My Nickel’s Worth Randy Ooney
My Bowling Ball (Part 1)
Like your first date, your first kiss, (the two of mine were about two years apart), and your first car, we also remember our first bowling ball. I was a 19 year old kid who had several 200 games to my credit in open bowling, so when my friend and employer at the time asked if I wanted to bowl on the company team, I jumped at the chance. He explained that it was a scratch league, and asked if I could average 180 or better. Of course, I lied and said yes.
I was about to become a league bowler in one of the best leagues in the western suburbs at the time, the Biltmore Majors, and I did not even own a ball or shoes. I didn’t want to be the only guy in the league seen walking by the house ball rack sliding my fingers in a few to find one that fit, so I did what any upstanding new league bowler would do, I went to Target. Target (T2) in St Louis Park, was the second Target store built on the planet. The first was in Bloomington, south of Highway 100. Bloomington always got the first one of everything. In 1955, a new ballpark was proposed just south of Highway 12 and west of 100 in St. Louis Park, but Metropolitan Stadium was built in Bloomington because they didn’t have one yet. The first Perkins Pancake House in Minnesota was in Bloomington. St. Louis Park was second. Anyway, Target II sold popcorn for 9 cents a bag, hot little donuts that they made right in front of you, and bowling balls in the Sporting goods department.
Target had a wide selection of about 12 different balls, and I selected a 16 pound Ebonite reddish color plastic ball. I knew nothing about conventional, fingertip, or semi fingertip, and needless to say I also knew nothing about top weight, side weight, or pitch. I don’t think RG, PAPs, or bias weight blocks had been invented yet. But I didn’t need to know these things, I only needed to know my initials, to be stamped above the finger holes. The expert at Target had me put my hand into one of those balls with about 60 holes in it, and pick three I liked. Within minutes, I had a custom drilled ball with three large beveled holes that fit my hand pretty good. No more looking for Black Beauty number 64 at Hopkins Lanes. I was all set. The price was $16.95, about 2 days pay, plus 3 per cent sales tax, and after settling up with Target, I drove straight to the bowling center to try out my new ball. In those days, balls did not have names like “Raging Inferno” or “Hawgzilla”. I named mine “My bowling ball”.
Bring on Biltmore’s best.
I remember being pretty nervous that first night. I’m sure I was the youngest guy in the league, and probably the only one with the total ensemble of a new ball, new pair of shoes, and new bag. These were the days when 550 to 590 was a pretty good night, and there were usually a half dozen 600s or so. I had promised my friend a 180 plus average, and it was time to walk the walk. I walked right up to that foul line with my three step delivery, and produced a 466 series. By the end of the third week I had increased my average to 159, but had not yet broken the 500 barrier. The fourth week started with 168, same old story, but then out of the blue came a six bagger and a 246 game. I had been putting my dollar in the jackpot each week because it seemed like the right thing to do, so someone came over after the game and handed me $7.25 for the high game. This is unbelievable. I paid for my bowling, a coke, and gas to get home, and I still have a couple of bucks left over! I fired off a 188 the third game giving me the distinction of which my first ABC sanctioned series over 500 was also over 600. In those days it was rare. Now kids come out of juniors with 200 plus averages and join the big dog leagues. Good for you. Bowling balls still cost two days pay, but the difference is that now you need eight of them.
Yup, I remember my first date, (a high school play), my first kiss, (Eloise Butler’s Flower Gardens), my first car (a 1953 Dodge sedan with a bad piston rod), and my first 600 (with my Ebonite bowling ball).