Oral History: 30 Years since the end of The Bowling Game on TV 58

Oral History: 30 Years since the end of The Bowling Game on TV 58

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- For 20-plus years, from 1975 to 1994, The Bowling Game was a nightly tradition in, as Lee Rothman said in the opening lines of each show, "the bowling capital of the world, Milwaukee, Wisconsin." 

Tom Kohl and the late Lee Rothman hosted the show for its entire run, mostly on WVTV-TV, Channel 18 and finishing its last for years on WDJT-TV which was, at the time, called TV58.

30 years after it went off the air, CBS 58 Morning News anchor Mike Curkov reunited some of the stars of the show including host Tom Kohl, and players Julie Ehrke D'Amato, Steve Brinkman, Larry Sczcepanski, and Bluemond Bowl owner Hank Posnanski whose family business sponsored many of the teams.

Tom Kohl: It was so simple. But yet it was so genuine. It was four frames of a regular bowling match. 7, 8, 9, 10. That was it.

Everybody watched. At one point in its run, according to Rothman's obituary, it was the highest rated independently produced program in the country.

Larry Sczcepanski: We'd have dinner. We'd get ready, and we'd all watch The Bowling Game. It was Milwaukee, it was a tradition.

Hank Posnanski: Anyone could bowl, anyone could be on it.

Steve Brinkman: Your friends are on it. People you bowl league with. by

Tom: What made it popular was, your neighbor who may have been on the show, became a star for 15 minutes.

Wisconsin families ate dinner with Tom and Lee, five nights a week, 33 weeks a year, for 20 years.

Larry: Oh, they were cool. You could goof around with them. Lee was always the professional and Tom was the loose guy.

Hank: Tom and Lee were awesome. They were excellent people. Lee was an awesome man. Very funny man. Very straight. Just a good guy. Tom's still Tom. He's funny.

Tom: We tried to make them [the bowlers] feel relaxed. We talked to them a little bit. Got to know a little bit about their families. How long they've been bowling. What kind of average did they have. What kind of expectations did they have.

Larry: My hobbies were blondes, brunettes, and Bacardi, that's what I said. And that was pretty funny.

Tom: Lee Rothman, my partner, deserves so much credit for the success of that show. His humor and the way he knew how to ad-lib, and I learned so much from him.

Lee passed away in 2004.  by CBS 58

Tom: Lee was a wonderful, wonderful mentor He was part of my family.

Steve Brinkman anchored his team to the 1992 Spring Finals.

Steve: You didn't have to be a professional to do it. It was, we bowled league together and said 'hey, let's do it.' We went on it and had success. by CBS 58

Julie Ehrke D'Amato was part of that team.

Julie: A little nerve-wracking. You hope you do well. You want to make your spares. I think I bowled pretty decent. I believe we took second place by two points.

Larry Szczepanski guesses he appeared on The Bowling Game about seven times.

Larry: We had 473 for all of us [his 1982 team] which was never eclipsed. Coming back on 30 years later, it was a fun thing to do. We thought let's just do it. Maybe we can win some beef jerky, who knows.

Hank Posnanski's family and Bluemound Bowl sponsored dozens of teams:

Hank: It was cool in the little stadium they had. They built a two-lane studio with bleachers. It was just an excellent atmosphere.

Thirty years after the end of the show, Julie had to stop bowling because of an injury. Steve just returned from bowling in Vegas for the USBC Open Championships. Larry rolled his 50th perfect game earlier this year and, even at 60 years old, he is the defending USBC Wisconsin state and Milwaukee City singles champion. Hank runs Bluemound Bowl as his family has done for more than 50 years now.

Tom is now retired from a second career in commercial real estate after 20-plus years in Milwaukee radio and TV.

Tom: It was a sincere meeting of neighbors and friends and bowlers. I think that's why it lives on in its longevity. It was so for everybody. It was goodnight, good luck...and good bowling.

