BY JOHNNY CAMPOS
New York, N.Y - Whether Anthony “Teata” Semiz was on the bowling approach or on the mic singing karaoke, his smooth, fluid, effortless style was always recognizable and on point.
He won three titles on the Professional Bowlers Association tour and eight more on the senior circuit, where he was one of the dominant players after his 50th birthday.
Semiz, a member of both the PBA and USBC Halls of Fame, died Tuesday morning at the Hospice Care facility in Andover, N.J. at the age of 87.
He was inducted into the USBC Hall of Fame in 1991 in the Superior Performance category and into the PBA Hall of Fame in 1998 in the Veterans/Senior category.
Semiz had recently suffered a broken hip, which led to other medical issues.
“About three weeks ago he broke his hip and they had to do surgery,” said his son, Tom. “The surgery came out OK, but then he started having swallowing issues. He couldn’t swallow, so we had to put a feeding tube in him. Then it was really downhill.
“His heart was weak to begin with, and he started bleeding internally. Then his kidneys started shutting down. They finally said there’s nothing else we can do for him. They told us he needed to go on Hospice. And probably five days after that he passed away.”
The elder Semiz, who was living in Hopatcong, N.J., also had been suffering with dementia for the past few years, and had a hard fall about three years ago that made matters even worse, according to his son.
“He fell in the middle of the night, and if I hadn’t been home, he wouldn’t have been around here this long,” Tom Semiz said. “After the rehab (for the fall), the dementia got even worse and I had to make a call to put him in a home.”
That ended Teata’s lengthy career on the lanes, which started when he was 14.
Even though he was never really a full-time player on the PBA Tour, Semiz managed to put together some impressive career numbers.
On the national PBA Tour, he won the 1968 Ebonite Open over Don Johnson, the 1970 Bellows-Valvair Open over Nelson Burton Jr., and the 1977 Burger King Open over Marshall Holman.
As a senior player, Semiz was even better, and at one point had the most career wins (8) and was the oldest player to win a senior title at the time (1997) when he was 63.
“My dad’s only issue with the PBA Tour was he never took it seriously, in my eyes,” Tom Semiz said. “My dad liked to do other things besides bowl. He never took it seriously and never did it full time. So he did pretty good considering. He worked in pro shop, played golf, and he could sing Sinatra all day and all night!”
Teata Semiz also did well when bowling with the next generation of PBA bowlers. Three of his eight senior titles were in the Senior/Touring Pro Doubles.
He won the event in 1986 with PBA Hall of Famer Joe Berardi, in 1991 with USBC Hall of Fame bowler Rick Steelsmith, and the 1993 with Rich Abboud.
“I feel like we just really clicked that week we won,” said Steelsmith, now the head coach at collegiate powerhouse Wichita State. “By the end of the week I felt like we knew each other pretty well. I came away understanding that he’s pretty much one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet, but at the same time, on the lanes he was probably one of the fiercest competitors you will come across. I learned a lot bowling with him and was honored to bowl with him and honored to have my first title be paired up with him in doubles.”
It was the only PBA title on the national tour for Abboud, who gained some confidence as well as a victory while bowling with Semiz.
“On the afternoon of the TV finals, we’re talking strategy for the lanes,” Abboud said. “With him being a Hall of Famer, I asked him if he wanted to bowl anchor and finish the matches. He looked me right in the eye and said, ‘You’ll be finishing the games. I have total confidence in you making good shots when you need to.’
“Here’s a guy with 100 times my credendials on the lanes telling me I’m the guy! Talk about a confidence shot in the arm! That was one of the few times in my bowling life I was absolutely dominant on the lanes! The guy was magic in that tournament and now I know why.”
Both Steelsmith and Abboud struck out in the 10th to seal their victories with Semiz.
On the senior tour, Semiz often traveled with Ron Winger, who also was one of his top competitors on the lanes.
“We had a lot of fun together,” said Winger, 80, who works in the pro shop at the South Point Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. “We used to sing karaoke after the tournament together and had a lot of great times during the golden years, which is what I call them, on the senior tour. “He surely is one of the great players who was well respected by everyone. When we got the news that he had died, there was a nice moment of silence for him during the Senior Shootout that’s going on here. I’m going to miss him.”
Semiz and fellow Hall of Famer Dave Soutar were teammates on the golf course during many of the PBA Senior events.
“It was always Teata and I against Gene Stus and Dick Weber,” said Soutar, who kept in touch with Semiz over the years. “We always had a great time, and he was just a great guy.
“Like my wife (Judy) says, now I’m the only one left out of that group.”
Semiz continued to bowl well after leaving the senior circuit, bowling an 803 series when he was 80.
“But the last couple of years that he bowled, just subbing in leagues, he was averaging about 185-190,” Tom Semiz said. “He just had no more ball speed left. But he just enjoyed bowling.” Teata Semiz is survived by children Tom Semiz, Lori McKay, Michael Semiz and Marissa Semiz, and seven grandchildren.
Teata Semiz was a navy veteran, so there will be a military service on Saturday, Dec. 11, at 12 noon at the North New Jersey Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Sparta, N.J.
“There will be a minister, with the navy doing a gun salute,” Tom Semiz said. “There will not be a viewing, because his wishes were to be cremated, which we are going to do. And then he will be laid to rest there.”