I wonder if John Burkett and Tom Candiotti are rivals. Burkett pitched for the Giants in the early ’90s, overlapping his tenure in San Francisco with the first two seasons that Candiotti pitched for the Dodgers. Both pitchers are bowling enthusiasts. Burkett had the better baseball career and even turned professional with his bowling activities after leaving the mound. I haven’t come across anything showing Candiotti doing the same, though the former Dodger did end up in the Bowling Hall of Fame.
Burkett, the last San Francisco Giants pitcher to win 20 games in a season, considers himself to be a better bowler than a pitcher. Burkett hit the magic number of wins in 1993, the same year that he appeared in the Topps Finest set and in the same season in which teammate Bill Swift also exceeded 20 victories. Tim Lincecum, Madison Bumgarner, and Shawn Estes have made runs at the mark but were never successful.
Burkett’s love of bowling and habit of taking a bowling ball on road trips became a regular feature of any writeup of the pitcher’s exploits. Pinnacle included a card of him bowling in the card manufacturer’s 1992 debut. The card mentions that he hopes to turn pro when his baseball career comes to an end and that he had already bowled three perfect games. Burkett did indeed achieve the goal of joining the pro circuit after baseball and won a PBA title in 2019 (along with bowling a 300 – video).
Today Burkett remains active on oiled hardwood and can still match up against any baseball player who thinks they have what it takes to take on a guy who mastered sports using first an overhand delivery and then an underhanded one. Among active players Mookie Betts has bowled a 300 and I hope the two can one day face off against each other. Burkett will surely be ready, as he has built a pair of lanes and pro shop inside his Texas home.
Interesting Personal Fact: The same year that Topps produced a card of baseball’s most bowling-obsessed player was the year in which a teenage Allen Iverson was arrested after a huge brawl at a bowling alley. Iverson and I grew up in the same city in the ’90s, going to the same Walmart, the same movie theater, and same bowling alley. I only went back a couple times after the fight but that location (and period of time) are forever linked in my mind.