Known as Mr. Bowling, Don Carter was an early professional star in and tireless promoter of the sport of bowling. He was the first to make more than six figures in winnings. With his signature unconventional bowling style, Carter won more than forty individual, double, and team competitions. A founder of the Professional Bowlers Association (PBA) in the mid-1950s, Carter led the PBA twice in earnings and was named bowler of the year six times. He was the only professional bowler to win the Hickok Belt as the professional athlete of the year, in 1962.
Born July 29, 1926, in St. Louis, Missouri, Carter was the son of Gladys Carter. His father abandoned him, his mother, and his brother when he was a baby, and he was raised by his mother. While still in school, he helped support his family by working as a golf caddy and a pinsetter at a bowling alley.
Early Interest in Bowling
Working at the bowling alley peaked Carter's interest in bowling. To become good at the sport, he built a lane in the basement of his home so he could practice. But bowling was not his only sport. At Wellston High School, he was a star athlete in baseball (four varsity letters) and football (three letters).
When Carter graduated from high school in 1944, World War II was still being fought. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy after graduation. Carter served as a radarman, working on a military vessel. By the time he was discharged in 1946, Carter had reached the rank of third-class petty officer.
After his stint in the Navy ended, Carter did not turn to bowling right away, but became a professional baseball player first. In 1947, he signed a contract with the Philadelphia Athletics in the American League. Carter was assigned to their Class D farm team in Red Springs, North Carolina.
Carter had a short-lived career in the minor leagues. He played both pitcher and infielder at Red Springs. He had a .302 batting average while playing infield, but had a poor record as a pitcher. Carter decided that he would not make it as a major league baseball player and asked for his release after the season ended.
Returned to St. Louis
After Carter ended his baseball career, he returned to his home town of St. Louis. He found employment at an industrial plant and also worked as the manager of a bowling center. Bowling soon became a focus of his life. Carter bowled in six leagues and was a coach for other players.
By the early 1950s, Carter had become a successful professional bowler, one of the first to dominate the sport. One reason for his popularity was his appearance on early televised bowling shows and matches. This also made the sport more popular.
One aspect of his game that was noticed from his earliest days in the spotlight was Carter's unusual bowling style. As he made his approach, he would crouch lower and lower with each step. When he finally released the ball, it was with a bent elbow. Carter said one contributing factor to this style was that early in his career, he used a ball that was too heavy.
Other factors contributed to Carter's success. He had nerves of steel in competitions. And, as Chuck Pezzano wrote in the Record, "He was impressive physically at 6-feet, 200 pounds, and always in top shape. If he felt a certain part of his game needed fine-tuning, he thought nothing of working on it for hours."
Carter began winning professional titles in the early 1950s. In 1952, he won the U.S. All-Star Match-Game Championship (later known as the U.S. Open). He also won this tournament in 1954, 1956, and 1958. The following year, in 1953, he was asked to join the Anheuser-Busch-sponsored bowling team. Carter was important to team's success—included other future PBA Hall of Famers such as Ray Bluth, Pat Patterson, and Tom Hennessey.
Other big wins by Carter included six national titles between 1955 and 1962. In 1957, he won the World's Invitational
title. Carter won it again each year from 1959 to 1962. For his championships and other professional accomplishments, he was named bowler of the year by the Bowling Writers Association of America in 1953, 1954, 1957, 1958, 1960, and 1962. In 1959, he was named first team All-American by Bowling magazine. Carter won this honor again every year through 1963.
Helped Found PBA
In 1958, Carter was a charter member of the PBA and served as the organization's first president. It was organized by Carter and other professional bowlers who wanted the professional tour to have a structure in terms of tournaments, travel, and organization. They modeled it after the Professional Golf Association (PGA) tour.
