Multiple sclerosis: a condition marked by hardened tissue in the brain or spinal cord, associated with paralysis and jerking muscle tremor.

Courage: mental or moral strength to venture, presevere and withstand fear or discomfort.

Those definitions fit the 22 to 25 people who bowl in a special Friday morning league. They range in age from the 20s to the 60s and come from all walks of life to bowl at Normandy Lanes. What they have in common is MS, courage and a love of bowling.

"Fatigue is the worst enemy," said Shirley Wolfenden, the volunteer coordinator from Westminster. "Tom (her husband who has MS) is exhausted after bowling, but he won't miss it.

"They take each day at a time, because with MS you never know what the next day is going to bring. The disease can become better or worse without warning. But they just love to bowl."

The concept of a league for folks with MS started in Severna Park, Anne Arundel County, and Perry Hall, Baltimore County; when Tom was hit with MS, it came rather late in his life, after he retired from 33 years working for the Baltimore Gas & Electric Co. But it was a pretty long trip to either of the bowling centers that had MS leagues, so Shirley Wolfenden formed the local league.

About half of the bowlers in the 9-year-old Hits or Misses use wheelchairs. Many of the others, including Tom, bowl while holding on to a wheelchair. The wheelchair bowlers use a metal ramp to guide the bowling ball to the lanes. And don't think that doesn't take a special kind of skill, because it requires the same kind of practice and determination as the usual walking approach.

The format is two games, and the only concession made to MS is that, because of the difficulties in positioning the wheelchairs or walking to the foul line, each bowler throws five frames at a time.

This is one of the few times that many of the players Wolfenden works with can get out of the house or the nursing home. So they make the most of the time together, bowling from 10 to 11 a.m., followed by lunch and a celebration of any special occasions that arise.

And they don't back down one bit. They not only bowl, they throw some excellent games. Averages vary from 45 to significant three digits.

Pat Redonto, for example, had a 176 game recently. In the past, games as high as 198 have been posted.

Because of the nature of the disease, the league could use about as many volunteers as there are bowlers. Call Shirley Wolfenden at 876-8079 and volunteer to help out some Friday morning.

You will enjoy yourself, and you might pick up some tips on bowling.

* The National Duckpin Bowling Congress has just released its high average ranking for the 1989-1990 season.

Jon Owens of Sykesville is at the top of that list, with a 153.859 average posted for 290 games and a total pinfall of 44,619.

"It's an honor to be mentioned in the same breath with bowlers like Jeff Pyles and Swede Lavers," Owens said. "You never expect something like this to happen, but when it does it's a humbling experience. Someone has to be No. 1, and this year I was just lucky to have it be me."

That's the good news; the bad news is that he will be going into the hospital Jan. 4 for surgery on his right knee. Being a left-hander, that knee takes a lot of pounding. It could be a bone spur or some cartilage.

If you're waiting for Owens to retire, let me bring you up- to-date on Stephen, his 4-year-old son. Stephen, bowling in a Saturday morning Pee Wee league, is holding an average of 88.

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