A history of bowling


Here's an unofficial accounting of the most significant dates in bowling history, courtesy of 'Bowled Over: A Roll Down Memory Lane' by Gideon Bosker (Chronicle Books) and an imagination:

10000 B.C. Ð Fred Flintstone, using the twinkle-toe approach, predates the expression 'Strike!' with 'Yabba-dabba-do!'

5600 B.C. Ð Egyptians dabble in ancient form of the game.

Circa 2000 B.C. Ð Indo-Europeans roll the skulls of vanquished enemies at upright thighbones, using the eye and nose sockets as grips.

1000 B.C. Ð In medieval Germany, rock bowling is played in Kegel (hence the nickname 'keglers').

1366 Ð King Edward III outlaws the game for English commoners.

Early 1600s Ð New Americans try lawn bowling.

1845 Ð British aristocrats give the game to the people.

Before the Civil War Ð Ten-pin basement games pop up in New York.

1905 Ð First rubber ball.

1947 Ð President Harry S. Truman installs lanes in the White House.

1950s Ð New era dawns with TV shows 'Championship Bowling,' 'Make That Spare,' 'Celebrity Bowling,' 'Jackpot Bowling' and 'Bowling for Dollars.' Bowlers Don Carter and Dick Weber become famous.

1951 Ð First automatic pinsetter is used in Michigan, effectively ending the lucrative careers of house pin boys.

1956 Ð Ralph Kramden whips Ed Norton, winning a six-pack of Schlitz.

March 1958 Ð Life magazine describes the American bowling alley, 'once stuck shamefacedly in a back-street basement,' as finally acquiring 'a stunning elegance É an all-purpose pleasure palace offering variety in entertainment and luxury É (with) the glitter of a Hollywood nightclub.'

The 1970s Ð Picture a bowler wearing a lavender polyester shirt with 'South St. Louis Dairy' on the back and 'Hank' stitched in cursive on the front.

1973 Ð A 252-lane, seven-story facility rises in Tokyo.

1981 Ð League scores start to jump with the introduction of the urethane ball.

1996 Ð A combed-over Ernie McCracken bests hook-handed Roy Munsen in an epic Reno, Nev., match; he gets the title 'Kingpin,' but not the girl.

2002 Ð Pete Weber, son of Dick, wears sunglasses during his matches and proclaims, 'I am P-D-W.'

2003 Ð More than 100 million people bowl in more than 90 countries.

A revolution in bowling scores

The number of bowlers, 298-300 games and 800 series changed dramatically over the years in American Bowling Congress league play.

Year Members 300 games 299s 298s 800 series

1909-10 6,785 1 1 0 NA

1919-20 25,885 5 1 2 NA

1929-30 210,000 84 60 29 NA

1939-40 602,000 284 162 96 NA

1949-50 1,417,000 219 121 103 NA

1963-64 4,575,000 829 513 348 45*

1969-70 4,100,000 854 571 328 91

1979-80 4,799,195 5,373 2,596 1,236 1,032

1989-90 3,036,907 12,766 5,848 2,799 2,628

1999-2000 1,866,023 39,470 17,133 6,498 10,318

2001-02 1,694,248 42,163 18,083 6,919 12,028

Source: American Bowling Congress

* First year for the 800 series