I think that in order to give this story as much credibility as possible, I am going to have to brag a little. I have been involved in doing the lanes with the PBA for over 800 tournaments, which included the National Tour, the Senior Tour and all seven Regions of the Regional Program. I am the only person who has done lanes for every bowler that is in the PBA Hall of Fame. In other words, I have seen them all. And, perhaps, I am really the only person who knows exactly what they bowled "on", as far as lane conditions go.
My personal All-Time Top-10, includes; Dick 'Water Walker' Ritger. You talk about TALENT. Dick was unbelievable. He was a world-class bowler, a world class guy, and later became a world-class coach. Without question he was one of the coolest, smartest, shot-makers in the history of our great sport. He could bowl on anything.
I have literally hundreds of stories of some of the tremendous feats that were performed by the greatest bowlers in the world; those that are in the PBA Hall of Fame.
This particular story took place in the early 70's. We (the Tour) were at Cranston Bowl in Cranston, Rhode Island. The weather was absolutely miserable as it had been snowing for about a week before we got there. It was 10-degrees outside when I got off the plane. Not only that, but my job as laneman was going to be a lot tougher this week because we knew in advance that the place was in bad condition because they hadn't resurfaced in a couple of years and all of the league bowlers had been complaining. And it was an old, drafty two-sided house and each side played drastically different from each other - as well as each pair playing differently from each other. I knew that I was going to hear about that.
After the first day of qualifying, Ritger was in the lead, which wasn't unusual for this 20-time champion (at the time). Almost every bowler was upset with the lanes and I had to hear about it.
That night at 2:00am I went in to do the lanes and it was now 19-below zero. There was so much snow in the motel parking lot, that and I couldn't find my car and had to walk about a mile to get to the bowl. About 15-minutes after getting there, part of the roof on the high-side (the real tough side) caved-in from the weight of the snow. It was a disaster. The janitor called the head mechanic who in turn called the Manager. He called everybody he knew to get in there to help clean up the mess. I called Harry Golden (the Tournament Director) to let him know what had happened. I cleaned and oiled the low-side then went over to take a look at what was going on over on the disaster side. There were about 20 people cleaning the water, snow, ceiling tiles and other debris off of the lanes and approaches. You could see the sky through the hole in the ceiling. I remember thinking: "I'm sure that the guys will blame me for this, too."
There were buckets on the lanes that were still catching water from the drippy roof. It was now 6:00am and the Pro's were scheduled to bowl at 9:00am. At that point I thought that there was no way. I started cleaning and oiling the part of that side that wasn't under water. When I got to the part of the house that had caved in, a "Miracle" happened. It had stopped raining and the dripping over the lanes had stopped. I cleaned and oiled the rest of the lanes. There were still some drips coming down over the lanes, but "Miracle number 2" was that the drips were only over the gutter gaps and the buckets that were placed there were catching all of the drops. It was about 8:45am now, and I took the lane machine to the back. The mechanic and all his helpers were back there huddled next to a little heater he had, and they were all trying to dry out.
When I came out of the backend, I saw about 20-bowlers standing in the settee on 31 and 32. I went over there to see what was going on. The only drips that were still coming down were over the approach on that pair and because of the full field, they had to use that pair in the tournament. Harry made the decision to leave the three buckets where they were on the approach. It was either that, or put 5 on a pair, and none of the bowlers wanted that. The buckets were to stay in place for BOTH squads.
I stayed around to watch the 1st squad bowl. After they bowled their 6-games that morning, the high game on the pair was 149. It was impossible for the players to walk around the buckets that were there to execute any type of normal shot.
Now the next squad came in to bowl. Ritger was scheduled to bowl his 2nd game on 31 and 32. It would be interesting to see what he could do there and not lose too much of the lead that he had enjoyed. When he got there for game 2 of this second day, there was a huge crowd in the bleachers, and standing behind the bleachers, as well.
I watched him (with no practice balls) alter his approach by snaking his footwork around the three buckets in a serpentine manner. I couldn't believe my eyes. He shot 279 like it was nothing. It was ridiculous.