A Retirement Tribute
to John Dorek
By Pat Holseth
The Metro Bowler
Where do you start when talking about John Dorek? Let us go back to his introduction to bowling after high school.
Dorek learned the game rapidly and soon became the assistant manager and instructor at the Edina Bowling Center. “I could always run fast and enjoyed sports. The St. Louis Cardinals gave me a try out for the team where I blew out my arm.”
After his service in the Army, where he came out a Second Lieutenant, he purchased Edina Bowling Center. This center sported the strongest league in the area - featuring top-notch bowlers - Bill Baden, Bill Drouches, Jim Stoltenberg and a young man who he bet $50 that he could not average 200 for the season. Jim Whalen won the bet and went on to be inducted into the Minneapolis Bowling Hall of Fame.
During his tenure, Dorek was the proprietor of four bowling centers - Edina Bowling Center, Celebrity Lanes (formerly Red Crown Lanes), Southdale Bowl and Chanhassen Bowl. At Edina, he was the first proprietor to offer babysitting services and was the first bowling center in the world to have a carpeted center.
Dorek worked as a salesman for Brunswick and also bought a company called “Business Incentives,” renaming it Wallpower - the eight foot black light signs where the honor roll scores were posted in 2700 establishments. This was the primal beginning of ‘glow bowling.’
John worked for WCCO television as the Master of Ceremonies on both the local “Bowlerama” show (with Dave Moore) and “All Star Bowling.” He also commentated with Roger Erickson on “Junior Pin Pounders” a television show featuring younger bowlers. Later he joined forces with Bill Brown of the Minnesota Vikings to do a pilot show called “Bingo Bowling” - a game show starring George Gobel featuring professional star bowlers Carmen Salvino and Don McCune. The concept was good but the stations could purchase the show “Password” for only $400 a week. The production costs of “Bowling Bingo” were too big to overcome and the show was dropped.
John Dorek, the “Father” of scratch bowling in this area, has retired from active promotion and will be missed by everyone he has met.
John relates many stories about his bowling proprietor days. He served as the Executive Director of the Minneapolis and Minnesota Bowling Proprietors Association of America (BPAA). He received the “Tell ‘em So” award from the Minnesota BPA and was the only Minnesota person on the 1955 BPAA All Star Tournament Committee at the Minneapolis Armory.
At Southdale Bowl, he was known for having very successful promotions. To get more interest in junior bowling, he had National Football League (NFL) star Fran Tarkington and several other Minnesota Vikings players at the center to bring in youth bowlers. He also formed a celebrity mixed league where you could not bowl with your spouse or significant other. He had the likes of Billy Martin (Minnesota Twins manager), Les Stange (Twins pitcher), Rich Rollins (Twins infielder), Bernie Allen (Twins second base), Herb Carneal (WCCO Radio Twins announcer), Jim Katt (Twins pitcher), Bill Daily (Twins pitcher), Bill Brown (Twins outfielder), Fran Tarkington (Minnesota Vikings) and Carl Kulsulke (Vikings) compete in the league.
Southdale Bowl had a bar called the Black Swan Pub. One evening a struggling singer had asked to sit in with the Friday night musical group. This performer showed up to test his new style one night and the group’s leader came out to John to say he really had to listen to this young man. John was busy at the bowling desk and couldn’t get away to hear this singer’s performance debut. John Denver performed at the Black Swan Pub that night for free.
All sports were important to Dorek. He was invited by Charles Johnson, a veteran sports editor for the Minneapolis Tribune, to join a group of ten investors to keep the Minneapolis Lakers in Minnesota. They purchased the team from Ben Burger with John heading the minority group. He traveled with the team for two seasons enjoying the company of coach John Kundla with players Elgin Baylor, George Miken and others. Later he worked to negotiate with Alfred Bloomingdale (Bloomingdale’s Department Stores) to purchase the team when it became apparent they could no longer exist in Minnesota. After a legal battle with Bob Short, the minority group lost controlling interest in the Minnesota Lakers and the team was sold to a Los Angeles group. Today the team is known as the Los Angeles Lakers.
Dorek was asked to help with a promotion in Rochester, Minnesota at Recreation Lanes, home of the Tri State Tournament. He fielded a team that included Stange, Rollins, Carneal and himself. They went into the lead and stayed there for many weeks. Several years later Rollins asked if they had cashed. John called the Tri State and found out they had forgotten to put their score in the prize list.
In the early years of the CBA, John had many celebrities make trophy award presentations. Rod Carew, Minnesota Twins first baseman, traveled to Las Vegas to help with the CBA trophy presentation at the Showboat Bowling Center following the January tournament. Later, after Carew was traded to Los Angeles, Pat Holseth aided in setting him up to meet Cheryl Kominsky and Jay Robinson, both AMF Staff members, to get him involved in bowling in California.
Dorek always tried to help the bowlers and bowling. He flew to Akron, Ohio, home of the Professional Bowlers Association to talk to PBA Founder Eddie Elias, to offer the PBA a chance to sell advertising on his Wallpower boards - having Dick Weber and Mike Berlin working for him.
John has worked tirelessly for the sport of bowling. He loves the game like he loves baseball. He watches the Twins and has been a diehard Chicago Cubs fan forever. He is a great storyteller and listener - and very pro-active with high school bowling.
