FULTON, N.Y. - Over the past few weeks, the intensity and desire that carried Mark Roth to 34 Professional Bowlers Association Tour titles has started to return. The 58-year-old hall of famer – the bowler who was recognized as the fifth-best in PBA history just a year ago – has been working harder than he has in years, trying to get ready for his next tournament.
But when Mark Roth makes his appearance at the GEICO Mark Roth Plastic Ball Championship at AMF Babylon Lanes in West Babylon, N.Y., March 24-28, it will be dramatically different than any he has ever made before. He will arrive at the Lumber Liquidators PBA Tour event named in his honor in a wheelchair.
The fact of the matter is, since suffering a severe stroke on May 31 that paralyzed the entire left side of his body, Mark Roth has been in a battle for his life, his wife, Denise Roth, disclosed today. The stroke was bad enough, but Roth also suffers from diabetes and heart disease, and complications that seemed to arise on an almost daily basis.
But about six weeks ago, she said, Mark suddenly began to arise from the frustration and despair, and it’s all because he wants to attend his own tournament.
“I have some great news,” Denise said last Friday. “Mark has not had to go into the emergency room or anything in about six weeks. He seems to be much stronger. He still has very little use of his left arm, leg, ankle and hand, but he has gained some weight and looks more like the old Mark Roth.
“Most of his facial paralysis is gone. Most of his speech is back and pretty clear. He’s had a lot of problem with his left shoulder, hand, arm, but he’s going to get a Botox treatment that will help him make the trip to Long Island. He has been working so diligently just to get to that tournament. He doesn’t want to miss it.
“Oh, boy, at this point I’m just so happy to see him making some progress. That’s good medicine for me, too. It’s something that’s keeping him working hard. For a while, I wasn’t sure he was going to be able to make the trip. We’re keeping our fingers crossed that he’ll hold up.”
In the weeks following his stroke, Denise said she did her best to maintain a positive outlook, for herself and for Mark, but things had not been going well. He was in and out of hospital with all kind of complications. I honestly thought things were going to end. But over the last six weeks, everything has all of a sudden started to come together for him.
“He can walk a short distance now – not real good, but he can use a quad cane (Roth is unable to use a walker because he has no use of his left hand). He has all of his long-term memory, but he has some short-term difficulty,” she continued. “He is probably going have to rest quite a bit, but this is such good medicine for him. He needs something like this to up-lift him.
“I think people will be surprised to see how well he does look at this point. About six weeks ago, it seemed pretty hopeless.”
Denise Roth also said Mark’s drive to make the trip to Long Island is also fueled by the couple’s desire to say “thank you” to the incredible out-pouring of support they have received.
“Wow, I believe in the power of prayer more than I did before,” she said. “I want to thank everyone we can. The prayers and donations have been incredible. Because of the donations we have received, the extra rehab he has been able to get has been astronomical. From now on, it’s rehab, rehab, rehab, just to get back as much function as he can.
“We’ve heard from people in Afghanistan, Israel, from all over the world,” she continued. “There actually is a guy named Jeffrey – he’s in the U.S. Air Force – who sent Mark a coin he kept in his pocket for good luck while flying missions over Afghanistan. He sent that coin to Mark.
“We got a letter from a cute elderly lady named Lula with a card and $10. She asked how I was doing, and said she knows the wife usually gets overlooked, and that she’d send me a million dollars if she could. All of the cards and letters have been so touching…”
In another week, Mark and Denise Roth will arrive in West Babylon, where they will try to set aside the stress and anxieties of the past 10 months. Rather than bowling for a 35th career title, to try to break his tie for third place on the all-time list with Pete Weber, Mark Roth will watch today’s stars – young and old – try to weave the same kind of magic he produced when his radical grip-it-and-rip-it technique with low-tech plastic bowling balls revolutionized the sport back in the 1970s.
“We both need to have a little fun, and nothing could be better than for him to have a chance to spend some time with his second family,” she smiled. “After all, Mark Roth is bowling, and bowling is Mark Roth.”
The GEICO Mark Roth Plastic Ball Championship is a unique event in which 64 PBA members will use identical plastic bowling balls bearing Mark Roth’s likeness. The special limited-edition bowling balls, created by OnTheBallBowling.com, are available through the company’s website for $100. A portion of the proceeds benefit a Mark Roth medical assistance fund.