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Pro bowlers miss amateur’s striking start

In six days, it will have been exactly 100 years since the first edition of Bowlers Journal magazine hit newsstands, provided newsstands existed in November 1913.

To mark this occasion, the Bowlers Journal people distributed commemorative 100-year editions on Wednesday afternoon at the South Point after the pros were through bowling for dollars at the PBA World Championship.

The cover was jet black and sort of rubbery, like the hard outer shell of a vintage Brunswick Black Beauty. The magazine weighed almost 16 pounds, too. It was quite thick, 300 pages, and while somebody from Wisconsin or one of those other bowling states probably never will read it from cover to cover, it could come in handy for balancing a pool table.

The first edition, dated Nov. 8, 1913, was a lot smaller: Just four pages with a front and back cover.

An ad on the back, paid for by the Brunswick Balke Collender Co. of 629 S. Wabash Ave., Chicago, stated bowling prevented stomach fag. Whatever that is.

Now, getting your picture on the cover of the Bowlers Journal might not be as cool as getting your picture on the cover of the Rolling Stone, particularly if you play bass guitar in a rock band. Or even cowbell.

Peter David Weber has had his picture on the cover of the Bowlers Journal more often than Jeff Bridges as Jeff “The Dude” Lebowski.

The great PDW, who wasn’t wearing dark glasses on Wednesday because the red lights of the TV cameras weren’t yet on, said he has lost count of how many times he has been out front, but that his mother probably keeps those covers somewhere, like in a basement.

Norm Duke, on the other hand, vividly remembers the first time he was on the Bowlers Journal cover. It was after he won the ABC Masters, and he was photographed with his wife in the front seat of a car. He remembered that clearly. He just couldn’t remember the model of that car, only that it wasn’t a Studebaker or a Rambler, because though Duke is old (49), he’s not that old.

“Before we had cellphones and Internet and all that, Bowlers Journal has been around, 1913 or something,” said Duke, who has 37 PBA titles, and who once rolled a 300 game in one of those made-for-TV, Battle of the Sexes events against Tish Johnson at Sam’s Town.

(I was there, and everybody was chanting his name — “D-o-o-o-k, D-o-o-o-k. D-o-o-o-k.” And in the middle of rolling a perfecto, Norm Duke would run out for a drag on a cigarette, and — I kid you not — I still get goosebumps when I think about it.)

“For those of us who compete, to make the cover of Bowlers Journal, that’s still somethin’,” he said. “It’s the kind of thing some of us still put in our contract, as incentive.”

Duke and PDW were supposed to roll a couple of games with selected media members and PBA commissioner Tom Clark and Keith Hamilton, the Bowlers Journal president/publisher — and former NFL great Terrell Owens, who is trying to become a pro bowler, and probably would be well on his way, too, if only they didn’t apply so much oil to those lanes when the pros come to town.

But the bowling didn’t quite happen. Match play ran long, but at least Duke and PDW stopped by to chat, and so did Chris Barnes, who has 15 PBA titles and could have played basketball at Washburn University, for the Fightin’ Ichabods in his hometown of Topeka, Kan., had he not accepted a bowling scholarship to Wichita State.

But T.O. was there as advertised, and he brought his custom bowling shoes, and so the media people put theirs on, too (except for Seat Williams, who said he had injured his toe), only their bowling shoes weren’t so custom, and sort of smelled of Desenex.

T.O., who in person is engaging and nothing like the guy with the Sharpie, had this contraption for his iPhone that filmed him while he was bowling, and it even had a little subwoofer on it, so you could hear those cool sounds bowling pins make when they splatter.

I threw a strike on my first ball. Then I threw another strike. Then a third.

Alas, Norm Duke and PDW had left by then, and Barnes hadn’t yet arrived, and just as T.O. showed up, I made a six — which is OK in golf on the long holes but not so good in bowling.

T.O. rolled nine on his first ball, but it was in the pocket with a sharp hook, and he didn’t suggest we move over to the Jerry Lewis lanes to play for money.

When I asked T.O. and the other bowling people if they ever had contracted stomach fag, they said they had not, though Chris Barnes said he and his bowler wife, Lynda, had their gallbladders removed in the spring.

Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ron Kantowski can be reached at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow him on Twitter: @ronkantowski.

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