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Reviewed by:
  • Historical Dictionary of Bowling by John Grasso and Eric R. Hartman
  • Michael A. Hill
Grasso, John and Eric R. Hartman. Historical Dictionary of Bowling. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2014. Pp. xlii+ 463. Appendices, bibliography, and illustrations. $125.00 hb, $119.99 ebook.

At some point, most Americans have probably visited a bowling center and bowled at least a few games. The sounds of rolling balls, crashing pins, and the accompanying loud music are almost certainly familiar on some level to the majority of people in this country. For the majority of those participants, bowling is a leisurely pursuit, an entertaining way to kill time while enjoying the company of friends and family. For some, however, bowling is a passion, and it is for those people that the Historical Dictionary of Bowling is primarily aimed.

This reference book by Grasso and Hartman provides an in-depth look into not only the history of the game but those who have made the game come alive as well. Beginning with a chronology of bowling covering the years 1819–2013 and ending with a fine bibliography providing the serious researcher with an abundance of further resources, this volume truly is a wonderful starting point for anyone researching the sport. [End Page 251]

The dictionary explores the history of bowling, which, in some form, has been in existence for thousands of years, perhaps even dating to the ancient Egyptians. Edward III banned English troops from bowling because he believed it took up too much of their time. Henry VIII was an avid bowler, even having lanes built in Whitehall, but banned commoners from playing the game because he too believed it took up too much of their time. Bowling was brought to the United States by the Dutch when they settled Manhattan Island. In fact, Bowling Green Park in Lower Manhattan derives its name from this time.

A number of colorful personages have found their way into the annals of bowling, making many of the dictionary’s entries surprisingly entertaining. In the early twentieth century, many professional baseball players moonlighted as bowlers during the winter months, including Hall of Famers Adrian “Cap” Anson and Herman “Babe” Ruth. Early champion Joe Falcaro was shot by a jealous husband, forcing his retirement. Nonetheless, Falcaro forever referred to himself as the “undefeated match-game champion.” And perhaps only in bowling could one of the sport’s supreme hustlers, and not a professional, John “Count” Gengler, be voted one of the sport’s greatest ever. More recently, Walter Ray Williams Jr. dominated bowling as no one else has. His 191 top-five finishes ranks first all-time, as does his career winnings of more than $4 million. In addition to his prowess as a bowler, however, Williams is also a nine-time world horseshoes champion and a member of the bowling and horseshoes Halls of Fame.

Perhaps most interesting, and important with regard to the social evolution of the United States, has been bowling’s attitude toward women and minorities. Bowling was, and largely remains, a man’s domain. Early in its history, however, owners of bowling centers made efforts to recruit women to the sport. Professional women’s bowling organizations were founded almost simultaneously with men’s, and today women can compete professionally against men. In 2010, Kelly Kulick won the PBA Tournament of Champions, defeating sixty-two of the world’s best male bowlers in the process. Bowling’s relationship with minorities, however, has not been as stellar. Initially, minorities were excluded from participating in events sanctioned by bowling’s governing bodies, leading to the formation of African American and minority bowling organizations. In the early 1950s, following the lead of Major League Baseball, racial restrictions were dropped by bowling’s governing bodies. Nonetheless, bowling has remained largely devoid of minority participants at its highest levels.

The great popularity bowling once held in the realm of pop culture may also come as a surprise to many of the dictionary’s readers. In 1964, Don Carter signed a $1 million endorsement deal with Ebonite Products, the first million-dollar endorsement deal by any athlete in any sport. Until 1997, the American Broadcasting Company’s weekly broadcast...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2155-8455
Print ISSN
0094-1700
Pages
pp. 251-253
Launched on MUSE
2015-10-03
Open Access
No
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