June 27, 2010
“Thanks Mom and Dad”
By Bill Ades
To any serious bowler, 300 isn’t a Hollywood movie, it’s an obsession.
Even with the proliferation of 300 games since the advent of the “hook out of the box” bowling balls, perfect games still only constitute a small percentage of all sanctioned games bowled.
Additionally, PBA Experience leagues were created to give bowlers of all abilities the opportunity to bowl the ultimate challenge, PBA lane conditions.
300 games in these leagues are even less common. Only 104 sanctioned perfect games were bowled in these USBC PBA Experience leagues during the 2007/08 season. I was fortunate and lucky enough to have bowled one of these games.
I write this not to be a braggadocio, but to convey my unusual, almost unbelievable story.
When I say I was fortunate and lucky, I am being kind to myself. Let me explain why.
Shoeing up to bowl on Monday, December 3, 2007 was not an easy task for me to do. Just two days prior my mother had passed away following 3 months of hospitalization due to a fall which resulted in a broken femur bone. This left her bedridden and hospitalized for the remainder of her life, never to return home.
Just 2 ½ years earlier my father had suffered the same fate, falling and breaking his femur. He too remained hospitalized and bedridden for nearly 3 months before passing away without ever returning home. The day after this league session, Dec 4th, would have been his 99th birthday.
With all this emotional baggage, I really wasn’t in the mood to bowl, but I had missed the week before and felt I couldn’t miss two weeks in a row.
Arriving early to bowl make up games for my missed week, I was bowling on the Cheetah pattern for the first time.
This shortest oil pattern proved to be quite challenging for me as all my strike balls were hooking way too early and I didn’t feel comfortable throwing any of these 5 strike balls I had with me, even though I shot a 230 my last game of this make up series.
As I practiced to bowl the regular session, all my strike balls were reacting the same, hooking way too early. Out of desperation I grabbed my spare ball and was able to throw a couple of practice shots.
To my amazement, this ball reacted very well and I could move way to the right and shoot straight up the 5 board. I even had a couple of boards to hit. My only concern was the ball having enough power to carry the 10 pin on light pocket hits.
My first game temporarily dispelled these fears as I opened with a 245. But oil carry down hurt my hitting power the next two games and flat 10 pins became a problem.
Even though I kept moving my feet right, I just wasn’t moving fast enough. In the 10th fame of my 3rd game I finally made a 5 board move right with my feet and two boards right for target. The ball finally carried the 10 pin again.
Astonishingly, my last game produced strike after strike. Stepping up in the 10th frame, I had the chance to score a 300 on this PBA lane condition.
I had reached this place of opportunity by keeping every shot in the pocket and I had perfect carry. These shots were two 5 pin swishers, two hard slap 10 pins, and five high flush ten in the pit strikes. Improbable carry since I was using my spare ball.
But this was no ordinary spare ball. You see this plugged, 14 pound, silver Columbia White Dot with a hardness rating of 89 was the last bowling ball my father used.
As age made throwing heavier bowling balls too painful, he retired from bowling when even this 14 pound plastic pelota became too heavy for him to continue bowling without pain.
He gave it to me a few years before he passed away and I have used it as my spare ball ever since.
So picture this scenario, a 60 year old once a week league bowler having the opportunity to score perfection on the more challenging PBA lane condition with this 14 pound plastic spare ball. Quite unbelievable.
My first shot in the tenth felt great off my hand, resulting in another high flush ten in the pit strike. One down, two to go.
My next shot wasn’t so clean. It felt good off my hand, but was a little hard and right of my mark. Fortunately, the ball hooked up early and was able to make it back to the head pin, resulting in a light bucket scatter strike where most of the pins stay spinning on the deck.
As Billy Welu would have said, “hit'em thin and watch'em spin”.
With one strike to go to reach perfection, I wanted to make sure my last shot would not be light. I know “trust is a must”, but the last time I was in this position, I had too much trust and threw the ball right of my target to leave a 2 pin. I wasn’t going to let this happen again.
Standing on the approach for my final shot, throwing a strike was not the only thing on my mind. Watching a parent suffer and die a slow death takes its toll on family. I was not an exception and this was still permeating my thoughts .
Trying to block everything out of my mind except the shot, I started my first step and push away. My approach was good and I went into my slide hoping for another great release. My follow through was feeling good when all of a sudden my subconscious took over and my fear of coming in light prevailed.
At the release point my hand turned over too soon and my shot was left on release. Yes, my collar shrunk.
Watching the ball travel down the lane, I was positive about not getting a strike. But all of a sudden and to my amazement, the ball stopped hooking. To my relief I produced another high flush ten in the pit strike. Only this strike was on the wrong side of the headpin. A Brooklyn, a Jersey, or a crossover, call it what you want, it was a strike and I had my 300.
Walking back from the line, realizing how fortunate I was, I blurted out “I’ll take that”.
But after contemplation and considering all the extraneous circumstances, the death of my mother, my dad's unlikely bowling ball, and the fact the next day would have been his birthday, I should have said “Thanks Mom and Dad”.