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Bowling and its bizarre moments

Scott Tschappat had to make a difficult call as league president.
Scott Tschappat had to make a difficult call as league president.
Fred Eisenhammer

This story originally ran May 1, 2013, and is being re-run with a postscript.

It was the strike that wasn’t – a bizarre bowling shot that required a ruling by the league president.

A day later, the United States Bowling Congress weighed in.

Here is what happened during the “Guys and Dolls” league competition Tuesday night at AMF Woodlake Lanes in Woodland Hills:

In a down-to-the-wire match, Garry Finneran rolled what bowlers on both teams clearly saw as a solid strike on his first ball in the 10th frame. On a second look, the eight pin was still standing – motionless.

Finneran’s team contended the remaining pin had left the bowling stage, rebounded off the back wall and returned onto the lane. In that case, should the shot be counted as a strike?

If so, it would have given Finneran his second straight strike and put his team ahead with the anchor bowlers left to shoot.

Amid considerable confusion as to what exactly happened, league president Scott Tschappat was summoned. After conferring with members of Finneran’s team, he ruled that the pin – left in the eight-pin slot – should be left standing.

Finneran then picked up the spare and finished his 10th frame with a strike. His team eventually lost the game by three pins.

There was another indication of how strange Finneran’s shot was. A Woodlake Lanes spokesman said “according to our printout, the head pin was standing after the first ball and he picked it up. He then got a strike on the ‘fill’ ball.”

Could the head pin have been knocked around and landed where the eight pin stood? It’s unclear.

Asked about the odd shot, USBC rules counselors dug into their rulebooks. Mike Boyd of the USBC said that “pins that rebound and stay on the lane must be considered standing pins.”

Boyd said that this was a change from a past rule. Formerly, pins that rebounded off a lane and returned would be considered as having been knocked down. But, Boyd said, this would take verification – either from instant replay or from witnesses.

The new rule, Boyd said, “takes out the gray area.”

Added Boyd: “The bottom line is that the league president made the right decision.”

Postscript: Longtime bowling mechanic Keith Kitti addressed crazy pin bounces a few days later: “Because of simple physics, there are probably millions of combinations of the way the pins can fall. And when you factor in people’s bowling styles and the way they release the ball, it can make for some interesting reactions.”

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