It's a fairly safe bet that Floretta McCutcheon, who announced her retirement from bowling the other day at the age of 65, won't be absent from the lanes for long. One of the most colorful figures in the game's most colorful era, a champion for 15 years and a moulder of champions for 15 more, she is as much a part of bowling as bowling is a part of her.
Mrs. McCutcheon was a star in the days when the great Jimmy Smith (whom she defeated in 1927 in a three-game exhibition, 704 to 687), Joe Falcaro, Jimmy Blouin and Mort Lindsey were touring the country in search of money matches. She was still the foremost women's instructor when she resigned recently from the Chicago Bowlium to help care for her two grandchildren in San Gabriel, Calif.
Because she was so far superior to the women bowlers of her day—there were only some 3,000 in the U.S. in the early 1920s—she often competed against men. From them she learned every trick of the game.
A DODO FOR A HECKLER
One spring night in 1938 she opened her "School for Women" with an exhibition at Jamaica (N.Y.) Recreation. Most of the large crowd which turned out expected to see a strapping woman with a powerhouse ball. Instead, they found a soft-spoken, gray-haired lady of five feet three. She rolled a "soft" ball which backed up slightly.
"Why don't you learn to bowl before you try to teach?" yelled a man who fancied himself a bowler.
The audience was appalled. But Mrs. McCutcheon merely smiled and sweetly asked, "Would you like to give me a lesson?" The man said he would.
Mrs. McCutcheon changed her ball and her style of delivery. As the ball left her hand it headed for the No. 1 pin, backed toward the No. 3, then swished into the strike pocket at the last moment. She went on like that for two games, getting strikes on pocket hits, strikes on what seemed certain split hits, and spares when she didn't strike. If memory serves me right, she averaged 230-something to win by 70 pins. The heckler was laughed out of the hall. He probably is unaware to this day that he was defeated by a "dodo" ball—a ball weighted with lead on one side. A dodo is difficult to control, but in the hands of an expert it's like dynamite on the pins. Motherly Mrs. McCutcheon was an expert.
In her prime, "Mac," as she was called, didn't need a dodo. She averaged 201 for 8,076 games on strange alleys over a ten-year period. She rolled ten 300 games, nine 299s, four 290s. In one exhibition she scored 832 for three games—a 277 average—and once she hit 248 in 12-game blocks.
But her greatest contribution to the sport was her school. She taught bowling in almost every major city from coast to coast. She is credited with having instructed 300,000 women personally, and introducing untold thousands more to the game through her exhibition tours. She is one of three women on the honor roll of the Women's International Bowling Congress, the equivalent of the American Bowling Congress Hall of Fame.