“This is what I live for,” glowed Rick Auerbach as he strode to the line as the last man on either team to bowl in the 10th frame of a “Wednesday Stars” league game a couple of weeks ago.
Auerbach knew exactly what he needed to do to pull out the victory for his team: two strikes and then at least four pins.
He had four straight strikes going into the 10th frame and he was bearing down with the eyes of each teammate and opponent staring right at him, along with a handful of passersby.
The atmosphere was electric and Auerbach was reveling in the attention. He was right where he wanted to be – up to bat with the game on the line.
Of course, Auerbach knows a little bit about pressure.
Auerbach, a Woodland Hills resident, played 11 seasons in the majors from 1971-1983 and then reincarnated himself as a champion amateur bowler with four certified 300s and a blockbuster 818 series.
So it was no surprise that the right-handed Auerbach rang up his fifth straight strike to the applause of both teammates and the opposition at AMF Woodland Lanes in Woodland Hills.
Then Auerbach smoked another strike to virtually seal the victory. Auerbach got a seven count on his final shot to make it official that his team won as he smiled widely at the applause appreciating how he delivered in the clutch.
This slice of drama is why league bowling will be around for a long, long time. It’s just too much fun. Bowling often kindles players’ competitive fires long in their 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s and older. All this competitiveness is too enjoyable not to savor.
Boutique bowling centers are getting plenty of attention these days, especially in light of the recent proposal to merge AMF Bowling Worldwide, Inc., with Bowlmor, a New York-based operator of upscale bowling centers.
These upscale centers, like AMF’s “300s,” are quite attractive in many ways with such amenities as flat screen TVs everywhere, glow-in-the-dark lanes and laneside food and drink service.
The fact that they’ve eliminated leagues may not matter to bowlers just looking for entertainment.
But it’s important to recognize that there’s a place for both types of bowling centers.
One week after Auerbach’s dramatics, anchor Roger Paskell found himself in a similar situation of a down-to-the-wire “Guys and Dolls” league game at Woodlake Lanes.
“That’s why he’s the anchor,” one of his teammates whispered about Paskell, the team’s best player, facing the pressure of a do-or-die situation.
And Paskell delivered in the clutch just like Auerbach, scoring a spare in the 10th frame and then striking to give his team a two-pin victory.
It was exciting even for the losing team.
League bowling is here to stay.