We asked for your memories and photos from The Bowling Game and we were overwhelmed with submissions. Below is a slideshow with some of your stories and photos:

The Bowling Game - Judy Drascic 1

Judy Drascic shared photos from her time on The Bowling Game including a blurb from the newspaper:

"Be sure to watch The Bowling Game on Channel 58 at 7 p.m. the last to Fridays of this month, as those shows feature Racine bowlers. On the first show, Oct. 23, the Nostam team of Paul, Bill, Randy, and Tom Ricchio and Eric Ruediger will compete.On the Oct. 30 show, a husband and wife "Grudge Match" is featured, with the Old Geezers (Rick Luccasen, Jim Pauls, Bill Mortensen, Paul Belanger, and Rich Wonders) against the Old Bats (spouses Judy, Barb, Carm, Shelly, and Kris, respectively). Time to Spare knows the outcome, but watch the show to see for yourself."


The Bowling Game - Judy Drascic 2

Judy Drascic shared photos from her time on The Bowling Game including a blurb from the newspaper:

"Be sure to watch The Bowling Game on Channel 58 at 7 p.m. the last to Fridays of this month, as those shows feature Racine bowlers. On the first show, Oct. 23, the Nostam team of Paul, Bill, Randy, and Tom Ricchio and Eric Ruediger will compete.On the Oct. 30 show, a husband and wife "Grudge Match" is featured, with the Old Geezers (Rick Luccasen, Jim Pauls, Bill Mortensen, Paul Belanger, and Rich Wonders) against the Old Bats (spouses Judy, Barb, Carm, Shelly, and Kris, respectively). Time to Spare knows the outcome, but watch the show to see for yourself."

The Bowling Game - Judy Drascic 3

Judy Drascic shared photos from her time on The Bowling Game including a blurb from the newspaper:

"Be sure to watch The Bowling Game on Channel 58 at 7 p.m. the last to Fridays of this month, as those shows feature Racine bowlers. On the first show, Oct. 23, the Nostam team of Paul, Bill, Randy, and Tom Ricchio and Eric Ruediger will compete.On the Oct. 30 show, a husband and wife "Grudge Match" is featured, with the Old Geezers (Rick Luccasen, Jim Pauls, Bill Mortensen, Paul Belanger, and Rich Wonders) against the Old Bats (spouses Judy, Barb, Carm, Shelly, and Kris, respectively). Time to Spare knows the outcome, but watch the show to see for yourself."

The Bowling Game - Bill Schendel

Bill writes: I was one of the fortunate bowlers who appeared on the show (three times, actually), and found it to be one of the most interesting events of my life. I have some video of my appearance and a few photos that I will be glad to share with you.

The Bowling Game - Bill Schendel 2

Bill writes: I was one of the fortunate bowlers who appeared on the show (three times, actually), and found it to be one of the most interesting events of my life. I have some video of my appearance and a few photos that I will be glad to share with you.

The Bowling Game - Bill Schendel 3

Bill writes: I was one of the fortunate bowlers who appeared on the show (three times, actually), and found it to be one of the most interesting events of my life. I have some video of my appearance and a few photos that I will be glad to share with you.

The Bowling Game - Bill Schendel 4

Bill writes: I was one of the fortunate bowlers who appeared on the show (three times, actually), and found it to be one of the most interesting events of my life. I have some video of my appearance and a few photos that I will be glad to share with you.

The Bowling Game - Bill Schendel 5

Bill writes: I was one of the fortunate bowlers who appeared on the show (three times, actually), and found it to be one of the most interesting events of my life. I have some video of my appearance and a few photos that I will be glad to share with you.

The Bowling Game - Bobbi McCoy

Message from Bobbi McCoy

The Bowling Game - Debbie Westphal

Message from Debbie Westphal

The Bowling Game - Mike Hansen

I’m not sure of the exact date, but probably around 1980.