Carter was instrumental in making the PBA successful. It began sponsoring tournaments in 1959, and Carter was its early dominant bowler. His importance to the sport could be found when in 1961, an upstart rival, the National Bowling Association, was founded to challenge the PBA's dominance. While the National Bowling Association attracted many leading pros of the day, it lasted only a year in part because Carter would not leave the PBA.
|1926||Born July 29 in St. Louis, Missouri|
|1953||Joins Anheuser-Busch-sponsored bowling team; marries LaVerne Haverly, also a professional bowler|
|1958||Serves as PBA president|
|1973||Retires from Bowling competition|
|1976||Marries third wife Paula|
|1994||Comes out of retirement to compete in the Palm Beach Senior Classic|
Being an early part of the PBA was not Carter's only contribution to the sport. He also helped develop equipment. In 1959, Carter designed the first bowling glove, known as the Don Carter Glove. The glove had a small
pad that filled the space between the palm and the bowling ball that it gripped. It made the wearer feel like they had better control over the ball. Many of Carter's gloves were sold. He also came up with innovations for shoes and bowling bags.
By the 1960s, Carter had cemented his place at the top of his game, both professionally and from a business point of view. In 1960, he led the PBA in money won, and won the All-Star, World's Invitational and the PBA National Championship. Carter again led the PBA in money won in 1962, and became the only bowler to ever win the Hickok Belt as professional athlete of the year.
Carter capitalized on his fame with commercial endorsements. He had a 23-year-long association with Ebonite, including a ten-year deal he signed in the 1960s worth $100,000. At the time, it was the biggest deal for an athlete and one of the biggest ever for a bowler.
Carter understood what it took to become a leader at his sport. He told Pezzano of the Record, "To become a great bowler takes temperament and dedication. Bowling is a very difficult game mentally. In golf, you see all the hazards. In bowling you don't see the slick boards. Every lane is different. You have to adjust for your mistakes. The best bowlers are the ones who are able to adjust."
Retired as Professional
Though Carter continued to bowl in the late 1960s and early 1970s, severe knee problems curtailed his effectiveness. His last professional tournament was at the 1972 Ebonite Open in Coral Gables, Florida. Carter officially retired in 1973.
At the end of his career, Carter had averaged 201 pins over his career. Known as the Babe Ruth of bowling, Carter had thirteen perfect games in tournaments and sanctioned events. Fellow PBA Hall of Fame member Dave Davis told Chuck Otterson of the Palm Beach Post, "Don had an impact on everybody in this sport. Don had that Arnold Palmer -type charisma. He and Dick Weber accomplished things using hard black rubber balls that have never been matched, even with today's lane conditions and urethane balls."
Address: c/o 9895 SW 86th St., Miami, FL 33176.
SELECTED WRITINGS BY CARTER:
Ten Secrets of Bowling, Viking Press, 1958.
Awards and Accomplishments
|1952, 1954, 1956, 1958||U.S. All-Star Match-Game Championship|
|1953-54, 1957-58, 1960, 1962||Named Bowler of the Year by Bowling Writers Association of America|
|1957, 1959-62||World's Invitational title|
|1959-63||Named first team All-American by Bowling|
|1960||Led Professional Bowlers Association in money won; won PBA National Championship|
|1962||Won Hickok Belt; led Professional Bowlers Association in money won|
|1970||Named Best Bowler of All Time by Bowling ; named to the American Bowling Congress Hall of Fame|
|1975||Named charter member of the Professional Bowlers Association Hall of Fame|
|1995||Primary honoree at Salute to Champions dinner|
|1999||Named one of the 20 best bowlers of the 20th century by Bowling|
Where Is He Now?
After Carter retired in the early 1970s, he could no longer bowl because of his bad knees but did stay in the business side of bowling. He owned several alleys in St. Louis and other cities, and later founded, with partners, Don Carter Bowling Centers. Located in several states in the sun belt, there were fourteen centers by the mid-1990s. Though the company had problems in the late 1990s, it was reorganized and seven Don Carter Bowling Centers remained by 2002. At one time, Carter also had his own line of bowling apparel, gloves, shirts, and slacks.
Carter retired to Miami, Florida, with his third wife, Paula, and pursued hobbies like golfing and painting. He had knee replacement surgeries in the early 1990s, and began bowling in a scratch league in 1993. Carter then occasionally competed in pro-am bowling tournaments, including the Palm Beach Senior Classic as part of the Professional Bowlers Association Senior Tour in 1994. With wife Paula, Carter also brought Women's Intentional Bowling Council events to south Florida. Outside of bowling, Carter was involved in charity work, especially concerning children that had been abused and neglected.
