Congratulations to John Bancs for his association-high 279 game (in 1973), and kudos to Dave Musselman and Joe Ameling, the only members of the Sarasota-Manatee County Bowling Association to top the 700 series mark (in 1975-76).
Let’s also salute Tom Climie, whose 195 average was a full six pins better than his nearest challengers in the Tuesday Night Scratch League at Rip Van Winkle Lanes (in 1976-77).
Though such scores were achieved many years ago, they remain noteworthy because they took place in a tougher and fairer scoring environment. And they help put modern-day scoring in perspective.
In the 1976-77 season, the combined average of the top five Tuesday Night Scratch League players was 945. By the time the league folded — as most area scratch leagues eventually did — even the last-place team had a combined average of 1,008.
Today’s scoring may be far higher, but yesteryear’s competition was keener because bowlers had to execute good shots to average 180-plus, and head-to-head matches were more often decided by who performed well rather than who carried well.
There used to be something called the American Bowling Congress Award of Merit. It was issued to the bowlers in each local association who rolled the highest single game and three-game total in sanctioned league or tournament play each season. But no award was issued when a member rolled a sanctioned 298, 299 or 300.
When Bancs earned his Award of Merit in 1972-73, it marked the seventh consecutive year that one was issued to an SMCBA bowler because no 298-plus games were shot — and after a pair of 300 games in 1973-74, Awards of Merit were issued to SMCBA bowlers for the following three seasons. Translated: During 10 of 11 seasons, starting in 1966-67, the high score in the entire association was 290 or less.
The requirements for scoring at a high level have eroded to an enormous, and negative, degree. It is now possible to become a high-average player without learning many of the fundamentals and principles that used to be essential.
Females and senior citizens comprise a high percentage of bowlers, but their numbers contain only a small percentage of those who are able to take advantage of today’s lane conditions and equipment.
As 300 games and 800 series continue to become more and more commonplace, their significance decreases. And that reflects on the image and integrity of the game itself.