(Bockelman and the Defiant™)
FORT WAYNE – The pins just got stubborn about being stubborn. That’s really the only explanation Randy Bockelman has for the night of April 11.
On that Wednesday at Main Bowl in Columbia City, rollin’ ’em in a league game for a team that doesn’t even have a name (“It’s team No. 7, no special name or anything,” Bockelman says), something strange and wonderful and wholly unexpected happened.
Bockelman kept gliding to the line and firing away, and the pins kept falling all over themselves.
By the time they were done, Bockelman was in the record book.
His sanctioned 897 series – a 297 followed by back-to-back 300s – was the highest score ever recorded at Main Bowl and the highest in Indiana so far this year, according to the United States Bowling Congress. Only 19 sanctioned perfect 900 series have ever been bowled.
Bockelman used the Roto Grip Defiant™ drilled at Stafford's Pro Shop in Columbia City, Indiana.
"It's unreal what numbers these guys are putting up," said David Stafford. "Roto Grip has great products."
Bockelman came one ball away from that – his 12th and final roll in his first game, when, after 11 straight strikes, he left three pins standing. After which he cranked out 24 straight strikes for his 897.
In 25 years as a bowler, it was the best series the 47-year-old Bockelman has ever rolled, by 103 pins. And he never saw it coming.
“No, not at all,” he said. “Everything was just a normal day. You just bowl, and you’re waiting for single pins to stand. There was no reason to think it was going to be different.
“I kept going and kept waiting for something to stand, and they never did.”
What helped, he went on, was the fact that his team was in a tight match, which took his focus off all those strikes and put it on winning. And unlike baseball, where teammates avoid like the plague a pitcher working on a no-hitter, Bockelman’s teammates kept him engaged.
“We kept it running,” remembers Bockelman, a lineman for Columbia City Electric who bowled two 300 games last year, for a total of four. “Kept a good team feeling to it, to where it wasn’t all about me, and it worked out really well.
“We kept talking and joking and keeping them going, keeping me going. Everybody was saying ‘We’re going to keep up, we’re going to keep up.’ (A teammate) threw a 300 about three weeks ago, and we both joked we were going to do it the same day. So when I did it and he didn’t, I said, ‘Where were you?’ ”
Same place he’s been every Wednesday and Friday for years, after essentially falling into the game. Unlike some bowling lifers, Bockelman never bowled as a teenager, coming to it in his early 20s simply because “it was something to do on the weekends here and there.” That eventually led to league play, and he never looked back.
“Yeah, it was just horsing around on the weekends, and someone said, ‘Well, why don’t we try to get in a league?’ ” he says.
“And it all started to go downhill from there.”
Until April 11, that is, when Bockelman reached the pinnacle.
“I don’t know what happened that night,” he says. “It just happened. I wasn’t going to fight it.
“I’m sure it won’t happen again.”