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Andrew Teall 900 (No. 15) Nov. 2, 2009
Andrew Teall didn't plan on bowling this season. After finishing off the 2008-09 season with a 228 average in 90 games, he wanted to take a break.
But after the 24-year-old Medford resident's father, Tom, injured his left knee late last season and underwent surgery in August to clean up a torn meniscus in the joint, Andrew was added to the roster. He has been filling in for his father on a team called Wipeout in the Monday Night Invitational League at Medford Lanes since play started Sept. 14.
That twist of fate led to the younger Teall staring down Lane 9 Monday, one strike away from knocking down his 36th consecutive strike with a Roto Grip Cell.
When the right-hander's ball took down all 10 pins, he made history.
Teall recorded just the 15th sanctioned 900 series in the history of bowling (six other 900 series are unsanctioned) since 1895 according to the United States Bowling Congress, the national governing body for the sport based in Arlington, Tex.
It was the first-ever by anyone in the South Jersey Bowling Association.
To score a 900 series, a bowler records three consecutive perfect games in a single match with 12 consecutive strikes in each game.
"It's somewhat comparable to a perfect game in baseball where 27 batters come up and all go down," said Mark Miller, corporate communications manager for the USBC, which oversees more than 3,300 local associations and 5,000 bowling centers.
By comparison, there have only been 18 perfect games thrown in major league baseball history in 134 years, opposed to the 21 total 900 series in 114 years.
"There was quite a silent crowd during the 10th frame," said Teall, a 2003 graduate of Shawnee High School who as senior was a second-team All-South Jersey bowler. "After I did it, the first thing I heard was my Dad's loud voice and then there were a lot of hands in my face for high fives and a lot of man hugs."
"There was a big crowd that kept growing and by the time the 10th frame hit, the place was packed," said Dave DeSantis, vice president of the South Jersey Bowling Association
"It was actually very surreal and to be honest, I wasn't nervous," said Teall, who has been bowling competitively since he was a high school freshman. I had bowled 300 (five times) before but never twice in a row. When I got halfway through the second game, I actually thought I could do two in a row and when I did, it was an unbelievable feeling. Then the third game, it just came and went.
"I'm pretty superstitious when I'm bowling. I have the same routine and I get in a groove. I only touch the same five or six people all night for congratulations and I try not to look around to see who's watching. You just have to drown everything out."
After last season, he wanted to take some time off from bowling because he was getting burnt out.
"It was mentally draining," said Teall. "Ask anybody down at the lanes, I was a head case. I always want to do better and improve."
The Tealls are a bowling family. Andrew and his sister Lori, a 2005 Shawnee graduate, both were named South Jersey Bowler of the Week during their high school careers. The siblings each registered their first career 300 games exactly a year apart -- Andrew on Jan. 12, 2004, and Lori on Jan. 12, 2005.
"Bowling is a sport that gives you an opportunity to do something with your children and it's great," said Tom Teall. "It's been a catalyst to all hang out together and my wife (Amy) has gotten back into it too. It's a great family thing."
Oddly enough, the 14th 900 series occurred just three days prior to Teall's historic performance.
On Oct. 30. (see below) Chris Aker, a 47-year-old left-hander pulled off the rare feat in Winnermucca, Nev.
"We've been averaging about one a year since the first approved 900 series was bowled on Feb. 2, 1997, by Jeremy Sonnenfeld in Lincoln, Neb." said Miller who added that the sport's governing body only recognizes such a feat if the league, lanes, and individual is a member of the organization.
Of the 15 900 series on record with the USBC, two were turned in by 18-year-old Robert Mushtere from Ft. Drum, NY on Dec. 5, 2005, and Feb. 19, 2006. Because of Mushtere's accomplishments though, the USBC has adjusted its rules for recognizing perfection.
"He had done those in unopposed competition, meaning that he (and/or his team) bowled at a different time than the people he was bowling against," said Miller. "In answer to that, we don't give awards to unopposed competition."
Tom Teall's highest career game was a 279, but don't expect Dad to play Wally Pipp to his son Andrew's Lou Gehrig.
"I'm hoping to get back sooner than later and I think that once I'm able to bowl that he'll take some time off," said Tom Teall, who said he expected to miss the first half of the 2009-10 season, which runs from September until May. "He really is having fun and that's all he wanted to do. He wanted to have fun and not make it a chore. He was always trying to be perfect, but lately he's just having fun and I think that was a big contributing factor (to rolling the 900)."
Andrew Teall doesn't have to try any longer. For one night he was perfect.