They call him the Thumb Doctor.
"Some bowlers who came to me with thumb problems were happy with the way I fitted and drilled their balls," said Jerry Sieglein, owner of the Reisterstown Pro Shop. "Somebody called me the Thumb Doctor and the name stuck."
If your thumb doesn't come out of the thumb hole of the tenpin ball correctly you have serious problems, problems with your release, problems with where the ball ends up, problems with a sore thumb. Problems that can make or break your game.
Of course, Sieglein's a lot more than just a thumb doctor. He's been in the game for a long time and has seen lots of changes in equipment, lane conditions and bowlers' attitudes.
"It seems that everyone wants to throw that big hook that the young guys on the PBA tour throw," he said. "It's hard to convince an average bowler that it's not necessary to have a huge hook to bowl well. With the new balls on the market, both the urethane and the reactive resin balls, I can drill a ball that will hook very little and still hit the pins with a great amount of force."
Sieglein said the new reactive resin ball should be called the stroker's revenge.
"The new ball allows a bowler with little power and a lot of accuracy to throw a ball that won't hook a lot but will still hit powerfully," he said, "Hence, the name, stroker's revenge. A stroker, a down-and-in player, can now continue to be deadly accurate and still tear a rack apart just as a cranker can.
"There's so much you can do with the new equipment, polish it, sand it, drill it with negative weights, you can make the same brand of ball do so many different things, things that the individual bowler wants or needs."
Still, Sieglein thinks that what the average bowler needs is not another ball but practice with the one he has.
"Any serious bowler should be throwing a minimum of 20 practice games each week," he said. "A new ball isn't going to turn a bowler into a champion by itself. It still takes a lot of practice and dedication to be a good bowler."
Sieglein hammers on the points that will make a good bowler better: practice, not just to throw the ball, but to throw it the same way each time, and practice good fundamentals.
"If you're going to practice and re-enforce bad habits you're defeating the purpose of practice," he said. "Get some of the books that are on the market now, read them and practice. Then see your pro-shop operator and tell him what you're doing, why you're doing it, where you do your league bowling and what you expect your ball to do for you. Then you're on the way to improving your game."
One pin short
Marion Canty has been bowling duckpins "off and on for about 20 years." And, as duckpin bowlers know, it's a dream to throw a 500 series.
Her career-high game is 196, just four pins from the elusive 200 game that also seems to remain out of reach for so many duckpin bowlers.
As does the 500 three-game series. As it still remains just out of reach for Canty, who lives in West Baltimore and is employed by the Social Security Administration.
Said Canty: "499 -- I'll never forget that night. It was on lanes 13 and 14 and I was bowling good. But I still came up one pin short."
On Oct. 8, at Fair Lanes Pikesville, Canty fired three fine games: 157, 184 and 158 for the 499 series.
She is active in travel leagues out of Fair Lanes Westview and Pikesville and carried a 130 average last season.
A worthwhile drive
Bill Smith of Dundalk bowls in the Friday night Kings and Queens league at Fair Lanes Dundalk and the Thursday Commercial Bird league at Bel Air Bowl.
"A friend got me started at Bel Air Bowl," Smith said. "I just filled in one night and the next thing I knew I was bowling there every week."
Born and raised in Highlandtown and Canton, he started bowling duckpins when he was 7, switched to tenpins and has been throwing a 16-pound ball ever since. He averages 201.
Last month, at Bel Air Bowl, he started with a 218, accelerated to a second game of 267 and in the third game shot a near-perfect 279 for a superb three-game series of 764.
"I was really concentrating," said Smith, a loan representative for the Bank of Baltimore. "We had to give the other team 80 pins and that means that you can't make a bunch of mistakes. It wasn't until the set was over that I realized that if the first game had been a little better I would have had an 800 set."