Gable House Bowl in Torrance is built differently than most bowling haunts. Its 40 lanes have a backbone, 20 alleys on one side of it and 20 on the other.
It was a busy place Tuesday as hundreds of fans scurried back and forth to get signatures and view the warm-ups on the lanes.
The autograph session on the eve of a pro bowlers' tournament is a tradition as old as the Professional Bowlers Assn. itself, 28 years.
"It's a day for the fans at the PBA as they rub elbows with the star players," said Mickey Cogan, Gable House manager. "Tomorrow, and for the rest of the week, the bowlers will be busy finding a good shot to score strikes."
In the afternoon and into the evening, many of the spectators doffed their coats, changed shoes and bowled in the pro-am. Every time Earl Anthony rolled a strike, the audience cheered.
Anthony, pro bowling's most prolific champion, is among 160 bowlers in the $125,000 Greater Los Angeles Open, lasting day and night through Friday with a five-man roll-off for the title at noon Saturday.
Anthony retired three years ago to overcome "bowling burnout," but the 48-year-old left-hander has been doing some league bowling at his two Dublin, Calif., bowling centers in preparation for a comeback. His 41 titles and career earnings of $1,264,621 are PBA records.
Twenty-four Southern Californians have won PBA titles over the years, but none has ever won at Gable House. Pomona-raised Walter Ray Williams Jr., now living in Stockton; San Fernando Valley-raised George Branham III of Arleta and Mark Baker, a perennial contender from Garden Grove, appear the likeliest to snap this jinx.
Williams, winner of $145,550 and the PBA money title in 1986, said, "I've always had a good shot at Gable House." He has made the match-play round in three of the last four PBA tournaments bowled in the house.
Branham has won two of the last six tournaments. His November triumph at Glendale Heights, Ill., was historical, since he became the first black bowler to win a PBA title.
Baker won the PBA high-average title--213.718 for 1,172 games--in 1985.
Bob Knipple of Long Beach, Dave Frame of Baldwin Park, Butch Soper of Los Angeles and Randy Pedersen of Santa Maria are other Southern Californians with high hopes here. Each has at least one PBA win to his credit.
Del Warren, a Florida longshot, is the defending champion, but most will be keeping an eye on young Pete Weber.
The St. Louis son of Hall of Fame member Dick Weber appears ripe for a victory. He led the field into the finals in his last two tournaments, only to be out-pinned each time in the final game of the championship roll-off.
The 47-game tournament has a mixed format. The first 18 games are bowled for high score, the high 24 bowlers gaining the 24-game round-robin match play, which yields bonus points for each match win.
Five will make the four-game stepladder finals on Lanes 13 and 14 Saturday, with the fifth qualifier facing the fourth, the winner bowling the third qualifier and so on up the ladder.