Bowling the Pro Way, Viking Press, 1975.
Hickok, Ralph. A Who's Who of Sports Champions. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1995.
The Lincoln Library of Sports Champions. 2001.
Heroux Pounds, Marcia. "Sunrise, Fla., Bowling Firm Leader Pursues Younger Generation of Bowlers." Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News (October 18, 2002).
Otterson, Chuck. "Carter Shows Fans He's Still Kingpin." Palm Beach Post (October 2, 1994): 1C.
Otterson, Chuck. "Carter to End 22-Year Break from Competition." Palm Beach Post (August 17, 1994): 2C.
Pezzano, Chuck. "Carter Receives a Major Salute." Record (February 12, 1995): S19.
Pezzano, Chuck. "A Career of Excellence Proves Carter the Greatest." Record (October 19, 1994): S22.
Pezzano, Chuck. "Carter Centers: State-of-the-Art." Record (November 29, 1987): S19.
Pezzano, Chuck. "Legendary Don Carter Still Going Strong at 74. " Record (April 29, 2001): S13.
Pezzano, Chuck. "A Vote for Carter As the Best Ever." Record (August 13, 1995): S18.
Pezzano, Chuck. "Weber, Carter, Anthony Head Best of Century." Record (August 22, 1999): S17.
"20th Century's Top 20 to be Honored by ABC." Record (February 6, 2000): S15.
Sketch by A. Petruso
Carter, Don 1958-
Carter, Don 1958-
Born 1958, in Hartford, CT; married; wife's name Catherine; children: Grayson, Phoebe. Education: Attended Paier College of Art, 1976-80. Hobbies and other interests: Jazz.
Illustrator and art director. Tryol & Mikan, art director, 1980-81; Lardis, McCurdy & Company, art director, 1981-85; Naftzger & Kuhe, associate creative director, 1985-86; Mintz & Hoke, creative director, 1986-2001; Adams & Knight Advertising, Avon, CT, creative director, 2001—. Creator of Happy Monster Band (animated television series), Playhouse Disney, 2007—.
Advertising Club of Connecticut.
Original Art Exhibit inclusion, Society of Illustrators, 2000, and 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing designation, New York Public Library, both for for Wake Up House!; awards for advertising art direction and copywriting from institutions including The One Show, CLIO, Connecticut Art Directors Club, and Advertising Club of Connecticut.
Get to Work, Trucks!, Roaring Brook Press (Brookfield, CT), 2002.
Heaven's All-Star Jazz Band, Knopf (New York, NY), 2002.
Send It!, Roaring Brook Press (New Milford, CT), 2003.
Old MacDonald Drives a Tractor, Roaring Brook Press (New Milford, CT), 2007.
Dee Lillegard, Wake Up House!: Rooms Full of Poems, Knopf (New York, NY), 2000.
Donna Conrad, See You Soon, Moon, Knopf (New York, NY), 2001.
Dee Lillegard, Hello School!: A Classroom of Poems, Knopf (New York, NY), 2001.
Carter's work has also appeared in Sesame Street and Nick Jr. magazines.
Don Carter, the creative director for a Connecticut advertising agency, has served as the illustrator for books that include Dee Lillegard's Wake Up House!: Rooms Full of Poems and Old MacDonald Drives a Tractor, a self-illustrated title. Carter is also the creator of Happy Monster Band, an animated television series for Playhouse Disney.
Describing his journey from advertising executive to children's book illustrator, Carter once told SATA: "I developed what I thought was a unique 3-D illustration style with the hopes of illustrating for the advertising field. I was already working in the business as an art director, so it seemed like it would be an easy transition. Without an agent or any serious marketing, my hopeful career went nowhere, so I shelved my portfolio and moved on.
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"Many years later, a local artist's representative reignited my interest in illustrating. I was designing a lot of posters for local theater groups at the time, and whenever I could, I would work on my own illustrations. There was no money to pay an illustrator, so it was a good way for me to at least get some printed samples of my own. Hoping the rep might be able to get me some paying jobs, I pulled together a bunch of the samples, and just for kicks I dusted off my old 3-D portfolio and dragged it along. When he saw the 3-D samples, he went nuts. I remember him saying, ‘Never mind pastels. I've got at least five guys doing pastels. This 3-D stuff … that's what you should be doing.’
