1964, bowling great Don Carter inked a million-dollar deal with
Ebonite, making him the first bowler -- and perhaps the first athlete
in any sport -- to hit the magic mark.
By Kristen Scheuing
Earlier this month, USBC Sport Bowling spokesperson Chris Barnes became the face of Columbia 300
as part of a $1 million eight-year deal. He joins an elite club of
bowling's million-dollar dealers - a club that was founded nearly half
a century ago.
1964, bowling legend Don Carter managed the unthinkable for a bowler --
or any athlete for that matter -- when he landed a $1 million
endorsement deal with bowling manufacturer Ebonite. He was the first
bowler to hit the magic mark, and far outpaced his contemporaries
throughout the sports world.
four years before Carter's landmark agreement, the best that
professional golfer Arnold Palmer's manager could muster for his client
was a $5,000 per year "global" deal with Wilson sports. In 1968, Super
Bowl quarterback Joe Namath famously shaved off his moustache with a
Schick razor for a mere $10,000. Race car driver Richard Petty would
become the first million-dollar driver, but not until 1971.
Ebonite deal launched the widely popular Don Carter Gyro-Balanced ball,
but his own lucrative endorsement career was already on track. As early
as 1959, Carter was grossing more than $100,000 a year through
tournaments, exhibitions, TV matches, investments and endorsements for
such products as Miller Lite, Viceroys, Palmolive Rapid Shave and
charismatic Carter charmed sponsors and consumers, and his spokesperson
clout was backed up on the lanes. He was voted the greatest bowler in
history by a Bowling Magazine poll in 1970, the same year he was
inducted into the Unites States Bowling Congress Hall of Fame.
was the first to win bowling's Grand Slam: the All-Star, World's
Invitational, PBA National and the ABC Masters. Along the way, he
racked up an impressive list of firsts.
his nine All-Star Tournament appearances between 1952 and 1960, Carter
won four times, once had to withdraw due to injury and never finished
lower than fourth in the other four years. His record in the World's
was even more astounding: five titles and one second-place finish in
of TV viewers were tuned in on Oct. 28, 1961, when Don Carter toppled
the $18,000 6-7-8-10 jackpot pin arrangement on "Make that Spare." The
fifteen-minute bowling program aired on ABC between Oct. 15, 1960 and
Sept. 11, 1964. Carter was the first to spill the jackpot spare on the
DON CARTER FIRSTS
First bowler to win every major tournament
First athlete to sign a $1 million promotional contract
First bowler to have a PBA tournament named for him
First bowler selected for the Madison Square Garden Hall of Fame
First active bowler to be named to the Billiard and Bowling Institute of America's Hall of Fame
First 800 series on TV (809) on "National Bowling Champions"
First to "Make That Spare" on network television.