-Mike Hansen - Hartford, WI

The Bowling Game - Tim Blaeske

Message from Tim Blaeske

The Bowling Game - Greg Dailey 1

I have attached some pictures of our Runner up trophy from 1975. Our team name was Hampton House. The 1st place team was Fashions by Erlene Fuller. -Greg Dailey

The Bowling Game - Greg Dailey 2

I have attached some pictures of our Runner up trophy from 1975. Our team name was Hampton House. The 1st place team was Fashions by Erlene Fuller. -Greg Dailey

The Bowling Game - Deb Foote 1

My dad, Gerald Foote, and his (carpenter) bowling league were on the show; I don't know what year but possibly mid l980's. I remember going to the show and sitting behind them; it was a fun event!

Gerald Foote is the one with the brown plaid pants. He also loved to golf and was still golfing at 95, shortly before he passed away.

-Deb Foote

The Bowling Game - Deb Foote 2

My dad, Gerald Foote, and his (carpenter) bowling league were on the show; I don't know what year but possibly mid l980's. I remember going to the show and sitting behind them; it was a fun event!

Gerald Foote is the one with the brown plaid pants. He also loved to golf and was still golfing at 95, shortly before he passed away.

-Deb Foote

The Bowling Game - Deb Foote 3

My dad, Gerald Foote, and his (carpenter) bowling league were on the show; I don't know what year but possibly mid l980's. I remember going to the show and sitting behind them; it was a fun event!

Gerald Foote is the one with the brown plaid pants. He also loved to golf and was still golfing at 95, shortly before he passed away.

-Deb Foote

The Bowling Game Deb Foote 4

My dad, Gerald Foote, and his (carpenter) bowling league were on the show; I don't know what year but possibly mid l980's. I remember going to the show and sitting behind them; it was a fun event!

Gerald Foote is the one with the brown plaid pants. He also loved to golf and was still golfing at 95, shortly before he passed away.

-Deb Foote

The Bowling Game Deb Foote 5

My dad, Gerald Foote, and his (carpenter) bowling league were on the show; I don't know what year but possibly mid l980's. I remember going to the show and sitting behind them; it was a fun event!

Gerald Foote is the one with the brown plaid pants. He also loved to golf and was still golfing at 95, shortly before he passed away.

-Deb Foote

The Bowling Game - Deb Foote 6

My dad, Gerald Foote, and his (carpenter) bowling league were on the show; I don't know what year but possibly mid l980's. I remember going to the show and sitting behind them; it was a fun event!

Gerald Foote is the one with the brown plaid pants. He also loved to golf and was still golfing at 95, shortly before he passed away.

-Deb Foote

The Bowling Game - Deb Foote 7

My dad, Gerald Foote, and his (carpenter) bowling league were on the show; I don't know what year but possibly mid l980's. I remember going to the show and sitting behind them; it was a fun event!

Gerald Foote is the one with the brown plaid pants. He also loved to golf and was still golfing at 95, shortly before he passed away.

-Deb Foote

The Bowling Game - Deb Foote 8

My dad, Gerald Foote, and his (carpenter) bowling league were on the show; I don't know what year but possibly mid l980's. I remember going to the show and sitting behind them; it was a fun event!

Gerald Foote is the one with the brown plaid pants. He also loved to golf and was still golfing at 95, shortly before he passed away.

-Deb Foote

The Bowling Game - Deb Foote 9

My dad, Gerald Foote, and his (carpenter) bowling league were on the show; I don't know what year but possibly mid l980's. I remember going to the show and sitting behind them; it was a fun event!

Gerald Foote is the one with the brown plaid pants. He also loved to golf and was still golfing at 95, shortly before he passed away.

-Deb Foote

The Bowling Game - Deb Foote 10

My dad, Gerald Foote, and his (carpenter) bowling league were on the show; I don't know what year but possibly mid l980's. I remember going to the show and sitting behind them; it was a fun event!

Gerald Foote is the one with the brown plaid pants. He also loved to golf and was still golfing at 95, shortly before he passed away.

-Deb Foote

The Bowling Game - George Zagel 1

I was on the Bowling Game twice, and both times we bowled against ladies: matchups were based on overall team averages.

