The trick to bowling the perfect game: Lie about your score

This is a true story. It happened years ago, before I was born, but I know my dad, and I take him at his word.

FullSizeRenderDad was a bowler. Today, you don’t know how to keep score to bowl. You roll the ball, and computers do the rest. In the early-60s, though, you kept score by hand. You placed a scoresheet on a table with an overhead projector, and it was projected onto a screen so everyone could see it.

One time, Dad decided sit out, but he kept score, and for no particular reason, he wrote his name last on the scoresheet. He kept everyone’s score, and when he got down to his name, he marked an “X” on the scoresheet, meaning he’d gotten a strike.

He did that for 9 straight frames. He wasn’t trying to cheat. His friends knew he wasn’t really playing. He just did it. He thought it was funny, like he could bowl 9 strikes in a row.

Then he noticed a crowd gathering. People had noticed the score on his screen and thought he really had bowled 9 strikes in a row and was about to bowl a perfect game.

His friends noticed the crowd, too, and played it cool.

When the scoresheet showed it was Dad’s turn, he stood up solemnly and picked up one of his friends balls and tried to act like a guy who was trying not to act nervous.

No one said a word.

Dad took a deep breath and bowled.

Dad was a decent bowler in his day, but that night, he was just OK. He knocked down 7 or 8 pins.

Everyone in the bowling alley groaned.

They thought he’d missed his chance to bowl a perfect game, and Dad, God bless him, tried to act like a guy who’d just blown it.

He managed to play it straight until he got to the car, when he and his friends finally laughed about it.

A quick lesson in sportsmanship

Photo by Skoch3 via Wikipedia

Thing 2 (the 5-year-old) is playing coach-pitch baseball.

This is where the coach pitches, and after 5, 6 or 7 strikes (the rules aren’t fixed), the batter uses a tee. They play 3 innings. No one is ever called out, and an inning lasts until everyone hits the ball and circles the bases. They don’t keep score, but if they did, each side’s score would be the number of players who showed up, multiplied by 3. It’s a practice league. They’re learning the fundamentals, and that’s about it.

Thing 2, though, has also learned something about sportsmanship.

Max Patkin

He was playing 2nd base the other night, and he didn’t have a lot to do besides watch the game and think of funny ways to wear his baseball cap (he settled on wearing it sideways, kind of like Max Patkin).

Midway through the 2nd inning, Thing 2 started high-fiving the kids on the other team as they jogged from 1st to 2nd.

He didn’t care that the kids were on the other team, and he didn’t care that they might be “winning.” He knows how hard it is to hit the ball, and he thought he ought to congratulate them for doing it.

I know he’ll eventually outgrow that kind of enthusiasm, but I kind of hope he doesn’t.

When the N.Y. Yankees came to Appalachia

Today is Opening Day, the first day of baseball season. Opening Day means spring — real spring, not this chilly aboration we’re experiencing, but real spring — is finally here.

Opening Day is also as good excuse as any to talk about what is surely one of the niftiest — and most ill-conceived — promotions in minor-league baseball history, and it happened in the town where I grew up.

I’m from a place called Paintsville, Kentucky, population 3,800 in 1980. Paintsville is about 2 hours east of Lexington and about an hour south of the nearest interstate highway. Paintsville isn’t on anyone’s way anywhere, but, in 1978, thanks to the efforts of Paul Fyffe, who owned the town’s only radio station, it landed a minor-league baseball team.

Originally called the Hilanders, it soon became the Appalachian League’s Yankees’ affiliate.

(I posted a version of this story in July when the New York Yankees’ owner, George Steinbrenner, passed away, so, if you happened to read it then, I’ll understand if you click away now.)

In the summer of 1980, Darryl Strawberry signed with the Yankees arch rivals, the New York Mets, and he began his career down in Kingsport, Tennessee. Darryl Strawberry was already a star, a kid everyone knew would make the Hall of Fame someday, and, as luck would have it, he would play his first professional baseball game in Paintsville.

Paul Fyffe was a good businessman, and he saw this is a great way to get folks out to the ballpark. You could get in free if you brought a strawberry to the game, the concession stand sold nothing but strawberry pop, and Paul hired a helicopter to drop strawberries onto the field.

The game was a sellout, but, remember, we were the Yankees, and Darryl Strawberry was signed with the New York Mets, so when George Steinbrenner read in The Sporting News about his Rookie League team in eastern Kentucky throwing a big party for a kid who’d signed with the Mets, he had a conniption, and word was that he threatened to pull the team out of Paintsville on the spot.

I don’t know whether the talk was exaggerated or whether the league wouldn’t let the Yankees move, but the Yankees stayed in Paintsville through the ’82 season. (The Paintsville Tri-County Yankees won the league champion in ’79, ’80 and ’81 and finished second in ’82.)

When the Yankees finally left, Paul brought in the Brewers, but they lasted only a couple seasons, and no one came to replace them.

Strawberry, of course, wound up working for Steinbrenner and retired from the Yankees in ’99.

The high school ballpark where the Yankees played was torn down a few years ago and replaced with a nicer one. We visited my folks last weekend, and when I drove by the school, I missed seeing it.