Trio of “Old Timers” Grow Reminiscent
Over Incidents of Ball-Tampering Days
By THEO B. ZARVER
THE A. B. C. BULLETIN 1938
MILWAUKEE, WIS.— Among the “old timers” who have visited Headquarters this season may be numbered Peter Rowley, who manages the Bensinger Houses in Chicago’s loop, and Roy Davis, secretary of the Chicago 1938 A.B.C. Tournament Association.
While in the office they had the “time of their lives” discussing some of the old phases of the game with Secretary Baumgarten. Of chief interest were the “screwy” things that were done with bowling balls, way back in the “good old days,” long before the A.B.C. had grown to its present status as a truly regulatory body of the game.
In those days ball loading was a favorite pastime, if not something of an art. Oscar Holberg, deceased some ten years ago, had a ball loaded so heavily on one side that it would “walk in” and pick off the 5-7-10 without any great difficulty. Today to do that requires art and precision of a different nature.
Then there was Steve Geroux, who has also passed on to the resting place of all good bowlers. Steve possessed the uncanny ability of an expert in “fixing” lignum-vitae balls. In fact, he made it a business to pick up old balls which had become flattened from being set down on alleys continually on the same side. The first step in the remodeling job was to saw them in two, run a bolt through the faces of the two “good” halves, after countersinking the faces for washers and locknuts. Steve was fine enough artisan that he could even have made a good ball (for those pioneer days) out of the four best quarters of four old balls (maybe).
However, it must be related that Steve did not always do too good a job. In fact one of his jobs “slipped up on him” one night in a match while he was shooting at the 7 pin of the 7-10 split. The contraption split in two, one-half taking the 7 and the other converting the 10. The captains discussed the matter, shook their heads and decided it was “no go” for a spare, since no known rules of the day covered such an emergency.
Another of the old artists discussed was Joe Berlin, who at one time used an old wooden ball which had a rod run through it with a lead weight attached to the center, which could be moved to the right or left by means of wrench and screw driver. This process, as can be seen, controlled the amount of hook or back-up. When Joe found himself on a back-up alley, he would pull out his tools and draw the weight to the left so the ball would “climb in” at a faster pace and pull over the “hump” into the pocket.
Today, thanks to the A.B.C. resurfacing rule, the “humps” are surfaced down and balls of standard dimensions, uniform weight and perfect balance, “climb in” according to the bowling ability of those who use them. Control is now a matter of practice and individual skill with no unfair advantages offered to any.
In the old days balls weighing as much as 22 pounds were in use and many were oversized. In pre-dodo rule days, balls which were called 7-9 balls were made by making a “union” between “better halves” of a 14 pound and an 18 pound ball. The balls of both weights were sawed in half and a 7 pound half vulcanized to a 9 pound half, the holes carefully drilled in the correct spots, and there you had a 16 pound ball—but would “she climb,” due to that 7 to 9 ratio of un-balance.
Scores of incidents come to mind when those who have gone through the “old days” get together and start reminiscing. There is that old one about the “clever” chap who entered an A.B.C. Tournament shortly after the dodo was ruled out. He had his ball weighed and checked, then he poured a load of buck shot into a finger hole and corked it in. He was doing swell up until about the third or fourth frame, when the cork came out, strewing buck shot all over the alleys. And, was that “clever” chap shown the door by officials, or was he? Your guess is right—he WAS, and HOW!
Sit back for a moment, friend reader, and mentally contrast conditions in the “good old days” with those obtaining today, and you cannot fail to see for yourself, how fast the game has progressed in the orderly sense. The recounting of some of the early day experience causes we younger bowlers to think or say: “Cryin’ out loud, is it possible that such conditions were EVER permitted?”
The record bears out the contention that they were, but remember the game was progressing through its pioneering stages during those years. We have done exceedingly well to have progressed with our game to the near-stage of perfection that it has under A.B.C. leadership.
Article originally published in the ABC Bulletin in 1938