Mary Elizabeth "Toots" Barger BowlerAfter 30 years,...


Mary Elizabeth "Toots" Barger Bowler

After 30 years, Toots still thinks about the two that got away.

The two pesky bowling pins that kept Mary Elizabeth "Toots" Barger, also known as "the queen of duckpin bowling," from achieving a 200 game.

"All those years and I never did it," she says with a sigh.

But what she did achieve -- being inducted into the Maryland Athletic Hall of Fame in 1961 -- has yet to be equaled. Thirty years later, she is still the only woman bowler to be ranked among the state's premier athletes.

"I didn't strive to be the top. It just happened," says Ms. Barger, 72, of Pasadena. "I'm not bragging, but it was God's gift and I was good."

Natural talent and daily practice brought her 300 trophies and more than a dozen national duckpin championships.

Along the way, however, she often found herself in places where few women had been before. "Bowling was strictly a man's sport, and you know how rough men can be," she says.

Today, in between attending senior citizens groups, making macrame and watching "Wheel of Fortune," the great-grandmother continues to bowl three times a week.

"It's a sport you never get to old to play," she says. Talk about winning over a crowd. Dallas Dan, the hairy-chested docent for the Baltimore Museum of Art, so enchanted a woman during one of his presentations that she hauled off and planted a mushy kiss right on his lips.

But such displays of affection don't have much impact on the Texan with the low-key demeanor. You could even say that Dallas Dan has, well, no heart at all.

That's because he and his female counterpart Ms. Lily are puppets brought to life by puppeteer Schroeder Cherry, the museum's director of education.

The BMA is the only museum in the country to have puppet docents, says Mr. Cherry, 36, who lives in North Baltimore.

"Puppets have an enchantment about them," he says. "They allow us to get across information in an informal way."

For Mr. Cherry, the enchantment began when he was given a puppet as a child. During his youth, he also cultivated a love of art -- both observing and creating it.

So far, having puppets do the talking has worked out well for everyone -- including the self-effacing educator. "I don't have to be the one in the spotlight," he says. "And I don't have to take responsibility for what the puppet says."

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