The ‘little league that could’ might be a fitting title for these folks

I ventured out to Heritage Lanes this week. To be specific, I went there in the morning. More to the point, it was Wednesday morning and I was there to check in on the Wednesday Morning Bowling League.

It had been a few years since I watched these non-traditionalists ply their trade. I recalled the days of yesteryear when some pretty good bowlers shot some lofty scores in the morning when most of us were just getting fully awake. You can imagine my surprise when I showed up and wondered if there were enough bowlers to have a quorum for a league meeting.

To get a feel for the state of the league I chatted up veteran Ken Lofton for a history lesson. Ken confirmed what I thought to be true and that was that the league was first formed to accommodate second- and third-shift factory workers. Lofton himself has worked at Whirlpool for the past 40 years. Always on the second or third shifts, he had no choice but to bowl in the mornings.

Lofton has been a fixture in the league since 1978. He recalls the days when the league had plenty of teams. Another bowler remembered not being able to get into the league because there were no openings. Such is not the case today. This year the league has just four teams and only four bowlers on each squad. To say that the league is on life support might be a stretch, but it is in need of more bowling enthusiasts.

Originally the league was called the Wednesday Morning Men’s League. Women have been bowling in the league for the last several years and that is no different than many leagues today. You will find some things in this league that are different from many other leagues in addition to its small size.

The drink of choice is coffee rather than an alcoholic beverage. The slice of pizza consumed in the evening leagues is likely going to be replaced by a crme stick. It is also common to see a kegler perusing the Wednesday morning edition of the A-T.

Then again some things are common to any bowling league. When the aforementioned Lofton threw a strike in the fourth frame of game one, a teammate remarked, “about time I got some help.” The whole league chuckled. It immediately made me think of a former teammate of mine that would chide me after I recorded a couple of open frames in a row. “You know, you’re allowed to contribute,” he would say laughingly.

One particular bowler caught my attention on this day and for several reasons. Cheryl Radin-Norman was on the approach when she turned and asked the league secretary (again, the aforementioned Lofton) for help. She had left the 7-9 split, but the rake had taken down the nine pin. Her comment was amusing. She wanted to know if she could just shoot at the seven instead of resetting the 9 mentioning that there was no way she could convert the split anyway.

A couple of frames later Norman left the 4-9 split. She slid the four pin over only to have it slide in front of the nine. Had she left the 4-6 split she would have converted it. I suggested that she might have been too hasty in not giving the 7-9 a shot.

Between shots Radin-Norman was – seriously – knitting! Now this brought back memories for this writer. My mother was a bowler. She also knitted, though I’m not sure she ever did so at the bowling alley. My thoughts turned to a sweater my mom knit for me in high school that was the coolest shade of blue.

Thanks, Cheryl, for the stroll down memory lane. One other conversation caught my ear and it showed some loyalty on the part of Radin-Norman. If you want to talk women’s college basketball with her, bring some ammunition because she will bombard you with tales of her favorite team, the Lady Huskies of the University of Connecticut.

The Wednesday Morning League has weathered some tough times as factories have closed. It is still chugging along however, and that is not going to change any time soon if Ken Lofton has his way. He has been bowling in the league for 35 years and has no plans to stop.

So if you are looking for a league to bowl in and mornings would fit your schedule, give the Wednesday Morning League a shot. You can eat breakfast, read the paper and even knit if the urge strikes you. For sure you will have a lot of fun.

Scores from the Wednesday Morning League include Paul Landers 655, Tyson Shope 638, Dave Jumper 579, Harry Smith 536, Pat McCarthy 502, Dianne Smith 461 and “knit one, purl two” Cheryl Radin-Norman 415. In the Sportsman League Mike Kisabeth shot 666, Scott Hartsel 656, Rich Yates Jr. 652, Tony Selhorst 641, Dick Gabel 626, Rich Yates Sr. 626, Harry Smith 614 and Ed Wilson Jr. 610.

In the Imperial-Majorette League Ben Hoyda shot 639, Steve Steinmetz, Jr. 627, Kevin Young 591, Katina Steinmetz 502, Phyllis Riley 495, and Deb Nominee 467. Scores from the Twilight League included Tim Sturgill 638, Kevin Young 638, Steve Barnes 629, Rhonda Fitch 506 and Robin Brownell 438.

Action from the K of C Lanes found James Lord shooting 659, Aaron Sherman 638, Chris Johnson 625, Ben Williams 608, Ken Gaietto 590, Brett Elchert 571, Justin Hoepf 560, Matt Distel 563 and Doug Snyder 543 in the Tuesday Night League. In the 55 Plus League Rick Hanna led the way with 591, while Bill Mizen shot 575, Jim Ruess 565, Bob West 552, Paul Gosche 502, Jim Ferstler 471, Bob Reinhart 460, John Ferstler 456, Dave Everhart 432, Paul Fey 363 and Jim Donaldson 348.

Al Stephenson is The Advertiser-Tribune’s bowling columnist.

Read his blog at: