Gary Thorne Splits Time Calling Bowling

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Gary Thorne already looks at home lane-side.  (Photo Courtesy of the PBA)
Gary Thorne already looks at home lane-side. (Photo Courtesy of the PBA)

If you’re a sports fan, chances are you've listened to or watched Gary Thorne more than once. His broadcasting resume includes coverage of the NHL, the Olympics, college football and basketball. And he’s best known for his more than two decades of Major League Baseball play-by-play.

Thorne has called a lot of balls and strikes, but soon he’ll be calling strikes - and spares - for the Professional Bowlers Association on ESPN. He joined Only A Game guest host Karen Given to discuss his new part-time job and told her he did a lot bowling when he was young.

"I grew up in a small town in Maine and we actually had a couple of bowling alleys and that was where you went on Friday night to gather with friends," said Thorne, who is also the television voice of the Baltimore Orioles.

Thorne will be calling the three major tournaments left in the PBA’s season. He's stepping in for Rob Stone, who’s leaving ESPN to cover soccer for Fox Sports, but this isn't Thorne's first experience calling matches.

"When I was in Maine, I was actually practicing law at the time and doing broadcasting on the side," Thorne said. "Maine Public Television carried a series of ten-pin bowling and it ran for the entire winter season. It was great fun. I loved it."

Thorne is returning to bowling broadcasts just after the sport lost one of its icons. Don Carter died last week at the age of 85. The PBA called him its “original superstar.” Thorne holds Carter in high esteem.

"Don Carter was the face of bowling. He put it on the map in the [1950's]," Thorne said. "He was as much of a superstar in sports, all of sports, as anybody else. He was the first athlete in any sport to have a $1 million contract with a company, it was a bowling ball company, outside of the work that he was doing. That's pretty amazing."

Hockey announcers are known for crescendos that get loud fast as the action picks up. Thorne thinks he'll probably need to torque back the volume for PBA events.

"I'm going to find out where they've got the Plexiglas [and] see if there's any separation between the lanes and myself," Thorne laughed. "I'm going to have be very careful about that. I don't think the bowlers would appreciate the kind of exuberance you get in a hockey broadcast in a play-by-play of bowling."

Thorne's first assignment for the PBA is calling the U.S. Bowling Congress Masters in Las Vegas later this month.

This segment aired on January 14, 2012.


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