I won both my matches and received a car wash and potato chips and a bowling towel, which I still have in my bag.

I don’t roll the rock much any more, but there were many good times shared on the lanes back then.

George Zagel - Glendale WI

Thanks much.

You can see the towel in my hand on the January 1993 screen shot of the show.

The Bowling Game - George Zagel 2

I was on the Bowling Game twice, and both times we bowled against ladies: matchups were based on overall team averages.

I won both my matches and received a car wash and potato chips and a bowling towel, which I still have in my bag.

I don’t roll the rock much any more, but there were many good times shared on the lanes back then.

George Zagel - Glendale WI

Thanks much.

You can see the towel in my hand on the January 1993 screen shot of the show.

The Bowling Game - Kim Wojciechowski Siewert 1

Kim Wojciechowski Siewert shared photos of her dad's time on The Bowling Game:

"My dad, Davie Wojciechowski, was on the show numerous times and as a kid I remember sitting in those stands. I can’t even tell you how many 300 games he’s had I would have to ask He’s 81 years old right now and just stopped bowling a few years ago. He would be tickled to publicized."

The Bowling Game - Kim Wojciechowski Siewert 2

Kim Wojciechowski Siewert shared photos of her dad's time on The Bowling Game:

"My dad, Davie Wojciechowski, was on the show numerous times and as a kid I remember sitting in those stands. I can’t even tell you how many 300 games he’s had I would have to ask He’s 81 years old right now and just stopped bowling a few years ago. He would be tickled to publicized."

The Bowling Game - Kim Wojciechowski Siewert 3

Kim Wojciechowski Siewert shared photos of her dad's time on The Bowling Game:

"My dad, Davie Wojciechowski, was on the show numerous times and as a kid I remember sitting in those stands. I can’t even tell you how many 300 games he’s had I would have to ask He’s 81 years old right now and just stopped bowling a few years ago. He would be tickled to publicized."

The Bowling Game - Kim Wojciechowski Siewert 4

Kim Wojciechowski Siewert shared photos of her dad's time on The Bowling Game:

"My dad, Davie Wojciechowski, was on the show numerous times and as a kid I remember sitting in those stands. I can’t even tell you how many 300 games he’s had I would have to ask He’s 81 years old right now and just stopped bowling a few years ago. He would be tickled to publicized."

The Bowling Game - Kim Wojciechowski Siewert 5

Kim Wojciechowski Siewert shared photos of her dad's time on The Bowling Game:

"My dad, Davie Wojciechowski, was on the show numerous times and as a kid I remember sitting in those stands. I can’t even tell you how many 300 games he’s had I would have to ask He’s 81 years old right now and just stopped bowling a few years ago. He would be tickled to publicized."

The Bowling Game - Kim Wojciechowski Siewert 6

Kim Wojciechowski Siewert shared photos of her dad's time on The Bowling Game:

"My dad, Davie Wojciechowski, was on the show numerous times and as a kid I remember sitting in those stands. I can’t even tell you how many 300 games he’s had I would have to ask He’s 81 years old right now and just stopped bowling a few years ago. He would be tickled to publicized."

The Bowling Game - Kim Wojciechowski Siewert 7

Kim Wojciechowski Siewert shared photos of her dad's time on The Bowling Game:

"My dad, Davie Wojciechowski, was on the show numerous times and as a kid I remember sitting in those stands. I can’t even tell you how many 300 games he’s had I would have to ask He’s 81 years old right now and just stopped bowling a few years ago. He would be tickled to publicized."

The Bowling Game - Kim Wojciechowski Siewert 8

Kim Wojciechowski Siewert shared photos of her dad's time on The Bowling Game:

"My dad, Davie Wojciechowski, was on the show numerous times and as a kid I remember sitting in those stands. I can’t even tell you how many 300 games he’s had I would have to ask He’s 81 years old right now and just stopped bowling a few years ago. He would be tickled to publicized."

