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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Certainly there is nothing vague or arbitrary about the ABC's "Lane Dressing Inspection Report" form, which has about 3,000 words of "suggested inspection procedure" printed on its back. The information therein is so specific that it tells the inspector how the tendons and veins on the back of his hands should look when he does a "smear" test. The instructions clearly echo the ABC rule book's insistence that "dressing must be distributed gutter to gutter, and any increase or decrease in the amount of dressing must be gradual." In treating the question of track wear, the instructions concede that some drying is inevitable on the heavily used boards, but the inspector is advised, "At no time...would the edges of a lane be dried out due to bowling activity." For a high score to be sanctioned, "Dressing should always be evident on both sides of the ball path."

"We feel our inspectors have the training and experience to make a fair and honest evaluation," says Kellermann. He declines to discuss specifics of the disputed lane reports—standard ABC policy—but he rejects the notion that the ABC is a "supercop" punishing bowlers who submit high-score claims. "We approve the overwhelming majority of the claims that are submitted to the ABC," he argues. "Last year there were more than 12,000 awards in the major categories—the 298, 299, 300 and 800 series. That's 12,000 claims bowled under rules and requirements that met ABC standards. Only several hundred were not approved for one reason or another."

Of those denied, many were victims of what Kellermann calls "circumstances"—equipment malfunctions and the like. A few were willful violations. "Most of the lane operators play fully within the rules and requirements," he says, "but in a few cases people think they have to deliberately provide some help to their bowlers. We feel that if scoring is to remain meaningful, we must maintain a standard."

If that sounds cold, Kellermann submits that it is meant to be fair. "Certainly, Glenn has the credentials," he says. "He's a four-time ABC Tournament champion. He's in our Hall of Fame. But we make these decisions based on the facts, as best as they can be obtained. We can't make decisions based on sentiment or popularity."

To Allison's nephew, Ron, who is 40 years old and is as intense as his uncle is calm, Kellermann's explanation is lame. "I don't care if you put mayonnaise on the lanes," he said one recent night at the La Habra 300 Bowl. "You still couldn't carry 36 straight strikes. And the scores that night were down, even on that pair of lanes! It's hard to put into words what I feel about him. I remember when I was 13 or 14, he was bowling for the Pabst Blue Ribbon team, and he came home for a visit. He'd left his bowling ball and bowling shoes behind, but he went with me and my friends to the Friendly Hills alley in Whittier, and he said, 'I'll throw a 300 for you.' The first 12 balls he threw were all in the pocket. He shot a 300 in front of my eyes with a house ball and house shoes!"

As Ron told this story, Glenn appeared at his shoulder. Ron turned and said, "I was just telling how you bowled a 300 for me when you came home."

Glenn smiled affably. "I didn't bowl a 300," he said. "I shot 299. And the very next game, your grandfather and my wife both beat me," he added with a laugh. Then he saluted with his beer and walked away.

Ron could be excused for his confusion. Uncle Glenn once bowled a 300 game in front of his own mother on her birthday in 1964. He bowled the 900 for Jessie Thompson on her birthday.

Allison's predilection for performing well in the relaxed company of family and friends can be traced back to his youth. The Whittier Bowling Academy, where he rolled his first 300 game in open play at the age of 16, was operated by Lamar and Glada Acocks—she would be Glenn's teammate on the night of the 900, 36 years later.

Allison averaged 200 for the first time when he was 19, and bowled in his first ABC Tournament, in Los Angeles, in 1947. He won San Francisco's Washington's Birthday tournament in 1950, his first significant title, and followed it with a victory in the Los Angeles Herald Examiner event the same year. Drafted into the Army in 1951, he spent two years with the Quartermaster Corps in Korea. He returned to California and worked in a machine shop until some promoters invited him to Paramus, N.J. to appear on a new television show, Championship Bowling, hosted by Chris Schenkel. Allison jumped at it.

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