Scoring Problem Real ‘Puzzler’
Uniform Polish, Lowering of Body of Pin, Are Among Latest Suggestions to Reduce Heavy Totals
By BILLY SIXTY
SINCE suggesting that something be done to bring bowling back to saner and collectively more satisfactory scoring, I have had the pleasure (and indeed it was a pleasure) of visiting-Duluth for its yearly Arrowhead international tournament. I wish to report that never have I traveled to a meet in which totals were so uniformly low, and spirits so uniformly high, before and after having a whack at the wood.
Undoubtedly the bowlers about the nation who didn't compete at Duluth read the scores and agreed that the boys must have been lousy. But such was decidedly not the case. Duluth attracted 300 odd teams, including some mighty flingers from Milwaukee, Chicago, St. Paul Minneapolis and other central western points. And when the bombardment had ended only one count over 3,000 was on the boards, with 2,887 in second spot. A mark of 1,882, by the one and only Hank Marino, won the all-events.
Compare those figures with the counts going up in other tournaments and leagues and, well, you are entitled to snicker up your sleeve--IF you weren't at Duluth. But, in all sincerity, the winning totals represent the very highest in proficiency. For here is a meet that embodies all that makes for the best in bowling: Fast alleys, polished to a shimmering sleekness, and pins that acted as if they were loaded with lead.
Conditions were tough, believe you me, but they were as nearly equal for every participant as conditions can possibly be. Officials told you before you swung into action that the wood wouldn't fly all over the building; that you wouldn't be carrying thin hits in swishing fashion off the boards; that you had to drill your ball into the one-three pocket solidly, and then, doing that, you had to CARRY your hits. The wood WAS heavy - from three pounds eight ounces to three pounds 10.
It is because you were advised about conditions in no uncertain terms that you went to work for all that was in you and, failing to score well, were satisfied that you just didn't have the necessary stuff on the old pill.
This reference to the Duluth tournament is made for a purpose, and a very specific purpose. It is evidence that, contrary to what squawking-stare may make, much satisfaction can come of ordinary scoring, and that, given tough conditions, as in the old days before the shallow gutter and fiber inlays, a mark of 200, a 600 series in singles or a 3,000 count in team represents "par" as it would apply in bowling.
Down with the gutters, out with the fibers and up with the weight of pins, and such as that 3,797 of the Hermanns of St. Louis will never be repeated. Of course it wouldn't do, perhaps, to ask the alley operator to undergo all these changes simultaneously, but it could be done in a period of two or three years.
I have been rolling along for a quarter century and know that bowlers today just aren't as good as totals would indicate. Take away the ricocheting swoopers off the boards that come with dizzying repetition, don't have the "schleiffer" thin hits pay, and the old 3,000 team standard will be something to whoop about. And the poor little fellow, struggling along with his 175 to 185 average, without help off the boards, will appreciate his efforts instead of being inclined to toss his ball and shoes into discard and quit.
Answering my piece about ‘Sane Scoring for Sports Sake’ comes an alley operator, a Chicagoan, with this:
"I was one that was highly opposed to the change of quarter rounds, as I tried to bring out that the change was not sufficient to eliminate the improvement of bowlers with uniform conditions which are bound to make the bowlers better and better.
"The wonderful score shot in St. Louis will be knocked off some day. The three 300 games shot by Jim Murgie will also be duplicated and surpassed (did you ever hear of surpassing perfection?), just as we read everyday where a record is being broken in every sport there is, swimming, horse racing, running, jumping and what-not.
"So, if we have to make a change to lower the scores, which I do not approve of, let's make the change where the change should be made and that is in the construction of a bowling pin. I am a great believer in keeping good scores, as in the many years of experience in the bowling game I never have heard of a bowler quitting because his average was too high, but I have heard of many bowlers who got disgusted and quit the game because they could not average what they did in previous years.”
And there folks, is the very point that I have endeavored to bring out: The matter of a bowler quitting because his average is too low. Too low to begin to compare with what the big shots are rolling. The gap between the average scorer and the star, under present conditions, is simply too great. To the little fellow the difference looms too large; too big to ever be overcome, regardless of practice. The positive way to encourage the average roller is to narrow the gap – by toughening conditions.
Taking no credit from the Hermanns for their amazing 3,797 mark, but desiring to prove that conditions contributed to not only that figure but all others rolled by that team on the particular alleys whereon they got their bulgingly fat count, I obtained figures to compare their scoring "at home" and on "outside alleys." The statistics were all that I anticipated. In 17 series, climaxed by that 3,797, the club missed 3,100 only once, and it was below 3,100 only five times. Its average at home for the 17 series stretch was 1,090 up to Jan. 27, when the big blast occurred. On other alleys the squad went along at a 978 average. Figures speak for themselves.
It is interesting that letters at hand, approving the suggestion that steps be taken to slash scores, come, for the most part, from stars whose averages would be materially reduced by proposed changes. But they think not of themselves, but of the game -- and the little fellow.
Following is a letter from the well known Chicago veteran, Jules Lellinger, who has been gunning for strikes for more than a quarter century and knows the bowling game upside down, inside out, vice-versa, or any way you might look at it:
March 8, 1937
Having read your article on "Sane Scoring for Sports' Sake" in the A.B.C. BULLETIN, and some of the replies you have received, it seems sort of a duty to me to at least give my moral support to your grand idea of getting down to bowling scores such as we had before 1921, when, in my opinion, the mediocre bowler had just as good a chance as the good bowler in tournament and league play. You may or may not know that it was I who conceived the idea, in an endeavor to check these increasingly high scores, of replacing the inch and a half quarter-round with a smaller one, as I believed that when the smaller quarter-round was installed it would, to a great extent, eliminate the high scoring. However, it would seem as though it has not accomplished that purpose to a very marked degree.
The condition of the bowling alley is our next best bet--such as having a uniform polish; also a rule, to be strictly adhered to, of having alleys finished at least twice a month, so that our A.B.C. representative will have the opportunity, at a moment's notice, of inspecting such conditions, and where the rule has been conformed with, recognition can then be given immediately to high scores. It seems to me that the bowling game as it is now needs more stringent rules, whereby the Executive Committee representatives of the A.B.C. may go and direct alley proprietors to have their alleys shellacked and polished. The seasoned bowler who travels around a great deal absolutely sees and knows the easy conditions of some of the establishments in which he has bowled in various parts of the country.
Such scores as the 3797 and 3713 referred to in your article, and which were published in newspapers all over the country, are of no help to the bowling game. Your suggestion of inlaying the fiber on the kickbacks or sideboards would doubtless go far towards cutting down the high scoring. In short, I am heartily in accord with the idea of "Sane Scoring for Sports' Sake."
JULE LELLINGER, Chicago, Illinois
What are your ideas? Do you want high scores to continue? Or do you favor saner scoring based on pocket hitting rather than freakish rebounds off the boards?
Reprinted from THE A.B.C. BULLETIN MARCH 1937
About Billy Sixty:
Billy Sixty, actually William Soechting, had a big impact on Wisconsin sports as a champion golfer and bowler, and a sportswriter for the Milwaukee Journal. Soechting means 60 in Dutch, so Billy was known as Sixty by the time he was playing in major golf tournaments as a young man in the 1920s. Sixty qualified for the State Amateur golf tourney 20 times and reached the finals four times. He captained the great Milwaukee Heilman bowling team that won five national titles and the world championship in 1930. Sixty recorded nine holes-in-one in golf and nine 300 games in bowling. Sixty had a long career as a sportswriter and had a bowling tournament names after him. He retired after 61 years of involvement in state sports.
From the Wisconsin Athletic Walk of Fame