To hardly anyone's surprise, the booming Budweiser bowlersretained the national team match-game championship last weekend in St. Louis. The only question, after the ridiculous ease with which they disposed of the Chicago Falstaffs, is: Are there five bowlers anywhere in the country, no less an organized team, who can offer the Buds more than token opposition? The answer probably is no. For poise, quiet self-confidence and sheer ability, this is undoubtedly the greatest quintet of youngsters—their average age is 29—ever assembled under one banner.
The result of the 24-game, home-and-home match was a foregone conclusion before the teams met in St. Louis for the final 12 games. The week before, in Chicago, Falstaff took a mere 136-pin lead on its own lanes, hardly enough to hold a team of Budweiser's caliber. At that, the Chicagoans put up a brief battle, winning two games of one three-game block in St. Louis, but then the roof caved in. The Buds shot a 1,203 game, and their leadoff man, Don Carter, the only man in history to win the U.S. title three times, came through with consecutive 277 and 287 games—and it was all over except for the totaling of scores. St. Louis won, 25,349 to 24,285, a margin of 1,064 pins.
Thus the Buds held their lock on all important tournaments conducted by the Bowling Proprietors Association of America. In the individual match-game championships, Carter won over teammate Dick Weber, while a third Bud, Tom Hennessey, finished fourth. Weber and Ray Bluth are U.S. doubles champions. The team has reigned since defeating the once-mighty Strohs of Detroit last year.
The Buds have been called "the best team money can buy"—a reference to the reported $75,000 contributed annually by their sponsor. The money is only part of the story; other teams with lucrative sponsorships have gone nowhere. The Buds are on top because they are a team. And the man who molded them was their captain, Sergeant Jerome (Whitey) Harris of the St. Louis Police Department.
Harris, a veteran bowler, sold the brewery on the idea of sponsoring a topnotch team three years ago. Then he went about the business of getting men who not only were star bowlers, but compatible on and off the lanes—and, unlike many other captains, he started his recruiting at home. Carter, Bluth and Pat Patterson, each aged 26 when Harris signed them, were raised in St. Louis. Last year he obtained Weber, 27, from Indianapolis, and this season he lured Hennessey from the Strohs.
ALL ST. LOUIS
"Any time we're on the alleys," Harris said recently, "practically all St. Louis is cheering us on. You can't help but bowl better when you have backing like that."
For those who like statistics, Bluth was high man in the team match, with a 233 average in St. Louis and 215 for the 24 games. Patterson was next with 230-213, Carter close behind with 231-212, then Weber with 216-208, and Hennessey, the "old man" at 31, with 205-204. The team hit an even 1,120 a game on the home lanes, or a mean average of 224, which is great at any time and sensational under pressure.
The Falstaffs, American Bowling Congress champions, were tough enough to defeat, anyone except the Buds. Carl Richard, recently imported from Parsons, Kans. to replace Hall of Farmer Ned Day, averaged 212, and former Match Game Champion Bill Lillard 205. Bill Bunetta and Captain Buddy Bomar hovered around the 200 mark.
"They were too tough this time," commented diehard Bomar
"They're always too tough," chimed in Lillard.
It sounded like the first cry of "break up the Budweisers"—a call you might be hearing a great deal in the future. At their ages, they could well dominate bowling for the next 15 years.