Archive for the ‘Bowling’ Category
It is generally accepted that duckpin bowling originated in Baltimore in 1900. There are references to it as far back as 1892 in the Boston Globe, claiming the sport to be of New England birth. Personally, I prefer the Maryland version, attributing it to the efforts of John McGraw, the famous New York “Baseball” Giants Hall of Fame manager and Wilbert Robinson, the Hall of Fame catcher who played for two Baltimore Orioles teams; from 1890 – 1899 (the National League team that folded after 1899), and the 1901-02 Orioles of the American League, who moved to New York City in 1903 to become the Yankees. That’s right, those Yankees.
Growing up in Maryland with duckpins was terrific. During my formative years (the 60s) the sport was in its heyday. My best friend’s dad coached our team and Saturday was anxiously anticipated. I couldn’t wait to get to the lanes for the bowling (but really for the french fries). Bowling Alley fries were the best. That was when they cooked them in real fat, not this sissy trans fat-less stuff we use today. Grease, salt and ketchup . . . . mmmmm, the best. We were active kids, not slothy adults, so the cholesterol didn’t clog our arteries. In my adult years I bowled with a fellow who drenched his french fries in mustard. If we wanted to snatch a fry or two while he was on the lane bowling, we had to eat them with the yellow stuff. I guess his intent was to thwart our thievery of his snack. It worked. Or, maybe he just liked them with mustard. On our team, he was the only one.
During the 1960s there were Fair Lanes alleys all over Maryland, and several independent lanes, as well. The sport was going strong. I bowled on leagues in Suitland, Forestville (Parkland), Queenstown, Hyattsville (Prince George’s Plaza), Marlow Heights, Catonsville (Westview), Laurel (with mustard guy), Silver Spring (White Oak), Riverdale (Rinaldi), Wheaton (Glenmont), College Park, and probably a couple of places I’ve forgotten.
The good thing about duckpin bowling is anybody can do it. The balls are small, weighing from 2 to a maximum of 3.75 lbs. But, don’t get the impression it is easier than ten pins, because it’s not. You can throw the ball right down the middle and “chop” for just two pins. No one has ever bowled a perfect 300 game in duckpins, but in ten pins it is a frequent occurrence. Many ten pin bowlers think they’re “tough guys” because they can roll the heavy ball down the lanes. They ain’t so tough when ending up with two pins for a whole frame because the first ball chopped, and the next two were rolled through the hole. I guess they really don’t appreciate the challenge and precision necessary to be a good duckpinner, so they make fun of it. With the game disappearing, there won’t be as many opportunities to test their skill as in the past. In 1967 there were about 300,000 duckpin bowlers. In 1973 nearly 40,000 were sanctioned (league) and today there are about 9,000; virtually all concentrated in Maryland and Connecticut. The biggest factor in the decline was the demise in 1973 of the only company manufacturing automatic pinsetters (one source says it was 1969).
Ken Sherman invented the automatic pinsetter for duckpins in 1954, but refused to sell the rights to Brunswick because he didn’t want to leave New England. Shortly thereafter, AMF developed a pinsetter for ten pins, and eventually the device became the preferred equipment due to their willingness to expand and Sherman’s desire to stay at home. His company didn’t survive, and today Fair Lanes establishments are named AMF.
After enlisting in the Air Force in 1969, I came back to Maryland in 1973, but didn’t join a league until 1980. Then I bowled for a few more years and stopped in 1987. I still had the itch, so in 1992 I organized a tournament for my employer, which included 40 teams, with 5 bowlers each from companies with whom we did business. Two hundred people participated during the middle of February to have a grand time of socializing and duckpin bowling. It was required that each team have at least two females, so those participating would have to allow the clerical employees (peasants) to take the afternoon off to bowl. Otherwise, they would just send the males, who usually golfed and found other ways to waste their afternoons while the peons did the work.
After five tournaments I left the company, but the event survives to this day. We gave trophies for 1st, 2nd, 3rd and Last Place finishers. That’s all fine and dandy, but my preferred awards were for Best Team Name and Best Bowling Attire. My favorite team name and attire (designed by my son) is in the picture to the left.
Many of you reading this participated in one or more of those tournaments. Most of the pictures from the 1996 Awards Ceremony are posted in the sidebar link “5th Annual CIC Tournament Pictures,” which is under the “Boomer Memories – Duckpin Bowling” category. Take a peek(ing) and you may find yourself or someone you know. Don’t be alarmed by how much older and fatter you look today. It’s always fun to see what used to be.
If you have not bowled duckpins in the past (or even if you have), find an alley and have a good time. Take the kids. Most centers will put down gutter bumpers so the ball stays on the lane, and the child feels like a star. Spend a few minutes clicking on the links (particularly the videos) in the sidebar under “About Duckpin Bowling.” You might want to check out Robin’s Web, a site devoted to the sport.
It won’t be long before duckpins are completely gone. The equipment can’t last forever.
Roll one for the Gipper.
Bake My Fish
When I was a kid Saturday was the greatest day of the week. The Capitol Heights Seat Pleasant Boys Club had Duckpin Bowling Leagues, and heading to the lanes was a perpetually anticipated trip. If you are reading this in some areas of the country, Duckpin Bowling is foreign. To learn more, go to Duckin‘ and check it out. The game is fun; but I really like the shirts.
Some of you may not think of a person in a bowling shirt as a Paragon of Fashion. Well, you’re wrong. The shirts have a distinctive look, resembling Italian knits or Banlon, without the exposed underarm stitching. Typically in two colors, emphasizing wide stripes, but often times multi-colored; they invariably have the embroidered name over the left nipple. Mine always read Bake or Mr. Fish, depending on whether or not the league was a “first name basis” or more formal institution.
Great thinking goes into the design. Consideration has to be given to comfort, style, fabric breathing, ability to withstand numerous wears, metamorphosing of the body caused by mass consumption of beer, and perspiration absorption (I don’t think they use aluminum like in deodorant).
This distinctive apparel can be recognized from miles away. Any criminal act while wearing a bowling shirt could lead to swift capture. Witnesses will surely recall either the stitched name, or the design and color. There can’t be more than three people in the immediate vicinity of the crime wearing such apparel, narrowing down the suspects. The point is, don’t commit a felony in Bowlwear. You will not escape.
It seems there is a campaign in place to hold a Best Bowling Shirt competition in Staley’s Ford, Nevada in 2009. A date has not been set. Awards will be given for Best Tie Dye, Best Color Combination and Best Durability.
To test the durability of a shirt, the contestants submit the entry to the committee three weeks prior to the judging. The item is subjected to 500 hours of exposure to bowling conditions. On the day of the competition, the shirts are tested for fraying, and that with the least, wins the award. Tie Dye and Best Color Combination are obvious.
In addition to the Best Bowling Shirt awards, there is a movement afoot to erect a Museum in Reno to showcase The History of Bowling Shirts (there is gossip Homer Simpson will cut the ribbon). A special room will be devoted to one of Baltimore’s Best Duckpin Enthusiasts . . . The Babe. Although Babe Ruth was not considered to have made much of a fashion statement, his subsequent career in Major League Baseball overcame his lack of runway thinking.
One day the world will appreciate Bowlwear. It will take all of us, working together, to make it happen. I urge you to stop by your local bowling alley and survey what is being worn. Stop anyone who is not wearing bowl-worthy tops. Tell that person of the movement and win them over. This will work. I assure you. There will be Pradaesque bowling shirts.
Bake My Fish