"Not satisfied with the quality of my old samples, I developed a whole new portfolio in the 3-D style. The funny thing about it was, not until I had finished all the samples did I fully realize every piece could have easily been for a children's book. I had stuff like blue dogs, teapots with faces, and farm animals dressed as people. I had always had an interest in children's books, but never seriously considered illustrating for them because I had always heard it was next to impossible to break into the market. Now I had a portfolio full of colorful, whimsical illustrations that was pretty much limited to some kind of children's market. So I thought the next logical step was to try and illustrate for the children's magazines.
"I took out an ad in a new publication titled Picturebook that was marketed solely to the children's market. Perfect, I thought. I would just sit back and wait for the jobs to come to me. The phone rang maybe half a dozen times. Everyone loved the style, but I didn't get any jobs. The ad also came with five hundred reprints of my page. So I mailed a personalized note along with a copy of the reprint to every magazine, every publisher I could find. The phone started ringing almost immediately. I got several requests to see my portfolio, and Sesame Street magazine gave me my first job. I was on my way, or at least I thought I was. Knowing that art directors often filed samples for future jobs, I knew it would take a while for the mailings to bring in work. So I waited. And waited. Again, nothing. I needed to try something else.
"Earlier on I had joined the Graphic Artists' Guild, primarily to get a discount on my Picturebook ad. The discount was more than the membership dues, so what did I have to lose? The Guild had a yearly show at the Puck Building in New York City, where illustrators could exhibit their work. Art directors and designers from the advertising, editorial, and publishing fields were invited. I thought maybe it would be a good opportunity to get face to face with the people who actually hired illustrators.
"That night was a major turning point. Designers and art directors snatched up my reprints and asked to be put on my mailing list. One editor from a major children's book publishing house came back to my table probably three times to look at my work. At the end of the night, I came home knowing I had to stick with it.
"Several months later, I received a call from Random House. They asked if I could send my portfolio to their art director. One of their designers had seen my work at the show and had brought back my sample sheet. When they returned my portfolio to me, there was a Random House catalog enclosed. Attached was a yellow post-it note with the message, ‘Your portfolio is terrific and I have you in mind for a project. I'll be in touch soon….’
"What was the project? Was it a definite thing? How soon would they be in touch? I couldn't wait. I gave [the art director] a call the next week. That turned out to be my first book, Wake Up House! by Dee Lillegard.
In Wake Up House! Carter employs foam board, plaster, and acrylic paint to illustrate Lillegard's story of the ordinary things a preschooler encounters at home, including a bathroom mirror, a kitchen stove, a set of cabinets, a broom, and a washing machine. Hazel Rochman, writing in Booklist, stated that "Carter's clear, beautiful three-dimensional illustrations" are "as tactile and immediate as the words." Carter's distinctive illustrations also drew praise from a Publishers Weekly reviewer, who called his art "dynamic and distinctive."
Carter and Lillegard later collaborated on Hello School!: A Classroom of Poems, a verse collection about desks, scissors, water fountains, and other objects that students use. Sheryl L. Shipley, writing in School Library Journal, noted that Carter's artwork "will draw youngsters in," and Booklist reviewer Marta Segal commented that the illustrations "fairly leap off the pages."
Carter also provided the illustrations for Donna Conrad's debut picture book, See You Soon, Moon. In the work, a young boy notices that the moon follows his family as they drive through the countryside on their way to Grandma's house. A Publishers Weekly contributor applauded Carter's "eye-catching, irresistibly tactile 3-D illustrations" and the book's "simple, uncluttered layout, vibrant colors and textured cut-out shapes," and Marianne Saccardi, writing in School Library Journal, remarked that Carter's foam, plaster, and acrylic illustrations "are brimming with texture and saturated colors."
