PBA Tournament of Champions Re-visited: Mike Berlin Wins in 1977

by Jerry Schneider January 8, 2011 05:18

(Editor’s Note: A sports tradition will return to network television when the finals of the record $1 million PBA Tournament of Champions will air live Saturday, Jan. 22, on ABC at 2:30 p.m. Eastern from Red Rock Lanes in Las Vegas.

Some of the most historic moments in professional bowling, took place in PBA’s signature event. PBA is providing a look back at some of these great moments through re-release of tournament results as they were written by PBA’s media relations staff at the conclusion of the event.

Below is a trip back in time as we re-visit the 1977 Tournament of Champions where Mike Berlin defeated Mike Durbin for the title.)

$125,000 FIRESTONE TOURNAMENT OF CHAMPIONS

Riviera Lanes, Akron, Ohio, Apr 18-23, 1977

Mike Makes Right

Mike Berlin, a late bloomer on the Professional Bowlers Association tour, won the 1977 edition of the $125,000 Firestone Tournament of Champions in his first appearance when he defeated top-seeded Mike Durbin, 221-205, in the championship match.

The PBA's Rookie of the Year in 1976 at the age of 32, Berlin got revenge for two earlier match play defeats at the hands of Durbin to walk off with professional bowling's biggest paycheck-$25,000.

Berlin qualified for the prestigious 52-man field by winning the 1976 AMF Regional Champions Classic, his first PBA title.

No one gave it much thought when Berlin, of Muscatine, Iowa, and Durbin, the 1972 Firestone champion, squared off for the first time in match play. And no one gave it much thought when Durbin emerged the winner.

Who would have thought that the two would meet again. But fate intervened and PBA history was made.

Entering the crucial position round match the night before the nationally televised finals, Berlin had fought his way to the top of the field, eight pins ahead of second place Wayne Zahn, the 1966 Firestone winner, and 33 ahead of Durbin.

Berlin seemed a cinch to retain the top-seeded spot when he tossed a 244 at Zahn. But only a few feet away, Durbin was electrifying the crowd at Riviera Lanes by throwing strike after strike. When the smoke had cleared, Durbin finished with a 277. For the first time in the PBA's 18-year history there was a tie for top-seeded position.

Once again, it was not Berlin's turn to win as a charged-up Durbin posted a 232-203 victory to earn the envious top-seed.

The four match championship round began with Larry Laub bouncing back from an embarrassing gutter ball to defeat fourth-seeded Sam Flanagan, 179-192. Laub started the next match with four strikes in the first five frames and Zahn was unable to recover as he went down to a 215-203 defeat.

Berlin, itching for another shot at Durbin, then brushed aside Laub, 213-200, to advance to the payoff match.

Displaying a calm demeanor unlike what you'd expect from a first-time Firestone competitor, Berlin opened with four straight strikes against Durbin to take a 29-pin lead. Durbin was unable to get closer than 17 pins the rest of the way and when Berlin toed the mark in the final frame, all he needed was a mark.

He got it.

"This is the greatest day of my life," Berlin said. "Every pro bowler dreams of winning this tournament. Right now I'm on top of the world. My dream has come true."

TELEVISED FINALS

Pos. Name, City/State Total Amount

1, Mike Berlin, Muscatine, Iowa, 434 (2 games), $25,000

2, Mike Durbin, Chagrin Falls, Ohio, 205 (1 game), 14,000

3, Larry Laub, San Francisco, Calif., 594 (3 games), 8,000

4, Wayne Zahn, Tempe, Ariz., 203 (1 game), 6,000

5, Sam Flanagan, Parkersburg, W. Va., 172 (1 game), 4,000

PLAYOFF RESULTS-Laub defeated Flanagan, 179-172; Laub defeated Zahn, 215-203; Berlin defeated Laub, 213-200; and in the championship game, Berlin defeated Durbin, 221-205.

