Quick Take


    This is a sports website, and I’ve always tried to keep it that way. This segment is a departure from that norm.

    I recently had the pleasure and privilege of meeting and talking with James F. Scruggs. Mr. Scruggs is a member of the acclaimed “Tuskegee Airmen.” As I spoke with Mr. Scruggs, the conversation merely confirmed everything I knew about our segregated military prior to the conclusion of World War II. This segregation of our forces was in all branches of our military. It is unimaginable that our prisoners of war were treated better by our military than were the African-American forces of the United States. It is a fact!

    What occurred is a cloud over our country. The cloud is gone now, but the memories still live in the minds of those African-Americans who had to endure the terrible treatment perpetrated upon them by their own countrymen.

    If you want to learn more, I suggest a fantastic website: "A Chronology Of African-American Military Service From WWI Through WWII." I’ll hereby include a piece from that website about the “Tuskegee Airmen” as my tribute to that group of servicemen:

    The U.S. Army Air Corps trained African-American pilots at the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. The Tuskegee Institute, which prepared the 926 members of the famed "Tuskegee Airmen" for combat in WWII, remained the only official military flight training school for black pilots until its program closed with the graduation of the last class on 26 June 1946.

    Mr. Scruggs, cheers to you and all of the Tuskegee Airmen.


Story of the Week


    This is my website article #300. 300 weeks of writing my sports articles. By virtue of that, I thought it would be fitting to tie this article #300 into the “recreation” of bowling. No, I don’t consider it a sport, but here it is anyway. (For bowling and me, see my article dated 11-1-01.)


    Bowling has a long and rich history, and today is one of the most popular "recreations" in the world. A British anthropologist, Sir Flinders Petrie, discovered in the 1930's a collection of objects in a child's grave in Egypt that appeared to him to be used for a crude form of bowling. If he was correct, then bowling traces its ancestry to 3200 BC.


    A German historian, William Pehle, asserted that bowling began in his country about 300 AD. There is substantial evidence that a form of bowling was in vogue in England in 1366, when King Edward III allegedly outlawed it to keep his troops focused on archery practice. And it is almost certain that bowling was popular during the reign of Henry VIII.


    One of the most eccentric games is still found in Edinburgh. The player swings a fingerless ball between his legs and heaves it at the pins. In doing so, he "flops" onto the lane on his stomach. There were and still are many variations of ninepins in Western Europe. Likely related are the Italian bocce, the French petanque, and British lawn bowling.


    Undoubtedly, the English, Dutch and German settlers all imported their own variations of bowling to America. The earliest mention of it in serious American literature is by Washington Irving, when Rip Van Winkle awakens to the sound of "crashing ninepins". The first permanent American bowling location probably was for lawn bowling, in New York's Battery area. Now the heart of the financial district, New Yorkers still call the small plot Bowling Green.


    An 1841 Connecticut law made it illegal to maintain "any ninepin lanes," probably because bowling was the object of much gambling. But the problem, of course, also evidenced its popularity. And many captains of industry chose to install lanes in their mansions.


    While it is uncertain where the tenpin game evolved, by the late 1800s it was prevalent in many states such as New York, Ohio and as far "west" as Illinois. However, details like ball weights and pin dimensions varied by region. But that changed when restauranteur Joe Thum finally pulled together representatives of the various regional bowling clubs. On September 9, 1895, at Beethoven Hall in New York City, the American Bowling Congress was born. Soon standardization would be established, and major national competitions could be held.


    While women had been bowling in the latter half of the nineteenth century, the American Bowling Congress was for men. It was in 1917 that the Women's International Bowling Congress was born in St. Louis. Encouraged by proprietor Dennis Sweeney, women leaders from around the country participating in a tournament decided to form what was then called the Women's National Bowling Association.


    Bowling technology took a big step forward about the same time. Balls used to be primarily lignum vitae, a very hard wood. But in 1905 the first rubber ball, the "Evertrue" was introduced, and in 1914 the Brunswick Corporation successfully promoted the Mineralite ball, touting its "mysterious rubber compound".


    Now organized, with agreed upon standards, the game grew in popularity. In 1951 another technological breakthrough set the stage for massive growth. American Machine and Foundry Company (AMF, then a maker of machinery for the bakery, tobacco and apparel businesses) purchased the patents to Gottfried Schmidt's automatic pinspotter, and by late 1952 production model pinspotters were introduced. No longer did a proprietor have to rely on "pinboys".


    Television embraced bowling in the 1950's, and the game's popularity grew exponentially. NBC's broadcast of "Championship Bowling" was the first network coverage of bowling. Coverage proliferated with shows like "Make That Spare", "Celebrity Bowling", and "Bowling For Dollars." And in 1961, ABC became the first network to telecast competition of the Pro Bowlers Association.


    Successful promoter, agent and entrepreneur Eddie Elias founded the PBA, and with his leadership, the Pro Bowlers Tour became a hugely popular stalwart of ABC sports broadcasting. Joined later by telecasts of the Ladies Pro Bowlers Tour (now the Professional Women's Bowling Association, PWBA) millions of Americans witnessed and became interested in the sport.


    The International Bowling Museum & Hall of Fame just happens to be located in my home town of St. Louis. 


Last Week’s Trivia


    The opening kickoff of Super Bowl 1 had to be redone. Why? Because the television broadcast was in a commercial and missed it. That was 40 years ago, but guess what. During the NFL playoffs earlier this year, I can account for at least two plays we didn’t see live because the networks were carrying commercials at the time. So when will they get it right?


Trivia Question of the Week


    In 1951, he set a set a national high school record that still stands when he returned four kickoffs for touchdowns in one game. He later went on to establish a well known record as a professional. Who is he and what is that record? See next week’s Sports Junkie for the answer.