The sixth ABC Masters was held in Rochester, May 12-16, 1956. All bowling for the field of 192 men was at the Community War Memorial. In the final showdown, losers bracket survivor Ray Bluth defeated tournament leader Dick Hoover, 879-831, to force another match. Hoover then defeated Bluth for the title, 819-787.
Joe Norris died at age 93 on February 19, 2001. This piece was published in the April 2001 issue of Bowlers Journal.
I didn’t know Joe Norris as long or as well as most of the people who are remembering him in print. But the man was so engaging that, once you met him, you felt you’d been friends with him forever. I sure did.
It was 1963, and I was 16 when I first read a profile Mort Luby Jr. had written about Joe. All the famous Norris stories were there—I particularly liked the one about the dead fish under the massage table—and I was impressed. Here was a guy zanier than any of my friends. Joe was retiring from Brunswick, and had told Mort, “Now I’m gonna sit on my butt and just watch the world go by.” We all know how that worked out.
Years later, when I started writing historical pieces about bowling, he was the logical person to contact. I remember the first time I called him. Nervous about disturbing a living legend, I stammered a little when he came on the line, saying I hoped Mr. Norris could spare me a few minutes.
“I read your stuff all the time; I was wondering when you’d get around to calling me,” he said. And by the way, he added, there was no Mr. Norris at that number. “Call me Joe—or just Norris.” And then he burst into a high-pitched little giggle that let me know all was right with the world.
After that, I would phone him every few months. Fortunately, those Chicago-to-San Diego long distance calls were a tax-deductible business expense, because Joe never knew the meaning of a short conversation. His memory was always vivid and sharp. Sometimes I suspected that a few of his memories were a bit too vivid to be absolute truth. But that was part of Norris Experience.
Once he really scared me. We were talking about his first 300 game, and he excused himself to get a scrapbook. A few seconds later, I heard a loud crash on the line. Then nothing.
A full minute went by. Then two minutes. By now my mind was racing—I had killed Joe Norris! Nobody in any bowling alley would ever talk to me again!
I was about to hunt up my rosary when Joe finally came back on the phone. “Sorry for the delay, Jake,” he said casually. “I knocked over the TV set.”
I finally got to meet him in the flesh in the summer of 1999. That was when I spent a memorable day at Mort’s home, working with Joe and a few more living legends on our list of the one hundred Bowlers of the Century.
Joe was in top form. He had an opinion and anecdote on just about everyone. What impressed me, though, was when he asked Tom Kouros for some advice on getting a different bowling ball. Joe might be over 90, but he was still a competitor.
The next day, our work finished, Mort had a dinner party. My wife Terri had been listening to Norris tales for years, and wasn’t sure what to expect. We had just entered the house, and were still greeting Mort and Pat, when suddenly Terri felt someone grab her arm and start kissing it from her hand up toward her shoulder. That was her introduction to Joe Norris.
Joe was in even better form with the ladies present. Now his stories were R-rated. One of them was about a famous star of the ‘40s, whose wife caught him in bed with another woman and promptly divorced him. Joe’s summation was priceless: “That man’s wife was really narrow-minded.”
On the way home, I wondered what Terri would be thinking about this old goat Norris. And her summation was priceless: “That’s what I want you to be like when you’re 91.”
The last time I talked to Joe was just after last year’s ABC Tournament. I had written about the leg brace he had to wear, and said that if you asked him, he might show it to you. “You clown!” he roared at me. “I must have had fifty guys at Albuquerque asking me to roll up my pants!” And then he giggled—someone had put something over on the great practical joker.
And now he’s gone. And I wish I had called him more often. And I wish that, just once more, I could hear that giggle.
The fifth ABC Masters was held in Fort Wayne, May 14-19, 1955. The qualifying rounds were bowled at Berry Lanes, with the finals at the Allen County War Memorial. A field of 192 bowlers competed. In the championship match, tournament leader Buzz Fazio defeated losers bracket survivor Joe Kristof, 770-768.
