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ROLLING ALONG : Glenn Allison's Bowling Story Has a Perfect Ending

July 02, 1989|CHRIS DUFRESNE | Times Staff Writer

For seven years now, bowlers from across the country have been making the pilgrimage to La Habra, the peaceful place, to taste the waters of their Lourdes, so to speak.

Anyone who has ever rattled the gutters with a 16-pound orb or accidentally pressed a re-rack button understands this is as close as you get to a pulsating sun.

These are ordinary-looking strips of hardwood, Lanes 13 and 14 at La Habra's 300 Bowl. Yet visitors still come and stare in silence, some unbelieving. Others lay their money down at the front desk for the privilege of rolling a few frames on hallowed lanes.

"We had some people just a few weeks ago," said Brian Markowitz, the alley's bowling manager. "They were from Oklahoma, and they wanted to know if this was the center Glenn Allison bowled his 900 series. They wanted to bowl on those lanes. They wanted a piece of it."

The legend of Allison lives and breathes in the Orange County town, seven years--Saturday was the anniversary--after the Thursday night thunder that shook the bowling world in 1982. The memories remain etched in Allison's mind and he made a special autograph-signing appearance at the alley to commemorate the event.

You've heard of blue-chip bowling, no doubt. Well, to mark the occasion, Mickey Curley, La Habra 300's general manager, arranged for the production of special souvenir stamps--each adorned with Allison's signature--to be handed out in lieu of blue chips.

A bowling alley never forgets its own.

Rarely a day passes that Allison, 59, isn't asked about the series. He has been stopped on the street by strangers--pestered for tips and autographs--yet never tires of retelling his favorite bowling story.

"Hell, no," Allison says, smiling. "It's the best thing I ever did in my life and I love it. And nobody else has done it yet."

What Allison did was roll 36 consecutive strikes--three perfect games--in the regular Thursday-night session of the Anchor Girl Trio, the most popular league on the 300's weekly schedule.

The achievement was extraordinary, although Allison hadn't exactly walked in off the streets. He was an American Bowling Congress Hall of Fame member at the time, having been inducted in 1979 after winning five Professional Bowlers Assn. titles in a long and successful career.

But nothing suggested he would one night end up touching the Brunswick gates of heaven. Allison had rolled a perfectly mortal 578 series in an-other league earlier that night, but closed with a turkey--three consecutive strikes--in the 10th--a portent of greatness.

Members of the Anchor Girl Trio team that night included the 70-year-old Glada Acocks and Dennis Curley, the general manager's son--hardly a PBA reunion.

There have been five recorded 900 series but only Allison's was shot under the pressure and scrutiny of sanctioned league play. His feat stands alone.

Still, he remains haunted by a post-series invasion of ABC investigators, who descended upon La Habra with their Coke-bottle lenses, laboratory bags, nit picks and stuffed shirts. They probed the lanes with an assortment of oil gauges and high-tech instruments.

And those lane scientists left in a huff after the inquisition, refusing to sanction the series because a few outside boards on the lanes lacked the oil content necessary to satisfy their rule book.

The inference, so lacking in subtlety, was that La Habra 300 Bowl had somehow stacked the deck in Allison's favor by providing an easier groove to the pocket, though automated bowling machines, under the most ideal lane conditions, have never been able to duplicate a 900 series.

Top house bowler Scott Kraye, who witnessed Allison's miracle series, remembers overhearing an ABC official the next day.

"The guy really had a . . . poor attitude," Kraye recalled. "He said (the series) was the most ridiculous thing he'd ever seen in his life. He said the lanes were illegal before he even checked them out."

The popular theory at the time was that the ABC didn't want to take the record from the beloved Allie Brandt, who had set the series mark of 886 in 1939.

Kraye has his own theory: "Who wants perfection in the record books?"

Now, the ultimate irony: In 1986, the American Bowling Congress did an about-face and altered its regulations, providing for more uniform oiling standards and easier interpretation of its rather cryptic rule book.

Today, a bowling proprietor can spread as much oil as he wishes within 24 feet of the approach board.

"You can put peanut butter down there if you want," scoffed Bill Burch, owner of La Habra 300.

Alley insiders claim the new rules make it easier than ever to roll higher scores, and are astounded that the ABC would suddenly hand out sanctions like gumdrops.

Last November, Pat Landry of Lansing, Mich., tied Brandt's record with an 886 series. The ABC quickly sanctioned it. On March 7, Tom Jordan of Paterson, N.J, flirted with Allison's mark by bowling an 899 series in league play. Again, the ABC recognized the series and it stands as the existing record.

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