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Up Front


Perseverance pays off: Hardwick fought through phys- ical issues to win 18 PBA titles during his 15-year career.

Living the high life: Click the above video to view the 1969 Miller High Life television commercial. Hardwick was the first professional athlete to appear in a beer commercial.

But for all his hardware, Hardwick, who died of an apparent heart attack Nov. 16, at the age of 72, is probably best remembered for the tenacity and perseverance that allowed him to com- pete despite physical and emotional hardships that would have felled a lesser man. Hardwick had been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis when he was just 10, an affliction that caused him to battle severe pain throughout his bowling career. He also battled the emotion scars left by the death of his seven-month-old son, Billy Jr., in 1969. With his blond hair, ruggedly hand- some looks and engaging personality, Hardwick had star qualities that earned

him the distinction of being the first professional athlete to appear in a beer commercial when Miller High Life chose him in 1969. Hardwick joined the PBA Tour in 1962, and failed to cash in a single event. Undaunted, he attacked the tour with a vengeance in ’63, winning four titles and earning his first PBA Bowler of the Year award. Unlike the players whose reputa- tions (and titles) preceded the formation of the PBA, Hardwick was purely a prod- uct of the tour, making him arguably the first PBA-developed star. Hardwick retired from competition in 1977. He was the owner of Billy Hardwick All Star Lanes in Memphis.

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