Everyone who has ever visited a bowling alley knows what it sounds like, and practically every bowler knows what it feels like, but only pictures taken with a repetitive strobe flash can show with accuracy what it looks like when you bowl a perfect STRIKE...OR MISS.
August 12, 1962


In the first of the pictures on the three preceding pages, John G. Zimmerman's repetitive strobe flash has recorded in half a dozen breathless installments the infinitesimally brief history of a bowled strike so nearly perfect as to bring tears to the eyes of any kegler. The ball, rolled by American Machine & Foundry's staff bowler Joe Brown, has hit cleanly in the pocket between pins No. 1 (painted lemon color) and No. 3 (pink) and then swept along, taking pins 3, 5 (salmon) and 9 (tan) with it. Meanwhile, pin No. 1 has hurled itself directly at pin No. 2 (gray), which in turn has slid toward No. 4 (red), which in turn has knocked out No. 7 (blue) to clean out the left side of the V. On the other side, No. 3 has ticked No. 6 (gold), which has knocked down No. 10 (raspberry). No. 8 (green), the only pin not in any direct line of fire, has been taken out by No. 5.

Not all strikes are so perfectly executed. The second two pictures show strikes that achieved the same results with somewhat less precision. The pictures at left show four would-be strikes that never made it at all. All of the pictures, however, demonstrate clearly what happens when a bowler hits or misses. Shown in the upper left corner in pitiless detail is the so-called double pinochle, in which the ball has hit No. 1 on dead center, cleaning out the middle of the V but leaving pins 4, 6, 7 and 10 all standing intact.

To get the pictures, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED'S photographer, assisted by the proprietor of the New York Gladiators arena in Totowa, N.J., had to make a bowler's horror of a lane. First off, he painted the once uniformly varnished pins in a rainbow of colors so that each could be identified throughout its movement and set them on a ground cloth of black paper. Then he removed the automatic pinspotter above them and hung his camera in its place. His final indignity was to stretch two fine wires across the lane itself, so that balls passing over them would trigger first the strobe unit (set to flash 12 times each second) and then the camera shutter. With the lane thus prepared, he put Bowler Brown to work bowling at the rate of about 30 strikes an hour for two days.

One thing both photographer and bowler discovered: after the ball has struck the first pin it takes one-half of a second to make a strike—or miss it.