Schenectady USBC Hall of Famer Bob “Goose” Faragon is undoubtedly one of the greatest bowlers in Capital Region history, but at age 61, the Colonie High School graduate and longtime Crane Street resident feels like the modern game has passed him by.
With the COVID-19 pandemic keeping all local bowlers off the lanes by state mandate, Faragon has had plenty of time to reflect on the many changes in the sport, which he feels have limited his effectiveness.
Faragon remained near the top of the game’s elite scratch players for a large segment of the last four decades. Yet despite the fact that he doesn’t feel he has fallen off that much physically, he believes he can no longer compete at the highest levels.
“The reason I’m upset is that I’m only 61,” Faragon said. “I feel like I can’t compete with these guys any longer, because I just don’t have the ball speed. That’s just not fair, in my opinion. I know it sounds like sour grapes to a lot of guys, but the way I look at it, when I grew up, nobody threw the ball 18 miles an hour. Guys like Sonny Dorstek were great, and they never threw the ball 17 miles an hour.”
Faragon thinks the reliance on speed and power in the modern game, coupled with the advancement in technology, makes his style of play obsolete in many ways.
“All the guys I grew up idolizing – whether they were on the PBA Tour or the top local bowlers – none of them threw the ball hard back then,” Faragon noted. “Everything was more based on accuracy. Your shoulders were square to the line, and the keys were your balance and your follow-through. It was all technique. In 2020, you can throw it all out the window. I think it’s terrible.”
Faragon said the drastic change in overall style, including the popularity of the two-handed release and the concentration of power and hook over finesse and accuracy, are relatively new concepts.
“I’d say a lot of this has happened in the last 8-10 years. The balls are getting stronger. I think the modern balls are the problem,” he said. “It’s the atom-bomb balls that everyone is throwing now. You can go to the pro shop, get your ball drilled, and all of a sudden you have a game. You don’t have to be accurate anymore. Everyone has a big hook. They stand left, open their shoulders, and throw it to the right.”
Faragon conceded that there are still some “older” bowlers who are excelling without relying on excessive power and speed. He mentioned guys like lefty Rich Strath and fellow Schenectady USBC Hall of Famer Joe VanDerLinden, who is also known for his accuracy.
“I was more of a down-and-in type of player who relied on being accurate more than anything else,” he said. “On Monday nights at Towne Bowling Academy, I used to be one of the young guns. Now, I’m the third-oldest guy in the league. On my tombstone, it’s going to read ‘flushola’ because I don’t mix it up or get a lot of wall-job hits. Everything was pitted when I was bowling well. I had to be accurate. You don’t have to be accurate now, and that’s the big difference. Kids now have those high-powered balls. I’d love to see them throw the yellow dot or white dot balls that we had back in the day.”
Faragon relayed a few of his favorite bowling memories.
“One time, there was a special exhibition match at the old Schades Academy,” he said. “I was just 16 or 17 years old at the time, and Mark Hilton and Kenny Hall were part of the exhibition with Dick Weber and another guy. They were going to bowl two games against each other, and then, the owner of Schades was going to join them for the third game. There were about 200 people watching. All of a sudden, the crowd starts chanting my name. Weber comes over and asks ‘who is this guy, Goose?’ So he comes over to me and asks me if I want to bowl with him and his son, Pete, in that third game.”
Faragon quickly nodded that he would love the opportunity, and he warmed up for a few shots while the Webers held a question-and-answer session. “Nobody had a 200 game during the first two games,” Faragon pointed out. “But I started out with the first seven strikes. I didn’t strike on the eighth shot, but the crowd gave me a big applause. In the bar afterward, Weber gave me some advice on how pros often sell shares of themselves to get sponsorships when they went out on tour. Years later, when I was bowling in the U.S. Open, he came over to me and said ‘Congratulations. You made it to the US. Open.’ He remembered me all that time.”
Faragon’s resume is fantastic. Inducted into the Schenectady USBC Hall of Fame in 2011, he once owned the association’s record for high triple (889) before Rotterdam native and PWBA standout Liz Kuhlkin broke it with an 890 set a couple of years ago. He has rolled 130 perfect games and 70 800 triples along with a high season average of 235 and a high four-game series of 1,145.
Faragon won 29 Northern Bowlers Association titles when that was the main tournament option for local scratch bowlers, and he added a handful of Huck Finn tournament crowns, including an appearance in the first televised finals. He won three major-league average titles in the SBA, was a member of numerous championship teams in major scratch leagues and also was named the Albany Bowling Association Bowler of the Year in 1985.
He also won the old Capital District Match Game Championship, which served as the local qualifier into the U.S. Open, three times and once rolled a perfect game at the 1995 ABC Masters in Reno, Nevada.
Faragon’s exploits weren’t limited to the confines of the Capital Region. He cashed 10 times on the PBA50 Tour out of 14 events in the 2008 and 2009 seasons. “My best finish out on the PBA50 was fourth,” Faragon recalled. “I lost to a guy from Ohio. He opened the first frame with a Greek Church split, and then struck out for a 278. When the game was over, I just shook his hand and told him he made my ride home a lot easier because he deserved to win.”
Faragon relished the time he rolled against some of the best bowlers in the world.
“The expenses killed you back then, but I cashed in more than 50 percent of my events,” he said. “What I wanted to do was experience that tour and see if I could compete with the best players in the world. And I did bowl with some of the best.”
One of Faragon’s favorite moments on the PBA50 Tour was losing to the legendary Walter Ray Williams Jr. in an extremely close best-of-three match. “He beat me by 7 pins in the first game and 4 pins in the second game,” Faragon said.
He’s been around long enough to have a solid opinion on his list for the top bowlers in area history. Although he conceded that others deserved some consideration, he listed Kenny Hall, Brian LeClair, Skip Vigars Jr., Joe Donato, Harry Polomaine and Jim Lewis as the best he saw and competed against during his era. His top choice among the females was the late former Colonie High School coach and PWBA champion Barb Leicht.