett never let up winning his first PBA50 title 223-190.
“It is just unbelievable,” the 57-year-old said. “You have this dream of doing it but the more you are out here with the Hall of Famers you have to go through every week, sometimes you wonder if you are ever going to be able to do it. For it to happen now is an amazing feeling.”
A few days ago, Burkett’s mother-in-law experienced a major medical event. He knew what she was going through is so much tougher than what he was going through, which relaxed him. He hopes to see her on Friday.
“It was amazing how many breaks I got,” he said. “It was just an amazing day, and I felt her presence was with me the whole time.”
Burkett admits he always felt he was a better bowler than a baseball player, but since he happened to be drafted to play baseball that is the path he took.
“Fortunately, it worked out and now I get the opportunity to come out here and do this,” he said. “No matter what happens now, I can say I am a PBA champion. That is what I came out here to do, so to be able to accomplish that is very gratifying.
“This is the number one accomplishment in my sports history.”
And when he gets his PBA champion banner, he wants it to be black and gold since he is a Pittsburgh Steelers fan.
In the opening match, Bill Rowe, who led qualifying rounds, lost to Bohn 215-211.
View the full PBA50 South Shore Open results at PBA50 South Shore Open | PBA
2022 PBA50 SOUTH SHORE OPEN FINAL STANDINGS:
1. John Burkett $ 7,500
2. Eugene McCune $ 4,500
3. Lennie Boresch Jr. $ 3,000
4. Parker Bohn III $ 2,500
5. Bill Rowe $ 2,000
Match 1 – Bohn III def Rowe 215-211
Match 2 – Burkett def Bohn III 197-194
Match 3 – Burkett def. Boresch Jr. 234-211
Championship match – Burkett def. McCune 223-190