December 1, 2020

“The Junk Drawer:” I’m so bowler — The game of 10 pins has St. Louis ties

Throw a ball. Then take a seat, have a drink and chat with friends and foes alike as the sound of smooth urethane colliding with wood fills the air. Repeat 19 times and you’ve got the classic sport of bowling.

It’s a sport where people of any age compete to see who can hit 10 pins with a ball and where getting three strikes in a row is good occurrence. What ping pong can be to the usually nerdy, bowling can be to the nonathletic. Can’t throw a football 70 yards? Can’t throw a curveball? Can’t ice skate? (I sure can’t.) Then bowling is right up your alley.

The pun is totally intended.

“The Junk Drawer” is a weekly column written by Journal Opinions Editor Tim Doty.

Bowling’s history begins possibly as far back as 3200 B.C. according to The International Bowling Museum and Hall of Fame in Arlington, Texas (the location is something I will address in a bit). In the 1930s, British anthropologist Sir Flinders Petrie found what he believed to be a primitive version of the game we know today. Variations of the game were popular during the reign of King Henry VIII.

In 1952, machines that could automatically set the pins were introduced and made “pin boys” more and more obsolete. ABC started to televise Pro Bowlers Association (PBA) competitions in the 1960s, which made the sport even more popular.

Today, every major city in the U.S. tends to have more than one bowling alley. One location in St. Louis is named after Dick Weber (AMF Dick Weber Lanes in Florissant). Weber was a founding member of the PBA in 1958. Weber made his presence known as he established himself and his family in Florissant. Weber dominated the PBA with 30 PBA Tour wins. Weber was inducted onto the St. Louis Walk of Fame in 1999. He died in 2005 due to respiratory failure.

One of his surviving children is Pete Weber. Pete was born in north St. Louis County in 1962. His father introduced him to the sport at the age of 2. Pete Weber won the PBA National Championship at age 26. He has rolled 64 perfect scores of 300. He still bowls in the PBA and won his 36th PBA Tour event on February 26.

He shouted one of the greatest lines ever in pure jubilance and arrogance. He yelled out, “Who do you think you are? I am,” as he won the 2012 U.S. Open.

I would be shaking in my rented bowling shoes if I heard that wonderful eloquence of the English language in person.

With two icons in the game of bowling who made their homes in St. Louis, it would only seem natural to have the International Bowling Museum and Hall of Fame in this city. Well, it was located here for years until 2008. The museum then relocated to Texas and was opened there in January 2010.

No disrespect to Texas, but the museum should not have moved. It should have stayed put in St. Louis. I read a comment about the museum online that summed it up perfectly. The commenter said something to the extent of: Cooperstown has the Baseball Hall of Fame, Canton has football, Cleveland has rock and roll, St. Louis has bowling. It was a mark that helped put St. Louis on the international map. But so it goes.

I love the game of bowling. I actually took a bowling class back in community college. There are some downsides to this wonderful game, though.

I don’t want to spend money on my own pair of bowling shoes, so that means I have to rent a pair of size 10 bowling shoes. It never occurred to me until recently how many feet have used those shoes. Thank God the bowling alleys make you wear socks when you rent shoes.

There are also the instances where little Billy and his three siblings have the lane next to you, and are very loud. You also can’t cuss or you will get yelled at by Aunt Gertrude who had to drag those kids somewhere for the weekend. If I miss a one-pin spare (that happens often) it makes it even worse if I have to yell, “Oh, fudge, heck, poop,” afterwards. Hopefully she’s not one of those people who won’t let her nieces and nephews say, “Poop.”

Then, since this is not a perfect world, there’s always the chance your bowling balls get stuck and won’t come out of the little machine that magically transports your ball from behind the lane. Sometimes five or six get stuck back there, and you have to make the awkward trip to the counter to say you need to get your balls back. There’s just no classy way to say that.

Bowling alley food is not as questionable as one would think. Relax and have a beer and some fries as you laugh at your friend who throws the ball right down the middle on a 7-10 split.

Next time you go bowling, take in the atmosphere that can only be found at your local bowling alley. Relish in those who have achieved a slice of perfection as you read the names of those who bowled 300 games, sometimes just achieved in a recreational league. Here’s hoping you make like Black Box and “Strike It Up.”

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