SI Vault
Victor Kalman
October 25, 1954
Gadgets Rube Goldberg never dreamed of, neon-lighted alleys, TV cameras and crowds herald the bright new era of one of the oldest sports of all
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October 25, 1954

New Look In Bowling

Gadgets Rube Goldberg never dreamed of, neon-lighted alleys, TV cameras and crowds herald the bright new era of one of the oldest sports of all

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The men's and women's individual championships, known as the All-Star Classics, are sponsored annually by the Bowling Proprietors Association of America. These matches, along with the BPAA doubles and team championships, have eclipsed the ABC tournament in recent years as far as spectator interest is concerned.

In 1932 a group of proprietors created the BPAA. Their contribution to bowling, both as a sport and as an industry, has been considerable since that time.

Two other organizations have helped shape the modern game. The National Bowling Council?composed of representatives of the bowlers, the proprietors and the manufacturers?was formed as a lobby group in 1943 when Congress was considering taxing bowling as "entertainment." Under the guidance of Arville L. Ebersole of Washington, D.C., who also is secretary of the Duck Pin Congress, the NBC compiled such a splendid war record (raising $445,000,000 for War Bonds, for instance, and sending GI's thousands of books and playing cards collected at alleys) that it was made a permanent body. Since the war the NBC has sponsored the Junior Congress and the Bowler's Victory Legion, which continues to raise funds for wounded veterans. Incidentally, it has also warded off the entertainment tax.


The Bowling Writers of America has approximately 50 active members who promote as well as report the sport. Such men as Mort Luby of Chicago, one of three generations of Lubys to publish and edit the National Bowlers Journal; Sam Levine, editor of the Cleveland Kegler who also acts as master of ceremonies on radio and TV bowling shows; Eli Whitney of Milwaukee, editor of the ABC magazine Bowling; Steve Cruchon of Detroit, editor of the Modern Bowler, and Billy Sixty of the Milwaukee Journal, a top-notch bowler himself, are some of the writers whose criticisms, ideas and even sponsorship of tournaments have had a marked effect on the game.

History might well regard 1932 as the golden year of bowling. In addition to the founding of the BPAA, it was the year Andy Varipapa, of Hempstead, N.Y., twice national champion and trick-shot artist, made the first of a series of movie shorts which were shown in theaters everywhere and gave untold thousands their first glimpse of an alley. It also was the year Elmer H. Baumgarten became secretary of the ABC. He served until Aug. 1, 1951, building up the membership from 230,000 to 1,650,000. Since his retirement, Baumgarten pays daily visits to his long-time assistant and successor, Frank Baker, at the ABC building in Milwaukee?erected in 1952 for its 75 employees at a cost of $350,000.

One of Baumgarten's most spectacular achievements was to convince industrial leaders of the importance of organized bowling. Starting a league has become a "must" today for any new personnel or recreation director, and with good reason. Many cases have been recorded where men and women turned down better jobs elsewhere because they didn't want to break up their teams.

The ABC has approved no less than 5,000 inventions, innovations and improvements in equipment. Possibly the one which has had the most profound effect was the hard-rubber ball, advertised for the first time in 1905 and in general use by 1907. The old wooden ball had been "palmed," as is the small ball in duckpins. The new ball, with properly drilled finger holes to fit the hand, could be lifted easily and controlled even by children.

The American Machine and Foundry Company's fully automatic pin spotter has started a revolution in the industry, although its effect on the sport remains to be seen. This machine, perfected little more than a year ago, completely eliminates pin boys. Since pin boys?or the lack of them?have been a constant source of irritation to bowlers and proprietors alike, the pin spotters were welcomed with open purses. They are leased, not sold, to alleys on a 12-year contract. AMF President Morehead Patterson announced in June that 2,500 already had been installed and 1,500 more would be in operation by the end of this year.

Meanwhile, B. E. Bensinger, president of the Brunswick-Balke-Collender Co., the giant of the industry, said that Brunswick's automatic pin setter will be field-tested this winter and in full production by next spring. Brunswick, which builds and supplies well over half of the nation's bowling academies, has also been one of the sport's chief promoters. The company's policy of employing men's and women's champions to roll exhibitions from coast to coast?and to give lessons en route?has done as much to build bowling as any single program.

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