He met with the inspectors in an office at the La Habra 300 Bowl, and on the morning of July 3 indicated to Curley he would recommend that the ABC not recognize the 900 series. Allison was granted a month to submit material supporting the validity of the score. On Sept. 3 ABC Executive Secretary-Treasurer Roger Tessman announced that, given the evidence, the ABC had to rule against him, but that Allison still had the right to appeal. This he did, in person, but last week the appeal was rejected. He is now preparing to take the matter to court.
Allison's 900 series was the ultimate provocation in a controversy over high scores and bowling standards that has polarized the sport for almost two decades. Critics of the ABC have long argued that lane-dressing standards are vague and arbitrarily policed and that the ABC is too hidebound to admit it. Bowlers in ABC-sanctioned leagues have written letters and signed petitions to the ABC demanding that Allison's feat be recognized. "Pardon us if we suspect that Allie Brandt's record is sacrosanct to your august body..." reads a petition drawn up during a tournament at the Canoga Park (Calif.) Bowl. "Glenn Allison's 900 series may never be sanctioned by the ABC, but it will forever be sanctioned in the hearts and minds of millions of bowlers and sports fans as a superb and heroic achievement."
"I think it's a remarkable feat," says star PBA bowler Earl Anthony. "It's like a golfer hitting three or four straight holes in one." Anthony is distressed, as are many of Allison's peers, that a bowler's greatest moment can be wiped out with the flourish of a ballpoint pen. "My opinion is, when a bowler comes into a bowling center for an ABC-sanctioned league, he comes in good faith. He's paid his dues. So when he bowls a score, I feel he should be sanctioned automatically. If something is wrong, the ABC should punish the bowling center, not the bowler."
The outcry in favor of Allison's 900 series represents a curious reversal for those persistent ABC critics who have long lambasted the governing body for encouraging inflated scores. Bowling averages now are an estimated 10 to 15 pins better than mid-'60s scores, a phenomenon blamed by many on the ABC's approval of lighter and bouncier double-voided bowling pins (the new pins have two interior air spaces; the older ones were solid) and softer balls that tend to grip the lanes better. Close to 6,000 perfect games were bowled last year, according to the ABC, compared to 1,900 five years ago, with no appreciable increase in the number of lines bowled.
Allison, whose bowling prime predated the cheap-score era, says, "I would be the first to admit that in the mid-'60s there's no way I could have carried 36 straight strikes against the pins of that time. If you go back 10 years more, I might have missed three or four strikes with the same hits. But the ABC is responsible for this current rise in scores through its sanctioning of the pins, the lanes and the bowling balls."
That the 900 series should be wiped out by an "administrative denial" bewilders and annoys the Allison faithful. "I know those lanes were legal that night," insists Gene Rogers, La Habra's lane manager at the time, who feels his integrity has been impugned by the ABC lane report. Bob Allison, admitting to fraternal prejudice, says, "Glenn bowled a 578 series in the early league the same night. If conditions were so easy, why didn't he bowl 900 twice?"
"It should go down as one of the greatest athletic feats of all time, like Joe DiMaggio's consecutive game hitting streak," argues six-time PBA champion Andy Marzich. "It's like a golfer going for 10 holes in one. It's mind-boggling."
A quiet man, not given to argument, Allison pleads his own case with an amiable firmness that never slips into rancor. "I've always had a good relationship with the American Bowling Congress and I think they've been great for bowling," he says. "But I think they're making a mistake. I want to rectify that mistake, and I want to fight for my rights."
The ABC's lane reports don't settle the question for Allison, who went to bed early in the morning of July 2 satisfied he had made bowling history. "Their statement was that the lanes didn't meet with ABC specifications per paragraph such and such," he says, "but there were no specifics as to what was wrong. I have all the charts that were made by the ABC officials. We've had them read by other people, knowledgeable people, and they feel there was nothing wrong."
Marzich, a friend and onetime Falstaff teammate of Allison's, voices the feeling of the many tour veterans who are against high scores, but are for Allison. "It's not fair to give an opinion based on emotion or personalities," he says carefully. "But my good buddy Glenn wouldn't lie to anybody, and it's his opinion that those weren't tricked lanes. And he's bowled on plenty of 'em, in St. Louis, in Chicago, wherever. If he feels they were honest, I've got to go with Glenn."