In mid-September the word spread from alley to alley wherever the major leaguers rolled: Mort Lindsey was gravely ill. His spectacular bowling career, spanning more than half a century, seemed about to end. But two weeks later Mort was back at the lanes practicing for his 44th appearance in the annual American Bowling Congress championships. He hopes to set another record this year at Fort Wayne.
"I guess the report about my illness was my fault," Lindsey said a few days ago, as he piled three heavy morocco-bound scrapbooks on his table at the Roger Smith Hotel here. "I went to the hospital for a checkup and in between playing gin rummy with my nurse I telephoned some old friends. The harder I tried to convince them I was O.K., the more certain they became that I had one foot in the grave."
The old-timers should have known better. They should have remembered his 20-game match against Jimmy Smith, then U.S. champion, in 1922 at Dwyer's lanes in New York. Going into the final game Lindsey was 88 pins behind. Everyone considered the contest over. But Mort came through with 299 to win by 11 pins.
Then there was his sensational duel in 1929 with the late Billy Knox, first man to roll 300 in the A.B.C. More than $5,000 was wagered on the 60-game, home-and-home event. In the last frame of the 60th game at Knox's alleys in Philadelphia, Lindsey needed three strikes for victory. He got them with three pocket hits.
A GREAT MONEY BOWLER
In country-wide tours, taking on most of the nation's best at their home lanes, Lindsey became known as one of the greatest money bowlers of all time. As late as 1952, shortly after his 64th birthday, he came from behind to win $1,500 in the Bowlers Journal Sweepstakes.
Such a man, the old-timers should have realized, would not quit as long as he had a chance to attain his supreme ambition: the highest lifetime pin total in A.B.C. history. He is currently in fifth place, although his 194 average for 43 tournaments is by far the best among the four-decade men. In first place is Harry Steers, 74, of Elmhurst, Ill., who has bowled in 49 A.B.C.'s.
To beat Steers's total of 82,672 pins (188 average) Lindsey, who has rolled up 71,135 pins, would have to compete at least six more years. He will be 66 in December, but this night at the Roger Smith, his large, oval face beaming as he relived some of the great moments of the past, he felt confident that "the odds against me aren't too big." He had rolled 213-570 in his league the night before in Chester, N.Y.
"THE LINDSEY STORY"