Discussing his artistic style and the process he uses to create his illustrations, Carter told SATA: "It's not based on anything I've ever seen. I used to do a lot of paper collage constructions in art school because I liked the crispness of the shadows each layer made. I guess my
[Image not available for copyright reasons]
present style is just an expansion of that with thicker layers and thicker shadows." Carter added, "My initial pencil sketches are very tight. So once they are approved I blow them up on a copier to full size as a template for the constructions. After I determine how many layers are needed, I cut the pieces out of foam board. They are then glued together and covered with plaster for texture. Once the plaster is dry, everything is coated with gesso and finally painted with acrylics. Sometimes I'll incorporate other dimensional items such as buttons, twigs, fabric, and bird seed into the constructions for added interest. Then the finished pieces are photographed with a 4x5 format camera."
Carter has also produced a number of self-illustrated titles. In Get to Work, Trucks! he depicts a busy day for the men and women behind the controls of a variety of machines, including a bulldozer, dump truck, loader, crane, and cement mixer. Carter's "text provides an incantatory thrum to fill the activity with primal purpose," remarked a Kirkus Reviews contributor, and a Publishers Weekly critic observed that "every spread looks like a toy-enacted scenario assembled by a young construction enthusiast."
A young boy imagines his late grandfather cavorting with such musical greats as Dizzy Gillespie and Thelonious Monk in Heaven's All-Star Jazz Band. According to Ilene Cooper in Booklist, Carter's illustrations possess "a naive, kidlike quality that will immediately appeal to the audience," and a Publishers Weekly contributor stated that his "distinctive, 3-D concoctions … successfully translate a lofty abstraction into a joyful feast for the senses." Writing in School Library Journal, Jane Marino complimented the marriage of text and art, noting that Carter combines "sound words, rhyme, and rhythm with stylized illustration to tell an imaginative tale and pay tribute to the music and its stars."
A package makes it way through the postal system, arriving just in time for a child's birthday, in Send It!, an "instructive book for preschoolers captivated by planes, trains, and automobiles," remarked Booklist critic Karin Snelson. The work follows the package's week-long voyage, showing it aboard a mail truck, a ship, and an airplane. "With engaging simplicity, this title delivers the goods," Luann Toth commented in School Library Journal. In Old MacDonald Drives a Tractor Carter offers his take on an old favorite. His illustrations "are as enticing as ever," observed a contributor in a Kirkus Reviews appraisal of the book.
Biographical and Critical Sources
Advertising Age, July 31, 2006, Patricia Riedman, "Storyboards Find New Life as Storybook Illustrations," p. 21.
Booklist, February 1, 2000, Hazel Rochman, review of Wake Up House!: Rooms Full of Poems, p. 1026; August, 2001, Marta Segal, review of Hello School!: A Classroom Full of Poems, p. 2125; March 1, 2002, Marta Segal, review of Get to Work, Trucks!, p. 1140; November 15, 2002, Ilene Cooper, review of Heaven's All-Star Jazz Band, p. 608; December 15, 2003, Karin Snelson, review of Send It!, p. 752.
Kirkus Reviews, February 15, 2002, review of Get to Work, Trucks!, p. 251; May 1, 2007, review of Old MacDonald Drives a Tractor.
Publishers Weekly, February 14, 2000, review of Wake Up House!, p. 196; January 1, 2001, review of See You Soon, Moon, p. 91; January 14, 2002, review of Get to Work, Trucks!, p. 58; October 21, 2002, review of Heaven's All-Star Jazz Band, p. 741; October 6, 2003, review of Send It!, p. 82.
School Library Journal, December, 2000, review of Wake Up House!, p. 54; March, 2001, Marianne Saccardi, review of See You Soon, Moon, p. 195; July, 2001, Sheryl L. Shipley, review of Hello School!, p. 95; March, 2002, Gay Lynn Van Vleck, review of Get to Work, Trucks!, p. 173; November, 2002, Jane Marino, review of Heaven's All-Star Jazz Band, p. 112; December, 2003, Luann Toth, review of Send It!, p. 111; June, 2007, Kathleen Kelly MacMillan, review of Old MacDonald Drives a Tractor, p. 94.
Flickr,http://www.flickr.com/ (August 28, 2008), "Don Carter."