48-GAME TOTALS

Name, City/State Pins WLT + Tot Amt

&1, Mike Durbin, Chagrin Falls, Ohio, 10,347, 14-7-3, 465, 10,812

&2, Mike Berlin, Muscatine, Iowa, 10,377, 14-9-1, 435, 10,812

3, Wayne Zahn, Tempe, Ariz., 10,322, 15-9-0, 450, 10,772

4, Sam Flanagan, Parkersburg, W. Va., 10,192, 16-7-1, 495, 10,687

5, Larry Laub, San Francisco, 10,216, 14-10-0, 420, 10,636

*6, Gary Dickinson, Ft. Worth, 10,074, 17-7-0, 510, 10,584, $3,350

7, Les Schissler, Denver, 10,106, 15-9-0, 450, 10,556, 3,000

8, Johnny Guenther, Seattle, 10,069, 15-9-0, 450, 10,519, 2,800

9, Dave Frame, Baldwin Park, Calif., 10,153, 12-12-0, 360, 10,513, 2,600

10, Eddie Ressler, Allentown, Pa., 10,048, 14-9-1, 435, 10,483, 2,500

11, John Denton, Midland, Texas, 10,089, 12-12-0, 360, 10,449, 2,400

12, Palmer Fallgren, Las Vegas, 10,092, 11-12-1, 345, 10,437, 2,300

13, Mark Roth, Staten Island, N.Y., 10,119, 9-15-0, 270, 10,389, 2,200

14, Marshall Holman, Medford, Ore., 10,041, 11-13-0, 330, 10,371, 2,100

15, Dick Weber, St. Louis, 10,005, 12-12-0, 360, 10,365, 2,000

16, Dale Glenn, Glendale, Calif., 9,979, 12-12-0, 360, 10,339, 1,900

17, Dick Ritger, River Falls, Wisc., 10,007, 11-13-0, 330, 10,337, 1,800

18, Roy Buckley, Columbus, Ohio, 9,920, 13-11-0, 390, 10,310, 1,700

19, Curt Schmidt, Ft. Wayne, Ind. , 10,036, 8-16-0, 240, 10,276, 1,650

20, Bill Beach, Sharon, Pa., 9,929, 7-17-0, 210, 10,139, 1,575

Paul Colwell, Tucson, Ariz. , 9,899, 8-16-0, 240, 10,139, 1,575

22, Matt Surina, Longview, Wash., 9,779, 7-17-0, 210, 9,989, 1,500

23, Jay Robinson, Los Angeles, 9,667, 8-15-1, 255, 9,922, 1,450

@25, Dave Soutar, Kansas City, 9,667, 9-15-0, 270, 9,843, 1,225

24-GAME TOTALS

Pos. Name, City/State Total Amount

@25, Mike Limongello, Las Vegas, (32 games), 6,507, $1,220

26, Dave Davis, Atlanta, 4,946, 1,050

27, Don Johnson, Las Vegas, 4,941, 1,000

28, George Pappas, Charlotte, N.C., 4,934, 1,000

29, Paul Moser, Medford, Mass., 4,931, 1,000

30, Tommy Hudson, Akron, Ohio, 4,916, 1,000

31, Steve Jones, Independence, Mo., 4,915, 1,000

32, Billy Hardwick, Louisville, 4,910, 1,000

33, Sal Bongiorno, Hollywood, Fla.. 4,889, 1,000

34, Teata Semiz, River Edge, N.J., 4,881, 1,000

35, Carmen Salvino, Chicago, 4,850, 1,000

36, Nelson Burton, St. Louis, 4,827, 1,000

37, Tom Warren, St. Joseph, Mo. , 4,812, 1,000

38, Earl Anthony, Tacoma, 4,758, 1,000

39, Glenn Carlson, Fresno, 4,753, 1,000

40, Jim Stefanich, Joliet, Ill., 4,748, 1,000

41, Steve Neff, Sarasota, Fla., 4,711, 1,000

42, Jim Frazier, Spokane, Wash., 4,696, 1,000

Johnny Petraglia, Staten Island, N.Y., 4,696,1,000

44, Mike McGrath, Huntington Beach, Calif., 4,675, 1,000

45, Louie Moore, Columbus, Ohio , 4,641, 1,000

46, Skee Foremsky, Conroe, Tex., 4,634, 1,000

John Wilcox, Williamsport, Pa., 4,634, 1,000

48, Jim Godman, Lorain, Ohio, 4,630, 1,000

49, Henry Gonzalez, Colorado Springs, 4,618, 1,000

Bill Straub, Lincoln, Neb. , 4,618, 1,000

51, Barry Asher, Costa Mesa, Calif., 4,506, 1,000

52, Don McCune, Munster, Ind., 4,475, 1,000

*Alternate. 24-game qualifying leader-Roth, 5228. 24th Place-Schmidt, 4949. PRO-AM CASHERS ($50 each)-Palmer Fallgren, George Pappas, Eddie Ressler, Mike Durbin, Steve Jones, Mark Roth. Squad prizes-$1,000 Mike Durbin, $500-Matt Surina, Mike Berlin, Larry Laub, Gary Dickinson. High game awards $250 each-Dave Davis, Louie Moore, Curt Schmidt, Mark Roth, John Guenther, Ed Ressler. @Soutar replaced Limongello in finals, and assumed 94-pin penalty. Soutar and Limongello split 24th and 25th place money, receiving $1,225 and $1,220 respectively. Dave Davis received $50 for alternate. &Durbin and Berlin tied for first place after 48 games and Durbin took one game rolloff, 232-203.

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