Archive for the ‘Sports’ 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
My favorite holiday is Halloween. It’s not even a holiday. No government offices close, banks and other companies conduct their normal business, and all schools remain open. Yet, it’s considered to be a holiday. That’s what you think, right? It has that celebratory feel. Maybe we should just label it a Cause For Celebration, since it doesn’t get the official holiday treatment. I’m not even sure I should capitalize Halloween.
Regardless of whatever the plan for decorating my house happens to be, I usually take the day off in anticipation of all the little tykes soon to be scared half-to-death. I probably shouldn’t confess playing hooky on an unholiday. Please don’t tell anyone. Yeah, I’m the guy in the neighborhood children either can’t wait to encounter, or the house they stroll past nervously. The candy I give is the good stuff, but they have to work for it. If it’s a really good night of fright, there is a lot left over for the office.
My parents started it. It’s all their fault. On Halloween they put on a show. The best year I remember, Mom took out her teeth and played a Witch, and Dad got up on the roof and dropped a sheet-covered broomstick on a rope in front of the kids as they ascended the steps. They gave the best treats, so all the kids wanted to make the stop. That particular year my father was a driver for Rock Creek, and he gave out bottled sodas to the costume-clad loons. Glass bottles. If anyone gave me a glass container of pent-up fizz, it would be tossed in the air to watch it break in front of me. That would be cool. So, my father unwittingly probably contributed to bad behavior. Nevertheless, receiving a sugar-infused soft drink is a nice treat. Fortunately, when my Dad drove for Sinclair Oil, he didn’t give away bottles of gasoline.
So, I was hooked. Now, Halloween can’t come soon enough. I want each year to be more outrageous. The creepy music, screams, shrieks, blubbering, chimes, bells, howls, cackles and other haunting tracks blast out of the upstairs windows, probably making a few neighbors hate 2034.
Although, it is really neat to be the house treat-seekers want to hit before the end of the night, my most successful gig was in 1983 while living in an apartment in Columbia, MD. I had this really hideous, horse-faced mask of Richard Nixon. The picture (not my mask) you see here does not do justice to the fear my face-cover extracted. During that day in the office where I worked at the time, the mask was worn for our Halloween celebration. I popped up from behind a cubicle in front of one of my bosses, and got him good. The fright on his face was priceless. And, he was a Republican. If he were a Democrat, he probably would have made a quick trip to the bathroom.
Then that evening, the haunting began. It was a perfect night. Monday Night Football was on and the Redskins were playing. A bottle of tequila (the last one ever) was my friend, and my children were with me.
We tied a cord to the handle of the door of the apartment and rigged the knob so it could be opened without turning. I stood in the foyer under a green light, with my head covered by the mask and wielding a plastic Psycho-style knife. My kids took turns yanking the door open at the sound of a knock, and I did my best Norman Bates impersonation, while shrieking and thrusting the blade downward. It never failed to do the trick. The only time I regretted the prank was when a father, holding his infant, screamed like a girl, then laughed. The baby did not think it was funny and cried pitifully. Causing seven-year-olds to crap their pants was good. Scarring a child for life is not. My divine punishment was too much tequila. Eventually, I just pointed to the television and said with an idiotic slur, “Rrredshkinz,” then slowly shuffled sideways into my bedroom, got sick and passed out. To this day my son and daughter rag on me about the episode. “Tequila, you are no longer my friend. Be gone, and take that silly worm with you.” One good thing that happened was the Redskins beat the Chargers 27 – 24.
Some people might think at my age being obsessed with Halloween is a bit odd. I’ll never stop. We’ve lived in this neighborhood for 22 years. The kids expect the crazy guy at 2034 to do something goofy and weird. I have a reputation to uphold. Several months ago, while getting my hair washed before the cut, the shampoo girl was talking with me about where she grew up. She was referring to my neighborhood. We started discussing Halloween and she mentioned the fear of walking up the driveway of the house with the loud eerie music, and the man who always dressed up, and usually jumped out from behind something. I probed a bit more, and guess who? We had a big laugh. Endorsement by unsolicited testimonial.
My life is now complete.
Bake My Fish