A League By Any Other Name… Why Don’t We Call It The Average League?

by Dave Williams

Last week’s column, “50 Years Of Bowling Memories,” stirred up a lot of conversation among all of the bowling editors that I correspond with each week. I’m not sure if they were impressed with the article, or perhaps more excited about publishing a topic that did not focus only on  bowling, but rather an addiction that all of us have to some extent… hoarding.

Tony Franklin of thebowlingnews.net (Dallas/Ft. Worth) remarked: “Dave, I’m going to put this article into the next issue as well… this was a fun read!” I’m guessing that he and wife Genie might have the same issue that I have with paper and old documents, since they are editors of a bowling newspaper that was founded 66 years ago, in 1956.

Even my friend that provided so much criticism (politely, of course) about my collection of papers and broken or outdated electronics, candidly admitted to me this week that he has the same hoarding tendencies, but with different items. I think that we all share in this problem to a certain degree. My mom’s weakness was with clothing, while my dad had a collection of tools, pipes and other supplies that would make the manager of a Fastenal Store blush.

But the conversation that brought us to this week’s topic was provided by Lynn Matsubara, who is the manager, director and youth committee co-chair for the California USBC Association. She’s also the editor of the Cal USBC Newsletter.

It’s interesting how our conversation evolved. I mentioned my interest in working at the Bowling Hall of Fame and Museum in Arlington, Texas, when we were chatting about my collection of almost everything bowling. I had discussed this with Jessica Bell, former curator of the museum, but then COVID happened and everything was placed on hold.

“That would be great if you worked at the museum,” said Matsubara. “All of your old awards and memorabilia would be cool to display. I have old patches that I framed, and I have old average books for our local associations dating back to the 1930’s. I’m trying to figure out how I can scan the books without destroying them.”

Can you imagine the history that must be in those old average books? All of the old greats of the game must be in that collection of averages. Names like Howard Holmes,  Ernie Soest, Glenn Allison, Fred Riccilli, Foy Belcher, and transplants Don Carter, Hank Lauman and Joe Norris, who migrated from the midwest. Then in later years, a new crop of standouts came on the scene: Norm Meyers, Bud Horn, Barry Asher, Ron Winger and Andy Marzich.

In a phone call to Las Vegas resident Bud Horn, I learned a little more about a couple of the above mentioned stars. Bud always seems to have the perfect comment, most likely because he was a part of Los Angeles bowling history. “I do remember recording the highest average in Los Angeles during the 1958-59 season. There were only three bowlers that were over 200 that year.”

Bud said that many of the new crop of players looked to Foy Belcher for advice, especially Barry Asher and Ron Winger. “Belcher was so smooth that you could have placed a glass of water on his head during his approach, and not spill a drop.”

As my conversation continued with Lynn Matsubara, I could not help but comment further on those old average books. I remember talking with Carol Mancini a few years ago about a room that she had in the old Burbank office that was filled with nothing but old issues going all the way back to 1940, when California Bowling News began. Carol said that they still had all of them, and they were trying to find an easy way to scan them without destroying some of the older issues in the process.

It’s funny that you brought up average books, I said to Matsubara. In my storage units I have one complete file box filled with nothing but old average books from places that I’ve lived, particularly while moving about the country for AMF. I looked at my list and found an entry for a book that I (should) have for the 1979-80 season, when I recorded a 221 average for 24 games at Rocket Bowl.

Interestingly enough, the “lane man” in those days at Rocket Bowl was bowling great Hank Lauman, who was mentioned in the list above. Being a student of the game, I was familiar with his name and asked phone solicitor extraordinaire Carl Ritter if he was the same bowler from St. Louis that captained the famous Hermann Undertakers team? At about that moment, Lauman came into the office to punch the clock after completion of his graveyard shift. He was a quiet man and it took me a couple of hours before he opened up about his glory years in St. Louis, and later in Los Angeles.

I remember putting the league together with mostly Rocket Bowl employees, I told Lynn. We bowled on Monday mornings. Karen Crowther (center manager), Carl Ritter, Jim Baker (front desk), and others joined. We had 8 teams of 2, and I think a lot of them did it just so that I could get a sanctioned average for tournaments. We called it The Average League.

“You’re not going to believe this,” said Lynn, “but I made a league called ‘An Average League’  so that I could get a tournament average too!! Great minds think alike! It’s a singles league and we end with exactly 21 games. It’s only once a month at Winnetka Bowl (formerly Canoga Park Bowl). I’ve been running it since 2015, and we have about 20 people every year.”

Matsubara sent me the flyer that you see to promote An Average League. With all of our busy schedules and concerns about the “next” calamity to impact our lives, I wonder if this type of league concept might help to fill the openings that have developed because of indifference for what was once considered the norm? To be continued…