Bowling's new age
Bowling was a different game when Tortorici, a 1965 Janesville High School graduate and a member of the Janesville Bowling Association Hall of Fame, started his career in 1968. He retired in 1999.
“In the old days, you had one ball, and you learned how to throw one ball,” the 61-year-old Tortorici said in a phone interview shortly before leaving Janesville for his home in Sun City, Ariz. “You learned how to use hand position, and you learned about speed.’’
Brian Bailey, who owns The Watering Hole, and Bob Schenck, a Janesville firefighter, became top competitors in the city’s best leagues years ago, but both stopped bowling for various reasons.
They have returned to the lanes. Like Tortorici, they see notable differences in today’s game.
“I had a high average of 208,” said Schenck, who returned to bowling in 2007. “I took eight years off and have the highest average I ever bowled in my life.’’
When Bailey put his ball in the closet nine years ago, he was averaging 228 while bowling in two leagues per week.
“There were basically not a lot of 200 bowlers—200 or 205 was pretty high,” Bailey said of when he stopped. “Now, 205 is one of the lower averages.’’
Tortorici was one of the first league bowlers to maintain a 200 average.
“I averaged 220 with one ball,” Tortorici said. “I threw a 14-pound ball. I didn’t throw a full 16-pounder.
“I found I had better accuracy with the lighter ball, and I could put enough stuff on the ball,” Tortorici added. “You worked on using your wrist and different ways to release the ball.’’
Today, one ball is not enough.
“Now, to deal with lane conditions, you grab another ball,” Tortorici said. “Guys go to the lanes with two to six balls.’’
After 30 years of bowling, Tortorici bowled his first perfect game in 1998 at RiversEdge.
Bailey said the accomplishments of Tortorici and bowlers of years ago deserve special appreciation.
“When I bowled my first 300, there were four bowled in the city that season,” said Bailey, who noted that more than 30 perfect games are rolled in a typical season now. “When the resin ball came out, it made for a lot better carry.”
“I don’t want it to sound like you can buy a 300 game, but the equipment has gotten so much better for the lane conditions,’’ Bailey added.
Schenck said the lanes have become predictable.
“The oil machine makes the lanes the same every week,” Schenck said. “Guys do not have to practice as much because they know how the shots are going to be every week.’’
Bailey said the changes aren’t necessarily a bad thing.
“I think it’s good for the sport,” Bailey said. “You used to have handicap leagues because it’s really tough to keep the 130 and 140 bowler interested.
“Getting a guy that rolls 150 and 160 to bowl a 240 is great for the sport of bowling,” Bailey added.
Improved equipment may make it easier to roll a 300 today, but it still takes skill and concentration.
“That is a phenomenal thing for anyone,” Bailey said. “You still have to carry 12 strikes in a row, and that’s not easy.’’
Tortorici would still bowl if not for bad knees.
“Bowling has been so good to me,” he said.
The marks put up by bowlers in Tortorici’s era deserve respect, Bailey said.
“You don’t forget the guys that averaged 205 back in 1985,” he said. “Don’t take anything away from those guys.
“It was a struggle, and you worked at your game,’’ Bailey added.
Carm Tortorici is proud to be from the old school. Schenck and Bailey had a taste of those times, and now they can enjoy the benefits of bowling’s new age.