What Made Them Great: Parker Bohn III

As part of BJI’s 100th anniversary celebration, we’re counting down the top 10 players in PBA history. Ranked No. 10: Parker Bohn III. (This story originally appeared in the June 2012 issue of BJI.)


The first thing to do with a person like Parker Bohn III is to establish that there is one. You have to make sure he didn’t just walk in from the pages of “Superman Returns” or a John Wayne movie.

You figure that somebody read the life and times of Dave Davis and decided that since Dave was nearing the end of his career, we needed another lefty who was tall and thin with a perfect long armswing and the ability to strike from any spot on the lane.

If Parker Bohn III is real, why doesn’t he get thrown out of a bar occasionally for busting a mirror with a bar stool? How come he isn’t paying alimony to at least three wives?

What’s a goody-goody like him doing with a perfectly in- time approach and the uncanny ability to make the correct move on the lanes when the need arises? Why is he so polite to the press? Why doesn’t he at least wear an earring?

If God gives you that beautiful armswing, He gives you the barbed wire beard, the busted nose and the rotten disposition to go with it, right? Bohn should look more like Joe Falcaro than Dave Davis.

And what’s with that funky name? Parker. Bohn. The third. “The third” should be reserved for graduates of Harvard or New York stock brokers or candidates of the Republican party. “The thirds” are people who have a summer cottage in the Hamptons, a second home in Fort Lauderdale and discuss the merits of their newest polo horse.

It wasn’t just the perfect armswing. Parker is a thinking man’s bowler. He has listened to advice from some of the greatest in the game. Steve Cook, Earl Anthony, Dave Davis and Johnny Petraglia were among the early influences on this all-time great. Unlike some, Parker has managed to use all their advice to fit his particular game. As one scribe once noted, early in Bohn’s career: “Parker Bohn III has a 35-year-old brain in a 21-year-old body.”

Bowling writers, in general, were awed by Bohn from the outset. Fearless. Faultless. A hero out of the dime store novel era. The guy who would rescue the orphan from a burning building, warn the train engineer that the trestle was out, capture the runaway horse with the heiress in the carriage.

Bohn was as motivated as a monk. Lots of bowlers in the PBA will discuss good places to eat with you, not to mention booze, broads, hockey, football, jazz, even the stock market.

If you questioned Parker in the press room, you got an illustrated lecture on how to tuck the baby finger in order to achieve a different rotation and skid on the ball, or the proper wrist snap to increase the rev rate going down the lane.

Parker was as interested in the mechanics of the release as Edison was in the electric light bulb.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Parker Bohn III is not a total bore. You don’t win 31 titles, reach at least two TV shows in each of 19 consecutive seasons, earn more than $100,000 in a season 12 times and win multiple titles in a single season eight times if you’re boring. He just goes about his bowling in a more business-like manner.

Bohn was a master at making the right move when the lanes dictated a move. The late PBA tournament director, Harry Golden, used to say, “Let your bowling ball be your guide,” and Parker Bohn III was an expert at observing and adjusting based on the results of a previous shot.

And don’t let that thin body frame fool you. Parker can get the ball down the lane with the speed of many larger framed players. Oh, sure, he loves to play the outside line (what lefty doesn’t?), but he can easily move inside or go up the second arrow or venture wherever his ball guides him. Put 10 pins at the end of the lane, let Parker throw a few shots, and he inevitably will find the right place from which to attack those pins.

He bowls with the kind of poker-faced intensity and confidence of a guy who knows he has aces-full and the best you could have is a small pair. His stamina is incontestable, although he doesn’t always need it. If he had been born in a previous era, he would probably have shined in those 100-game events like the All Star.

While other bowlers rile at their squad choice or scream at the lane man, Parker analyses and adjusts. A board here, a board there, another good shot, another high 200 game added to the total. Brunswick has a machine called Thro-Bot, but Thro-Bot can’t think and Thro-Bot does not know if the lanes are changing. Parker Bohn III is Thro-Bot with a brain, with eyes and with “feel.”

As Parker closes in on his 50th birthday, it would be easy to write him off and wait for his appearance on the Senior Tour. But he still has the fire in his belly and strives to return to his Bowler of the Year form. He still has the knowledge to adjust on the lanes, so it is entirely possible that we may see him on our television screens again very soon. As Bohn puts it, “I would be cheating myself if I didn’t go for it.”

He’d also be cheating all the kids who believe in eating their spinach and doing their homework, all the authors who believe in the words “clean-cut” and “forthright” and “pluck,” and everyone who remembers the America of Superman, the Rover Boys and “True Grit.”

Parker Bohn III may be ranked the 10th-greatest player in PBA history, but he is not through yet.