Rich Hughey
Rich Hughey is a bowler, league officer, high school coach and U.S. Bowling Congress director. In Striking it Rich, Hughey rolls bowling news from the Heart City and beyond.

Stories show how much bowling has changed, but is it for the better?

Stories illustrate how the game has changed and the devaluation of the "perfect" 300 game.

Posted on Oct. 17, 2013 at 1:00 a.m. | Updated on Oct. 17, 2013 at 9:59 a.m.

I spotted the stories below posted by a couple Facebook friends.

The origin appears to be on ActionBowlers.com. I wanted to share them along with some memories they bring back. The stories illustrate how the game has changed and the devaluation of the "perfect" 300 game. Once rare and newsworthy, 300's, and 800 series for that matter, are so common now often times they are not even announced in the center when they occur. Heck the USBC is no longer giving awards for most honor scores after this season sighting the soaring cost of doing so.

I enjoyed the stories because the early years of my bowling career occurred during what was the tail end of the era portrayed in story No. 1. I am proud to say I have been one of the guys in the crowd gathering around to observe and cheer on a rare accomplishment.

Working behind the counter I have made that call to the local newspaper to get the bowling writer for the Muskegon Chronicle out to the lanes to document a big game or series. I have called the local bowling association directors, waking them late at night so they could come out to verify the conditions were legal. And I'm also the guy with padded stats from bowling on easier conditions and modern equipment.

For sure the walled up house shots inflate everyone's average by about 30 pins and the proliferation of 300's. I'm evidence of this having averaged 230-240 on house shots only to struggle to end up in the 205 range at the same house when we competed on more difficult sport patterns for an entire season.

While humbling, the score wasn't critical to me. The goal was to stay at or near the top of the average list regardless of what the number was. For me that was OK and I enjoyed the challenge, but how many others do? I know they voted to go back to the house shot after that one-year experiment.

The modern bowling balls are like grenades when they hit the pins. They have highly engineered weight blocks inside made of materials of different densities that build and release a tremendous amount of energy at the pins. Cover stock materials provide high friction and absorb the oil off the lanes. We can basically buy a better game in a box. But technology has affected all sports in a similar manner, right?

Although league bowling around here in some places takes the era described in story No. 2 to new levels, I'll bet most still feel the butterflies when a perfect game is on the line or trying to strike out to help the team win the game. I do and I wouldn't have it any other way. Whether grinding on a tough condition for spares or trying to carry the most strikes, it's still the game and the competition I love.

I have mixed feelings about this "problem". The ability to have fun, shoot a good score and not have to be perfect surely attracts a certain number of bowlers. Would we have more bowlers in our houses if the proprietors were forced to put down only the most difficult of patterns? I doubt it. Yet the easy conditions of house shots are often blamed for the declining participation numbers in our sport. I think there are other factors.

Enjoy the stories below. Both are very realistic for the dates shown. What do you think is best for competitive bowling?


Story No. 1

1. Nov. 18, 1964: A scratch bowler in Milwaukee steps onto the approach. Currently averaging 198, he is one of the best players in the city. He has the first nine. Every other bowler in the building stops and walks over to watch him bowl the 10th frame. The building is dead silent. He picks up his Manhattan Rubber, the same ball he’s thrown for four years. A bead of nervous sweat runs down his neck and into the collar of his starched white bowling shirt. He’s only been in the position once before, and he desperately wants his first perfect game.

His first shot goes a little high and trips the four. Ten in a row. The crowd roars. Should he make an adjustment? He decides to move a half-board left. The next shot goes dead flush. Eleven in a row and the crowd is really into it now, inching closer and closer to the lanes. Then the crowd swells as first shift bowlers stream out of the bar to watch the action. The people in the back are standing on chairs and benches, straining to get a good view. His teammates don’t know what to say or do, afraid of saying the wrong thing or breaking his concentration.

He steps onto the approach one more time, his knees knocking and his hands trembling. He delivers the shot – a little too fast – but the ball catches a piece of the headpin and he carries a wall shot...300!! He leaps in the air and the crowd explodes. The proprietor calls the ABC and the local paper, which has a reporter in the building in 15 minutes. While the hero of the night is interviewed, his teammates buy him a beer and the proprietor ropes off lanes 9 and 10, making sure no one disturbs them before the ABC inspector arrives. He can’t wait for the interview to end so he can call his wife.


Story No. 2

Nov. 18, 1997: A scratch bowler in Dallas steps onto the approach. Currently averaging 228, he is 15th on the average list for his league. He has the first nine. No one in the league, except those bowling with him on lanes 57-58, realizes he is about to shoot 300. The bumper bowling party taking place six lanes to his right continues to make a ruckus.

He picks up the Quantum ball he bought three days ago. He has seven more balls with him. A bead of sweat runs down his neck and into the collar of his "No Fear" t-shirt, not because he’s nervous, but because the air conditioner isn’t working. He’s attempting to shoot his 21st 300 game.

His first shot goes a little high and trips the four. Ten in a row. Should he make an adjustment? He decides to move four boards left. The next shot misses three boards right, but hits the dry track and goes dead flush. The young woman at the desk is now mildly interested. His teammates are joking with him, saying he should try to shoot the first 292 in ABC history.

He steps onto the approach one more time. He delivers the shot –too fast and three boards left of his target– but the ball slides in the puddle and rips the rack, the headpin flying across the deck and clubbing the 10...300!! His teammates laugh and tell him he has no guts. The young lady at the desk calls the ABC and gets their answering machine. They’ll be out to check the lanes in a few weeks. She puts a group of open bowlers on lanes 57 and 58. They give the 300 shooter a dirty look, wondering why he and his buddies are still sitting in their seats.

He goes up to the league secretary to find out how he did in brackets. Expecting a big payday, he gets pissed when he finds out another bowler shot 300 the last game and tied him. His $400 turns out to be only $40. He doesn’t even want his ABC ring.

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