TriCounty When Gary Strait of Peoria finished last year's league bowling season in the early spring of 1998, he had carved out a special spot for himself in the Greater Peoria Bowling Association.
The 28-year-old lefthander had ended the season with a 231 average for 84 games, the highest average in the long history of the GPBA.
And for his historical achievement, Strait is the Co-Tri-County Male Athlete of the Year for 1998.
Bowling in the Checkmate League at Mt. Hawley Bowl, the 6-foot-3, 225 pound Richwoods High School graduate actually was on target to flirt with a 240 average before a late-season slump.
He had his average up to 238 with two-thirds of the season over but then hit an eight-week slum. "I kept wondering when I was going to have a bad night," he said. "It never came until those last eight weeks."
After a 539 series, his low mark of the season, he went with a new ball, produced a 791 series the first time out and got his average back over 230.
Beginning his league career when he was 17, he has had four 300 games and four 800 series. He is the only bowler in Peoria to ever author back-to-back 800 series.
He has received two awards of merit in the last three years for high average in the GPBA, a 228 and then his recordsetting 231. He also received an award of merit for the highest series in the city, an 837.
When Gary Strait of Peoria finished last year's league bowling season in the early spring of 1998, he had carved out a special spot for himself in the Greater Peoria Bowling Association.
Tom’s outstanding baseball career was highlighted by Major League baseball appearances as a pitcher with the Toronto Blue Jays. He was the winning pitcher in his first outing with the Jays, his only decision in the Big Leagues.
Gilles was an outstanding athlete at Bergan High School (merged with Peoria AOL/Spalding to become Peoria Notre Dame in 1988). He was selected to All-Conference basketball and baseball teams. He was named All-State in both sports in 1980, his senior year. Tom was a star on the 1980 Bergan Basketball Team (GPSHOF class of 2010) that placed 2nd in the IHSA Class A State Tournament. Arguably, the most memorable moment in Bergan’s basketball history occurred during the tournament when his steal and resulting “buzzer beating” layup gave the Trojans a thrilling 56-55 win over Sterling Newman in the Moline Super-Sectional propelling Bergan to the quarterfinals. Tom was selected to the All-Tournament 1st Team. After Bergan, Gilles continued his baseball career at Indiana State University in Terre Haute, Indiana, playing for the Sycamores from 1981-85. As a freshman and sophomore, he both played as a position player and relief pitcher. His 3.22 earned run average in 1981 was the lowest among all pitchers. Tom was strictly a position player in his final two years, playing as a regular on ISU teams that won the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament championships in each season. In the summer of 1983, he was selected as a Central Illinois Collegiate League All-Star. Soon after his college career, he attempted to land a spot on the USA Baseball Team’s 30-man roster that would compete in the 1984 Olympic Games. After making the preliminary roster against nationwide competition, he narrowly missed being named to the final roster. Tom signed his first professional contract with the New York Yankees as a 47th round pick in the 1984 draft. He played first and third base his first two seasons in the Yankees organization. He was converted to pitching in 1987 and hurled as a relief pitcher the next five seasons at Appleton, Kenosha, Orlando, and Knoxville, in the Yankees, Royals, Twins, and Blue Jays organizations. He compiled a record of 22-16. After his playing days, he shared his professional experience by coaching high school and college players.