“Old soldiers never die—they just fade away” is an old saying that was popularized by General Douglas MacArthur (1880-1964) in his farewell address to Congress on April 19, 1951. Many parodies of the saying have been made.
“Old bowlers never die—they just end up in the gutter” has been put on gift items such as T-shirts. The “end up in the gutter” saying has been cited in print since at least 1978.
“Old bowlers never die” is a saying with many ending variations. “Old Bowlers Never Die—They Just Fade Away” was the title to a song in 1940. “Old bowlers never die, they just roll away” has been cited in print since at least 1956. “Old bowlers never die, they just drop their balls (in the gutter)” has been cited in print since at least 1996. “Old bowlers never die, they (just) don’t score as much” has been cited in print since at least 1999.
3 May 1940, Evening World-Herald (Omaha, NE), “Bowling Pickups” by Robert Phipps, pg. 36, col. 1:
FORTY bowlers sand the game’s theme song before the A. B. C. assemblage recently to throw the spotlight on what is supposed to be the world’s largest league, the Detroit A. C. The song is “Old Bowlers Never Die—They Just Fade Away.”
12 February 1956, Council Bluffs (IA) Nonpareil, “The Whirligig,” pg. 5A, col. 2:
A POSTER IN THE AMERICAN Legion Club advertising a forthcoming bowling tournament has this slogan. “Old bowlers never die, they just roll away.”
14 December 1958, The Times-Picayune, “Bowling News” by Waddell Summers, pg. 6, col. 4:
A bowling proprietor of a bygone era used to use as his slogan “B.A.N.G.O.”—translated—“Bowl And Never Grow Old.” An an extension of this we might say, “Old bowlers never die, their hooks just fade away.”
31 January 1965, Seattle (WA) Times, “Old Bowlers Never ‘Fade’” by Vincent O’Keef’e, pg. 36, col. 1:
OLD BOWLERS NEVER DIE; the good ones don’t even fade away.
(Fading away, in this instance, means the difficulty so many of us dub keglers have: The ball heads for the pocket or spare pickup, then drifts mockingly off to the right.)
Google News Archive
13 September 1978, Lewiston (ME) Daily Sun, “Another Tough Winter, Says Farmers’ Alamanac” by Deborah Strumello, pg. 21, col. 3:
Or try this one: “Old bowlers never die. They Just end up in the gutter.”
21 April 1986, Akron (OH) Beacon Journal, “It’s deathless prose, so hold your nose,” pg. E1:
Tournament of Champions bowlers never die, they just end up in the gutter.
The Complete Book of Zingers
By Croft M. Pentz
Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers
Old bowlers never die — they just end up in the gutter.
A qualitative look at news making in a trial court community
By Carrie Ann Johnson
Thesis (M.A.)--University of Wisconsin--Madison
John’s computer screen saver reads, “old bowlers never die, they just drop their balls in the gutter.”
Subject: Canonical List of Old * Never Die, they just ...
Organization: top down of course
Canonical Lists of Old * Never Die, they just ...
Revised: 15 January 1996
OLD BOWLERS never die, they just end up in the gutter
7 July 1999, The Herald-News (Joliet, IL), “No knocking down these memorable pins”:
... and the personally painful, “Old Bowlers Never Die, They Don’t Score As Much.”