Ten days shy of his 100th birthday and just one day before his many friends were scheduled to honor him at Western Turnpike Golf Course, Joey Schmidt, the “Old Warhorse,” passed away.
One of the Capital Region’s greatest bowlers ever and a charter member of the Professional Bowlers Association, the affable Schmidt died Saturday morning.
Mild-mannered but a stickler for etiquette and protocol, Schmidt was known as the consummate professional and a true friend to anyone on the lanes and off.
“He was one of the four or five greatest bowlers ever in our area, along with guys like Joe Donato, Skip Vigars, John Walther and Morris Cramer,” said Kenny Hall, a former member of the PBA Tour who now is the color commentator for the Huck Finn “Capital Region Bowling Show,” as well as a local pro-shop operator.
“He was not only a charter member of the PBA, but he was the reason I decided to join the PBA Tour in the first place. He was a total gentleman. He was pure class. I will miss him,” said Hall.
Huck Finn tournament director Jeff Segel, who bowled with Schmidt and was one of his best friends, emphasized that Schmidt was much more than a talented kegler.
“He was a really good friend, not just to me, but to everyone,” said Segel. “Everyone talks about him being such a great bowler, but he was more than just a bowler. He was one very good person.
“I think he was a bowling icon, much like Babe Ruth in baseball.”
Although there are many gener-ations of bowlers who never got the opportunity to see Schmidt compete, his name will never be forgotten, thanks to the Capital District Junior Pro-Scoring League, which he started. That league was later named after him, and he continued to run it for more than 35 years. He was also the director of the Saturday morning junior bowling program at Spare Time-Latham Bowl. He was an active bowler well into his 80s.
Schmidt’s memory was still sharp as he approached the century mark in age, and he loved keeping in touch with all of his bowling friends. His health declined only recently.
According to his eldest son, Joseph, Schmidt was admitted to St. Peter’s Hospital on April 24 and later was sent to Our Lady of Mercy Life Center in Guilderland before going back to the hospital for eight days. He returned to Our Lady of Mercy Life Center for 21 days of physical therapy and was looking forward to today’s party.
“He was doing good, and it [the party] would have been great,” said his son. “He was looking forward to the party and seeing everybody. One of the nurses there told me that he had just said to her the other day to ‘pack me up, I’m leaving.’ ”
Schmidt died after slouching over and losing consciousness while being wheeled to breakfast Saturday morning.
“I never heard anybody say a bad word about him,” said Joseph Schmidt. “He was always smiling; he was never a sore head. He never got mad when he lost a bowling match and came home and kicked the wall. That never happened. He was always a great guy.”
Schmidt, who got his nickname from Howard Tupper on the old “TV Tournament Time” bowling show, was voted the Albany Bowling Association Bowler of the Half Century from 1928 to 1978 and was a member of both the Albany Bowling Association and New York State Bowling Association Halls of Fame.
Schmidt competed in the first-ever PBA tournament, the 1959 Empire State Open at Schades Academy, and also bowled in three BPAA All-Stars, now the U.S. Open. He was also the early leader in the 1960 World Invitational Tournament.
He was a member of the New York State championship team in 1963 and competed in 17 American Bowling Congress tournaments, placing third in the ABC doubles with Cramer in 1958.
“He was probably the best anchor bowler I ever competed against or with. He was tough in the clutch,” said Cramer. “If you needed a mark or a strike in the 10th frame, he would get it. He was so great under pressure. Nothing fazed him.
“The other thing I remember about him was that he always kept his cool. He never got disgruntled after a bad shot. He just smiled and went back to sit down.”
Funeral services are pending.
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