Raga recalls days of 2-finger-hole balls


Some bowlers remember the time when the only tenpin ball you could purchase was rubber. Some remember when only polyurethane was available. Some of the younger bowlers think that reactive resin balls always have been around.

"I remember when the bowling balls had two finger holes," Mike Raga said with a laugh. "I can't remember the last time I saw a two-hole ball."

Rega started bowling in 1929, before there was a Professional Bowlers tour and television tournaments, before mothers would let their daughters enter a bowling alley.

Plastic, urethane and reactive resin balls weren't even a dream then.

"And I still love the game," Rega said. "I play golf and it's a lot of fun, but bowling is still the game that I love best."

He's the past secretary/treasurer of four leagues, one of which had 35 teams of five members each. And when he bowled at Leisure Lanes in New Jersey in the early '70s, he got a little coaching from Teata Semiz, who is still on the Senior PBA tour.

Rega is still popping pins in the Thursday Club 55 league at Brunswick Normandy. And doing it well.

Rega, a retired supervisor for J. Wiss & Sons, lives in Ellicott City and is averaging 153.

"My best game, 253, was in a league in Matawan, N. J.," he said. "My best set, 633, was in a New Jersey state tournament."

Using a 12-pound Brunswick 300 bowling ball (down from 16 pounds due to a shoulder injury), Rega, after more than 60 years of bowling, is still putting up some impressive figures at Normandy.

On Sept. 9, he had a three-game series that was 104 pins over his average.

You're never too old

Ruth Johnson, 75, has been bowling quite a while.

JTC "My sister-in-law, Dorothy Johnson, got me started," Johnson said. "I guess that's been about 15 years ago and it was right here at [Brunswick] Normandy and I'm still at it."

And bowling both Club 55 leagues, at Normandy and Columbia, Thursday and Tuesday, respectively.

She keeps bowling for two reasons -- one, "I love it, it's a lot fun and you meet so many nice people."

Two, she's good at the game of tenpins.

Throwing a 10-pound bowling ball, Johnson maintained a 118 average at Normandy and a 121 average at Columbia last season. Her career high game is a nifty 205.

On Sept. 23, she exceeded her average by 112 pins. She also took the women's honors that week with a handicap game of 258 (181 scratch plus 71 pins).

Volunteer your time

Once again, Shirley Wolfenden, has sounded the call for volunteers.

The multiple sclerosis league that she's active in never seems to have enough help.

The first day of the new season, Sept. 17, the MS league had 24 tenpin bowlers at Brunswick Normandy.

They come from their homes and from nursing facilities, in private cars and in two vans provided to the MS organization.

Ages vary from the 20s to the 60s, and they come from all walks of life, sharing only MS, courage and a love of bowling.

Some bowl while holding onto the back of a chair, some bowl while seated, about half from a wheelchair using a metal ramp to guide the ball.

Skill levels and averages vary widely, but enthusiasm is phenomenal.

So, if, on a Friday morning, you have some time on your hands, drop into Brunswick Normandy and find the group of bowlers having the most fun. Chances are that you'll stick around to help out.

"One of our volunteers said it best: 'They've done more for me than I've done for them,' " Wolfenden said.

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