Near-Perfect Bowl Inquiry

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Video: Back From Iraq

March 8 , 2006 2:07 p.m.

For some years now, I have heard the account of Johnny Fumbles at a batting cage in one of the boroughs — how he managed to hit a baseball at 80 mph. His secret, he said, was to begin his swing before the mechanical arm actually delivered the pitch.

These accounts were always buttressed by Fumbles imitating the motion of the pitching machine, followed by his own prowess in the batters' box, ending with a grin of triumph and occasionally, an unabashed shuffle.

Thus, I greeted with little surprise, his recent revelation that at one time he had bowled a 257. It seemed puzzling that I would hear the minor batting cage story so often and never hear of this more substantial achievement. Thus began my investigation.

The game occurred, Fumbles said, in 1967 or 1968. It happened in Fort Jackson, South Carolina, where JF was an Army Private and a short order cook at the lanes. An initial search revealed lanes did exist at the Fort in 1968. Under further inquiry, Fumbles said he rolled seven straight strikes, then fell apart. This struck something in my memory.

"You never call a no-hitter in the seventh inning," was a phrase I'd heard Fumbles use often. Perhaps it was from a man who called a perfect game in the 7th frame. Using a computer program provided by Q, I tried various scenarios.

Here is one possibility:

Frames 1-7 — Strikes
Frame 8 — 9, spare
Frame 9 — 9, spare
Frame 10 — 9, spare, strike

Total = 257

Yet this total meant no open frames.

The mathematical investigation reveals a discrepancy between what JF reported — a strong initial 7 frames, followed by a collapse...or a complete game with no open frames.

He had never broken the 200 barrier before, or since. He grew impatient with further inquiries, as if his honor was in question. On that day, he said, in what sounded like a baffled plea, "I just couldn't miss."

E-mail Harrigan

I believe there is more than one way to score a 257, starting with 7 strikes.

Frames 1-7 strike
Frame 8 9, open
Frame 9 strike
Frame 10 strike, strike, gutter.

I'd call that falling apart, and it adds up to 257.


Your analysis of the score is correct, and as a bowler I would be elated with a game like that, or for any game where I had no open frames. But I wonder if you ever heard of the bowler that bowled 9 strikes in a game and only bowled 120. It can be done, and I've won many bets on it. No tricks. Just wondering if you heard of it. It's been around as long as I have (60+ years) and certainly before that. You'd have to be a bowler with the hiccups to shot a game like that, but it can be done, mathematically anyway.

Lake Worth, Florida


You do such a great job!!! I am a big fan! Thank you for the photo essays!! They are wonderful! And they make the job they are doing so personal.

Milford, MA

This score, 257 is great, but I have an Air Force friend who has bowled three 300 games.

Bob Wyatt

Dear Steve:

Thank you for the soldiers pictures and stories, and Thank You for your story. I have no one I know who is in Iraq fighting the war, but can you give a soldier a hello from me


I watched you on "FOX & Friends" when you returned from Iraq. I'd been checking your blog since I'd seen a brief piece with a live shot one day. My brother is in the 1-187, so I try to obtain all the information I can.

I joked in a letter to him that you were following him! If I remember correctly, you came here (MS) during or shortly after Hurricane Katrina.

Jon got home for his 10 days off before deployment the day before the storm hit. My mother, myself and daughters evacuated. Jon and my father were determined to stay behind in Ocean Springs. When communication ceased and the roads were blocked, we feared we wouldn't see him on his 10 days, but he was able to get to us in time to visit a couple of days. In his "I'm such a clown" tone of voice he joked that he couldn't wait to get over to Iraq and get away from all the chaos and destruction! He always tries to lighten the mood to make us feel better.

The point of this e-mail---- I trust your reports, whereas, I have lost trust in MANY media sources...everything seems slanted in one direction or another. Great Coverage!
I'm not sure if you even saw D company, but getting informed about the circumstances in the general area was great!