The kindest thing to be said about the roll-off for the U.S. team championship is that it ended last Sunday. The mighty Stroh Beers bowled below their average, yet won the 24-game match by a record margin of 1,355 pins. At precisely midnight the Maibach Furniture "men of destiny" boarded their chartered bus and returned to Akron and the obscurity from which they had rocketed so spectacularly in the October elimination tournament.
The result was a foregone conclusion even before the teams came to Detroit for the final 12 games of the home-and-home match. The weekend before, with Tony Lindemann and Captain Buzz Fazio showing the way, the Strohs took a 493-pin lead at the Maibachs' Akron Recreation Center lanes. Still, the Maibach rooters clung to the memory of that last frame of the eliminations at Toledo, when anchorman Clyde Potter got the strike he needed to put the dark-horse team into the finals (SI, Oct. 18). And they came to Detroit by bus, hopes soaring for another miracle.
At that, one of their men provided the only thrill of the match. In the last of the eight three-game blocks, No. 3 man Rex Browning, a pleasant-faced six-footer with a Jimmy Stewart smile, rolled 10 strikes in a row. As he rolled the 11th ball his petite, dark-haired wife, sitting directly behind him, buried her face in her hands. When a roar went up from the crowd, she peeked through her fingers—and burst into bitter tears. For the No. 4 pin was left standing by the high pocket hit. Browning's 289 was high single game.
December 13, 1954
It was not nearly enough, however, to keep the contest from becoming a rout. Chunky, dark-skinned Fazio, 46-year-old grandfather who earns his livelihood as a bowling instructor; thin, anemic-looking Lindemann, 35, an architectural draftsman who appears too fragile to lift a ball, yet is one of the game's great stylists; and dark, heavy-set Ed Lubanski, 25, who gave up a promising career as a baseball pitcher to join the Strohs, poured in strike after strike to make the final score: Stroh, 24,558; Maibach, 23,203. It shattered the record set by the Meister Braus of Chicago, who swept the Philly Cigars of Philadelphia by 1,219 pins in 1947.
If there was any lingering doubt that Detroit is headquarters for star teams, the Strohs dispelled it. This was the team's third consecutive championship with Fazio at the helm and its ninth in 13 appearances in the finals (all-time great Joe Norris of the Brunswick-Balke-Collender Co., now with the Hamm Beers of Chicago, led Stroh to six titles). Of the 31 championship matches sponsored by the Bowling Proprietors Association of America, at least one Detroit team rolled in 20—and on five occasions both finalists were from this city.
Just for the record, Fazio was high man with an average of 209-14. Lindemann had 208-10. Lubanski, in and out at Akron, posted 221-3 in the Detroit series. Pete Carter, 42-year-old Brunswick salesman who became the father of a baby girl during the match; Lee Jouglard, 33, bespectacled Michigan distributor for American Machine & Foundry bowling products, and big Tom Hennessey, 28, a Stroh employe, also pitched in with high series.
Ed Markulis was tops for Maibach with 199-12, while Potter proved a disappointment with 190-19. The hapless Ohioans won only six of the 24 games and lost all eight blocks. Well, it was fun being in the limelight, if only briefly, and at least they have the consolation of knowing they were defeated by the country's best.
The team contest was the first of six top-notch attractions sponsored by the B.P.A.A. Howard Seehausen, executive secretary, and Sylvester Sobanski, tournament manager, will complete details this week for the All-Star men's and women's championships Jan. 14-23 in Chicago. Then there will be the women's doubles championships in February, the first All-Star duckpin finals in March, the men's doubles in April and the team handicap sweepstakes from May 7 through mid-June.