It took 60 years, but 83-year-old Northwood resident Bob Brandburg got his first 300 game bowling at the Sports Center in East Toledo.
“I’m bowling better now than I did when I was younger,” Brandburg said. “Of course, we had those hard rubber balls then, too. I think I was in the 190s, and at that time you could only throw a hook about this much. Now, with these resin balls it’s a lot better.”
He didn’t use his regular ball bowling the perfect game, either. His regular ball wasn’t hooking well on the oil at the Sports Center, so he went to his locker and got a ball given to him by professional John Stevens, who runs the pro shop.
Using a black, 15-pound Hammer “No Mercy” resin ball, Brandburg was able to get it hooking just enough to achieve perfection.
“I’ve had lots of 299s, 298s, but I’ve always left the 10-pin standing,” Brandburg said. “I did have one at this lane here (pointing at Eastern Freeway Lanes) one night — a 775 and a 289 — which was the closest I came before I finally got it.”
Brandburg wasn’t the first in the league to bowl a perfect game that night. He said East Toledo native Pat Thayer, whom the elder Brandburg has known since he was a child, had just finished bowling his 300. When Brandburg got past his eighth strike, a large crowd developed cheering him on.
“The whole league came down,” Brandburg said. “They always do that when you’re bowling a 300 — watching you.
“They had a guy (Thayer) just before me, he bowled a 300. I went down to congratulate him, and he was gone. He was out smoking, and he came back and came down and I had eight in a row, and he says, ‘I got mine, now you get yours.’ I coached him in bowling, and he says, ‘I owe it all to you anyways. Go ahead and get yours.’ By golly, I did the same night,” Brandburg said.
Before Brandburg’s feat was completed, there was some confusion about the score. But Brandburg, an athlete his entire life, remained calm.
“Really, I didn’t (get nervous). I thought before when I had chances (to get a 300), and I’d leave the 10-pin I’d be kind of nervous about it because of the 7-8-10 pins,” Brandburg said. “That night I was just as calm as a cucumber.
“I had to wait, then I went up and bowled two balls — both strikes in the 10th and the light went off and gave me a 300 — it gave me another strike. Everybody came down and congratulated me, and I said, ‘No, no, I’ve got to bowl another frame.’ They had to straighten that out on the monitor, and as soon as I bowled the next one there was, I think, a lot (watching) because of my age.”
Brandburg, a World War II veteran retired from the former Gulf Oil refinery in Oregon, has been bowling since his days attending Olney High School, where he was a standout baseball and basketball player.
“I did some bowling, just a bunch of us high schoolers, right before I went into the service. I went into the service right after I got out (of HS),” Brandburg said.
“You know at the Sports Center, you used to bowl 10 cents a game. You used to bowl 20 games for $2. I hired into Gulf Oil in ’48 — they had a bowling league and I started bowling in that league and I bowled in that for a couple years, then I went over to a Monday night league over at the Sports Center and I bowled in that for 50 years until my knees went bad. Then I finally got that replaced, and I came back and bowled in that.”
At 83, Brandburg still bowls in three leagues — at Eastern Freeway Lanes every Wednesday night, in a Seniors League at Eastern on Monday mornings, and then Thursday nights at the Sports Center — where he got his perfect game.
He remembers a time when Toledo was considered one of America’s top bowling cities, and he used to hang out at Eastern Lanes.
“I was here a lot before I was working. There was a guy working here by the name of Bill Velliquette — he was the best bowling instructor in the city of Toledo. In the whole Ohio,” Brandburg said. “People used to come here from all over, and stay over here at the motel, and get lessons from him. He’s the one who taught me how to bowl.”
Bob is not the only bowler in his family. His wife of 61 years, Joan, bowls in a senior league at the Sports Center, and their son Gary has four 300s and a couple 299s. His other son, Terry, is a golfer, and he has a daughter, Bonnie, too.
Brandburg’s 300 also got his sister, Oregon resident Donna Canaday, bragging about her brother. Brandburg says Donna is a pretty good bowler, too.
Brandburg still volunteers afternoons at Eastern Lanes, serving food to school-aged children from Northwood who arrive for leagues and lessons. After 60-plus years of bowling, anyone interested in getting a “quick” lesson can just visit him at Eastern, he says.
“Just anybody comes in here and I show them this and that,” Brandburg says. “From him (Veliquette), I pass it on. I can watch you bowl two frames and can tell you what you’re doing wrong. You know, it’s just there.”
At 83, he takes care of himself, too, looking as fit as he did when he got out of the military and had four Major League baseball organizations scouting him.
“I walk every day and I watch what I eat. I’m very careful when I eat — I don’t’ eat a lot of sweets, just low-calorie stuff,” Brandburg said.