Everyone in the bowling community hopes that all of John’s efforts will be remembered for a long, long time to come.
Gordy Dahl (Minneapolis Hall of Fame, Minnesota State Hall of Fame, Three-time ABC/USBC Champion): “I always think of John as the ‘Father’ of the Twin City and State scratch bowling. He was involved with the ‘All Star’ television show, the CBA, the MSC, the LCBA, etc. We all have been helped by the efforts of this tireless individual.”
Jim Lindquist (Minneapolis Hall of Fame, Minnesota State Hall of Fame, CBA Hall of Fame, ABC/USBC Champion): “What John has done over the last 40 years for the CBA, LCBA and the MSC is phenomenal. In my opinion he has been the greatest asset for bowling in the Midwest that I can think of. My hat goes off to the man.”
Left: Terry Schacht (St. Paul Hall of Fame, Minnesota State Hall of Fame, CBA Hall of Fame).
Right: Jim Madden (Minneapolis Hall of Fame, Minnesota State Hall of Fame, CBA Hall of Fame, proprietor of Diamond Lake Fun Centers chain and helped create the CBA): “John is excellent for bowling - the CBA, LCBA and MSC. He did a big job for the bowler and high school bowling.
Left: Georgene Cordes (Minneapolis Hall of Fame, Minnesota State Hall of Fame): “John was always very happy, helpful and dedicated to the women of the LCBA. He showed the same courtesy to the CBA and MSC bowlers, too. Without him we would not have had the success and opportunity to bowl on a scratch level with other women of the area.”
Right: Susan (Meyer) Brede (Minnesota State Hall of Fame, owner of Garden Center Lanes in Alexandria): “John was always fair and impartial to the bowlers. He respected everyone regardless of who they were, their averages or where they were from. I always had a good time when bowling the LCBA tournaments.”
Rod Toft (ABC/USBC Hall of Fame, St. Paul Hall of Fame, CBA Hall of Fame, Minnesota State Hall of Fame, ABC/USBC National Hall of Fame, ABC/USBC Champion): “In my opinion, John gave the bowlers who wanted to get better, the tools they needed by creating the CBA. That helped me become a better bowler. When I was in college, my father and me used to watch ‘Bowlerama’ and the ‘All Star Bowling’ shows where John was the commentator. Then the CBA came along and the rest is history.”
Doug Sabby (member Schmidt Beer team): “I’ve never seen any one run any tournament better and be as fair. Way back when the lanes were still out by Met Stadium, John helped with the Twins team vs. the Schmidt Team match. He is just a great guy to do business with.”
Left: Eddie Maehren (St. Paul Hall of Fame, Minnesota State Hall of Fame, was one of Dorek’s local guest bowlers on ‘All Star Bowling’): “John has been great for bowling and me. Without him I would still be a bachelor. He always called me the ‘most eligible bachelor in the Twin Cities’ during “All Star Bowling”. He was the matchmaker that brought my beautiful wife, Marianne, and me together. She was a member of the Winging Schmitz Sisters and John introduced us. Thanks, John!
Shirley Sjostrom (Minneapolis Hall of Fame, Minnesota State Hall of Fame, WIBC/USBC Champion): “John always did a great job. He was well liked and dedicated to the women bowling the LCBA. He was always there for each tournament. I never saw him miss one.”
Scott Sodergren (left) and Tom Corbett (right) with John Dorek. Corbett took over the CBA Tournament Director’s responsibility from Dorek in the early1990’s.
John Albert (left) with John Dorek receiving a prize check for his placing in a CBA Tournament at West Side Lanes in the 1980’s.
Mike Schmid (St. Paul Hall of Fame, Minnesota State Hall of Fame, CBA Hall of Fame, 2nd place ABC All Events in 1970, owner Mike’s Pro Shop): “There wouldn’t have been a CBA, LCBA or MSC without him. All scratch bowlers in Minnesota owe John a big ‘thank you’ for giving them tournaments to bowl in. He allowed local bowlers to hone their skills to be the best they could be. I always watched “All Star Bowling” on Sunday nights to watch the elite stars of the 1960s bowl our local
Gary Arntzen (St. Paul Hall of Fame, Minneapolis Hall of Fame, Minnesota State Hall of Fame, owner of On Track Pro Shops): “My best memory of John is during one of the Las Vegas trips. My wife had never been to Las Vegas so John took us under his wing and drove us around, just like a chauffeur. He did everything he could to make sure we had a good time.”
Bob Hanson (ABC/USBC National Hall of Fame, Minneapolis Hall of Fame, Minnesota State Hall of Fame, CBA Hall of Fame, ABC/USBC Champion): “The first thing that comes to mind when John Dorek’s name is mentioned is his longevity. John had a tremendous effect on bowling in our area. There’s no one else like him.”
In conclusion, Pat Holseth (National Collegiate Hall of Fame, Minneapolis Hall of Fame, St. Paul Hall of Fame, Minnesota State Hall of Fame, CBA Hall of Fame, started The Metro Bowler in 1974): “John Dorek had a profound effect on bowling throughout the Midwest. His support of high school bowling long before Bowlerama, the CBA, the LCBA and the MSC, is unequaled.”
This story was printed September 3, 2008 in The Metro Bowler and is being reprinted with permission. Pictures are the property of The Metro Bowler.