The Bowling Game - Kim Wojciechowski Siewert 9

Kim Wojciechowski Siewert shared photos of her dad's time on The Bowling Game:

"My dad, Davie Wojciechowski, was on the show numerous times and as a kid I remember sitting in those stands. I can’t even tell you how many 300 games he’s had I would have to ask He’s 81 years old right now and just stopped bowling a few years ago. He would be tickled to publicized."

The Bowling Game - Kim Wojciechowski Siewert 10

Kim Wojciechowski Siewert shared photos of her dad's time on The Bowling Game:

"My dad, Davie Wojciechowski, was on the show numerous times and as a kid I remember sitting in those stands. I can’t even tell you how many 300 games he’s had, I would have to ask. He’s 81 years old right now and just stopped bowling a few years ago. He would be tickled to publicized."

The Bowling Game - Kim Wojciechowski Siewert 11

Kim Wojciechowski Siewert shared photos of her dad's time on The Bowling Game:

"My dad, Davie Wojciechowski, was on the show numerous times and as a kid I remember sitting in those stands. I can’t even tell you how many 300 games he’s had, I would have to ask. He’s 81 years old right now and just stopped bowling a few years ago. He would be tickled to publicized."

The Bowling Game - Kim Wojciechowski Siewert 12

Kim Wojciechowski Siewert shared photos of her dad's time on The Bowling Game:

"My dad, Davie Wojciechowski, was on the show numerous times and as a kid I remember sitting in those stands. I can’t even tell you how many 300 games he’s had, I would have to ask. He’s 81 years old right now and just stopped bowling a few years ago. He would be tickled to publicized."

The Bowling Game - Jane Halstead Donaldson 1

Jane Halstead Donaldson shared her DVD's of her husband and brother-in-law's appearance on the show and she writes:

My husband and brother-in-law were participants in the very last show. They bowled the last 3 shows.

My husband's team had a blind bowler on the show, a first for any bowling show. His name is Morry Worthington. Jeff Worbel, who worked for Lake Geneva NAPA, sent in an application to be on the show, but when the network found out there was going to be a blind bowler on the team, the show turned them down. Jeff felt that wasn't right so he insisted that the show make arrangements for Morry. Teams were found that were willing to participate against Lake Geneva Auto, and one alley was set up with a rail so Morry could follow the rail with one hand. Morry was blinded in a car accident when glass penetrated his eyes.

The teams consisted of Jeff Worbel, Roger Worbel (brother of Jeff), Terry Donaldson, Jim Donaldson (Terry's brother) and Morry Worthington. All but Terry worked at NAPA.

I am Terry's wife. We had a lot of family members in the gallery, and during one interview with Terry he was holding my 9 month old niece Rachel, who is now 38 years old. We all enjoyed watching the last 3 shows live.

The Bowling Game - Jane Halstead Donaldson 2

Jane Halstead Donaldson shared her DVD's of her husband and brother-in-law's appearance on the show and she writes:

My husband and brother-in-law were participants in the very last show. They bowled the last 3 shows.

My husband's team had a blind bowler on the show, a first for any bowling show. His name is Morry Worthington. Jeff Worbel, who worked for Lake Geneva NAPA, sent in an application to be on the show, but when the network found out there was going to be a blind bowler on the team, the show turned them down. Jeff felt that wasn't right so he insisted that the show make arrangements for Morry. Teams were found that were willing to participate against Lake Geneva Auto, and one alley was set up with a rail so Morry could follow the rail with one hand. Morry was blinded in a car accident when glass penetrated his eyes.

The teams consisted of Jeff Worbel, Roger Worbel (brother of Jeff), Terry Donaldson, Jim Donaldson (Terry's brother) and Morry Worthington. All but Terry worked at NAPA.

I am Terry's wife. We had a lot of family members in the gallery, and during one interview with Terry he was holding my 9 month old niece Rachel, who is now 38 years old. We all enjoyed watching the last 3 shows live.

There are a few episodes of The Bowling Game available on YouTube. Here are the 1992 Spring Finals:

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