Except for the eastern match game championships this weekend and a few sweepstakes, the 1954-55 season had become history by last week. American Bowling Congress officials were writing $428,333 worth of checks for approximately 6,000 who won prizes in the 52nd ABC at Fort Wayne, the largest slice again going to the fantastic Pfeiffers of Detroit. Bowling's glamorous grandmother, Marion Ladewig, had proved she was far from through at 40 by beating 13,420 contestants in the 37th Women's International Bowling Congress championships at Omaha. Country-club lanes had closed for the golf season and a record number of collegiate bowlers had turned to summer sports and final exams. The nation's bowling proprietors, caught up in an alley-building program of gigantic proportions, convened at Milwaukee to ponder a vital question: will the boom in new lanes mean bust for the old? All in all, it was a normal end to a normal season.
AN INSPIRING LESSON
The Pfeiffers, in winning an unprecedented third ABC team championship in four years, gave an inspiring lesson for quintets which will revamp their lineups next year. Capt. Louis Sielaff had lost Don Carter, twice national champion, and replaced him with Bill Lillard, a star of approximately equal ability who had narrowly missed winning the title on three occasions. But it takes more than stars to make a team. A captain requires a natural leadoff man, a stout-hearted anchor man and three men who are comfortable bowling from the middle of the lineup. Also, stars must roll together for a long time before they become a well-integrated team. When the U.S. match competition took place last winter, the Pfeiffers were not yet ready and failed to qualify.
They were rounding into shape, however, and Sielaff scheduled them to roll in the ABC in mid-April, when, he felt, they would hit their peak. He could not have picked a better time. On April 19 they recorded 3,136 on games of 1,068, and 994 and 1,074 at Fort Wayne—a score never threatened during 72 days and nights of bombardment by the country's best teams. One of their long-time regulars, Fred Bujack, a 43-year-old sales engineer, won the all-events with a sparkling 1,993 (221.4 average for nine games) and finished second—three pins short of another gold medal—in the singles. The team victory was worth $2,500 and the all-events $1,000.
I have heard many bowlers talk of the Pfeiffers' "hot streak" in April (in addition to their ABC victories they won first and third places in the U.S. doubles at Louisville, Ky. on April 16), but it was more than that. Skill, luck and courage usually are not enough to win a major championship. Above all, training—training as rigorous as in any sport—is required. The Pfeiffers won because they pointed for the ABC like boxers do for the fight of their lives. They were razor-sharp, while most of their opponents relied upon luck and courage alone.
A HEART-WARMING PERFORMANCE
Of all the individual performances at the windup of the season, none was more heart-warming than that of Marion Ladewig of Grand Rapids, Mich. Winner of five consecutive U.S. match championships from 1950 through 1954, she made a countrywide exhibition tour last summer and hit top shape by October, when her over-all league average soared to an incredible 214. But by January of this year she had gone stale. Weary and worried, she lost her title to 27-year-old Sylvia Wene of Philadelphia in the All-Star. One month later, she bowled even worse in the U.S. doubles in Detroit.
For professionals like the Pfeiffers and Mrs. Ladewig, titles are more important than the prize money involved. Titles mean higher fees for exhibitions and endorsements. They mean lucrative sponsorships and often better-paying jobs. In the men's division, the top titles are the All-Star, the ABC Masters and the ABC all-events. Among women, they are the All-Star and the WIBC all-events. It was the latter that Mrs. Ladewig pointed for, not only because of the prestige it carries, but because she is a proud woman and people had been suggesting she was finished as a serious contender.
Assisted by her manager-coach, Bill Morrissey, one of Grand Rapids' foremost sports figures for 40 years, Mrs. Ladewig went into training five weeks before her scheduled appearance in Omaha on May 7. Then she led her Fanatorium Majors to second place in the team event, rolled' 1,264 with Wyllis Ryskamp to shatter the doubles record and took first place in all-events with 1,890 (210 average). Her arch-rival, Miss Wene, finished far down in the standing. Like Marion in January, Sylvia found she was overtrained in June.
Other than the winners, the standout performer at Omaha was Shirley Garms, an attractive 30-year-old Chicago secretary who recorded 1,883 in the all-events, missing victory by a single spare. Mrs. Garms, runner-up to Mrs. Ladewig in the 1952 All-Star, has raised her season average by 11 pins in three years. In my opinion, she might well be the one to watch in next year's match competition.