Perfect Games In Six Decades Print

The American Bowling Congress was founded in 1895.

Through its existence and eventual merger into the United States Bowling Congress in 2005, only Bob Scrampe of Michigan, Tom Suchan and Bill Gaume of Ohio and recently Tom Scott of Virginia can claim they have rolled 300s in six consecutive decades.

It's a remarkable feat when you think about all the changes that have taken place over that span. One area legend has seen first-hand those upgrades to the sport and has now secured a spot alongside the other four.

Bob Shoemaker began bowling in 1951 at the Bocce Club in Allentown. He doubled as a pin boy, setting up a rack of 10 pins and running up front to throw a shot.

But his first splash of success came on Valentine's Day in 1961 when he shot his first perfect game at Realto Lanes in Allentown.

Shoemaker's place in the game was cemented in those early days of 1961 because just 15 days later he duplicated the moment at Boulevard Lanes. Fast forward six decades later and the 70-year-old Bethlehem Hall of Fame member can still mix it up with the best as evident by his two most recent brushes with perfection.

"I don't know, I can't explain it,'' the Bethlehem resident said of his 300 last week at the Bethlehem Panthers along with one last month at the place where it all began. "I'm in a good groove right now, and Jeff Bosak says I'm the hottest bowler in the area. Don't know about that but I'm feeling good about my game.''

But it's Shoemaker's record six consecutive decades with a 300 that has him talking.

"I know 300 isn't what it used to be but it's still something to be able to compete at such a high level at 70," Shoemaker said. "It excites me because I've bowled on every conceivable surface, and, of course, the balls have changed from the conventional grip rubber ball I started my career with.''

In between his first two perfect games in 1961 and the pair within the past month, "The Shoe" has dotted his 300s throughout the area.

"I was the first one to shoot 300 at the old Parkway Lanes in Allentown," he said. "That was on the last night of the season in 1974, and that was one tough place to bowl let me tell you. I also had the second ever at the Palm Legion in East Greenville back in 1995.''

His other 300s came in June 1971, November 1979, January and December 1980, January and November 2005 and October 2009. Shoemaker also won the highly coveted Lehigh Valley Masters Tournament in 1979 as well as the runner-up slot in 1969.

He's still quite active, competing in four leagues a week and is more than capable of averaging 200 even if you set up pins in a parking lot and give him a ball. It's a trait he's built upon since the 1950s.

"I'm still averaging in the 220s," Shoemaker said."It's a different game today because after bad nights bowlers would go out and practice. Remember, 630-640 back in those days was pretty good. Today, those numbers are a bad night. I learned a lot practicing because I believe that's where I gained my accuracy.

"Today, no one practices. They just go out and buy a new ball. These new balls make it look like I throw a hook. And I don't believe anyone throws the ball straighter than I do."

But for all the accolades that have been bestowed on Shoemaker, there's one mark that has eluded him.

"I don't have 800," he said. "I've had six or seven 790s but have always come up a bit short. It's a tough number because a 10-pin or 8-pin here or there and you can't get it. If it comes, it comes.''

Not reaching 800 wouldn't put a damper on a career that has stood the test of time because if Shoemaker is physically capable of throwing a ball 10 years from now, he may just make it seven consecutive decades.