SI Vault
John Garrity
November 15, 1982
Glenn Allison was sure that he'd bowled the first official 900 series, but the American Bowling Congress said uh-uh, the lanes weren't legit
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November 15, 1982

Thrice Perfect, Once Scorned

Glenn Allison was sure that he'd bowled the first official 900 series, but the American Bowling Congress said uh-uh, the lanes weren't legit

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Thirty minutes later Allison gracefully launched his 24th consecutive ball into the pocket, gave a little arm pump as the pins crashed and walked back to the growing cluster of amazed bowlers who were looking on. His smile was broader. He exchanged hand slaps with his teammates and relatives and got a big hug from Jessie. His sad eyes twinkled. He had bowled two straight 300 games.

For the next half an hour, whenever Allison stepped onto the approach to Lane 13 or 14, the La Habra 300 Bowl fell eerily silent. Bowlers on the 30 other lanes waited respectfully. Waitresses tiptoed by with their trays of beer. Once Allison's ball was safely on its way, the quiet was broken as cries and exhortations accompanied it into the pocket; shouts, yelps and applause greeted each crash of pins.

Strike 5. Strike 6. Strike 7.

When the pins scattered convincingly for Allison in the eighth frame, he twisted through the noisy tangle of spectators, drink in hand, and found his brother. "I'm nervous," he said in Bob's ear. "My knees are shaking."

Allison's knees had just caught up with the stomachs of most of his audience. He was on the brink of bowling the highest competitive series in history. Two more strikes would practically guarantee the eclipse of Allie Brandt's record 886 series, shot in 1939.

Allison's nervousness didn't show on ball nine, which hooked into the pocket with the same sure tempo as the 32 that had preceded it, striking again. But ball 10 ran fast and straight. Those who weren't holding their breath groaned, for Allison's "oozer" was too high. Allison, poised at the foul line, winced as his ball crunched the head pin. The head pin leaped out of the crashing pack, ricocheted off the sidewall, smacked the 4-pin, which bumped the lonely 9-pin, which wobbled...and fell. Which left everyone limp with relief and incredulity. And made Allison believe in destiny.

That settled, he calmly rolled two more balls into the pocket for his 35th and 36th consecutive strikes, his third consecutive 300 game and the first 900 series in sanctioned competition. (Two 900 series were rolled in "friendly competition" back in the '30s. These aren't officially recognized because they weren't bowled in formal play.)

At this point Allison stopped being calm and fell to his knees. He made it to a seat and disappeared under a mob of pummeling well-wishers. When he finally emerged from the jubilant crowd there were tears in his eyes. "There were a lot of grown men who cried that night," one witness recalls.

A week or two after Allison had bowled the 900 series, Mickey Curley, general manager of La Habra 300 Bowl, mounted Allison's portrait over Lanes 13 and 14. In the picture he lounges, centerfold fashion, on a bowling lane with his bowling ball at his side. Under the photograph are three small gold stars, each emblazoned with the number 300, followed by one big star with a 900 on it and the legend Glenn Allison 7-1-82. The pin-sweeps, which normally carry a Brunswick logo, proclaim Glenn Allison instead. Lanes 13 and 14 are a shrine to bowling perfection.

Actually, they are a battleground. The ABC, after inspecting Lanes 13 and 14, refused to sanction the 900 series, citing lane-dressing conditions that were not "in compliance with Article 7, Section 3" of the rule book. Local inspectors had checked the lanes almost immediately after Allison's series, around midnight and again at 10:50 a.m. on July 2. Later that day Kellermann flew to California from ABC headquarters in Milwaukee to verify the initial findings.

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