1968 ABC TOURNAMENT CHAMPIONS
TEAM–Dave’s Auto Supply (Philadelphia)–3084
DOUBLES–Rich Stark-Walt Roy (Glenw’d Springs, CO)–1325
SINGLES–Wayne Kowalski (Boston)–738
ALL EVENTS–Vince Mazzanti (Philadelphia)–1983
CLASSIC TEAM–Bowl-Rite Supply (Joliet, IL)–6285
CLASSIC DOUBLES–Bill Tucker-Don Johnson (L.A.)–1329
CLASSIC SINGLES–Dave Davis (Phoenix)–741
CLASSIC ALL EVENTS–Jim Stefanich (Joliet, IL)–1983
TEAM ALL EVENTS–Cascade Natural Gas (Seattle)–9151
Herbert Booth “Buddy” Bomar (1916-1989) was rated #18 in the Bowlers Journal ranking of 20th Century bowlers. Moving from Texas to Chicago in 1942, he soon began earning a national reputation. Bomar won the 1944-45 All-Star, shared the Match-Game Doubles title in 1944 and 1950, and captured both editions of the 1947 Petersen Classic. He captained teams that won the Match-Game Team title and two ABC eagles. All these accomplishments resulted in Bomar being named Bowler of the Year twice, an All-American five times, and Bowler of the Decade for the 1940s. He was elected to the ABC Hall of Fame in 1966.
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Gatzow, Verlin E. “Krumske Yields Match Crown to Bomar.” Bowling, Jan 1945:19.
Nelson, Ray. “Bomar Tosses $2,000 Strike.” Bowlers Journal, Sep 1945:12,47.
__________. “Memories of California.” Bowling, Feb 1972:2,45.
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__________. “He Knew How to Win.” Bowlers Journal, Aug 1994:69.
__________. “Perfection on the Clock.” Bowlers Journal, May 2001:26.
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Zinser, Joan Taylor. “Team Player Through Thick and Thin.”Bowlers Journal, Dec 1988:S-81.
“Bomar and Benkovic Are on Tour of Germany.” Bowling, Oct 1948:37.
“Bomar Elected to Hall of Fame.” Bowling, Feb 1966:22.
“Bomar Gets Top Rating.” Bowlers Journal, Dec 1945:9.
“Bomar, Habetler Capture Petersen’s; Ed Easter Wins DeVito.” Bowlers Journal, Mar 1947:64.
“Bomar Suggested Bowler of the Year.” Bowlers Journal, Oct 1945:11,42.
“Bomar Wins Petersen Tenpin Meet in Buffalo,” Chicago Tribune, May 19, 1947:30.
“Bomar’s Biggest Strike Came in 1947 Petersen.” Bowling, Jan 1967:42.
“Bomar’s Purse Grows.” Chicago Tribune, May 16, 1942:3.
“Bowl With Your Brain.” (joint interview) Bowling, Nov 1959:27,52.
“Buddy Bomar Sets Terrific Pace in Matches.” Bowlers Journal, Apr 1945:12.
“Dallas Dynamite.” Bowling, Dec 1, 1940:5.
“Overseas Trundling.” Bowlers Journal, Oct 1948:21,43.
“The Days of Pine and Thunder.” (interview) Bowlers Journal, Aug 1977:90-97.
“This Is the Way I Do It.” Bowlers Journal, Mar 1947:59,65.
Quoted. Bowling, Aug 1949:14.
__________. Bowling, Sep 1949:17.
__________. Bowling, Oct 1949:18,29.
__________. Bowling, Nov 1949:18.
__________. Bowling, Dec 1949:17.
__________. Bowling, Jan 1950:31.
__________. Bowling, Feb 1950:36.
Obituary. Bowlers Journal, Jan 1990:57.
Obituary. Bowling, Mar 1990:36-37.