One and one-sixteenth inches with a quarter inch reverse pitch; three quarters of an inch and thirteen-sixteenths-inch with a pitch.
All tenpin bowlers should recognize that. It's the formula for drilling a bowling ball. The above measurements happen to be the ones that Earl Anthony used when he was at the top of his game.
Drilling your ball properly is probably the most important thing to do to increase your average. It's more important than shoes, more important than the wrist-bands, maybe even more important than how much you practice.
Enter Walt Cervenka, a bowling ball doctor.
"I give Walt Cervenka a lot of the credit for my improved bowling. He worked with me for over a year to be sure that the balls he drills for me are exactly right," said Ed Lanehart, a senior bowler who lives in Ellicott City -- and holds a 225 average.
The Cervenka story starts with a young man in a hurry. He drove dragsters for three years, -- until one day he busted up the car and various parts of himself, including his wrist. It was then that he found out that everyone drilled the same, that nobody could drill a ball that would help the injured wrist.
That's when Cervenka began to study the human wrist, its make-up, its measurements, its flexibility -- its lack of flexibility in some cases. He discovered how many bowlers were suffering from strained wrists, strained elbows and torn-up thumbs because they were trying to bowl with improperly drilled balls. He found a plethora of bowling balls were sitting in closets, never to be used again.
It was then that Cervenka became obsessed with learning how to drill a ball better than anyone else. He spent months measuring fingers, hands, wrist, palms; he developed his own formula, by trial and error, for measuring a bowler's hand and drilling the ball so that it fit exactly -- not partially, not close, but exactly. He has spent years studying the human hand and how it works in the hand-to-ball relationship.
He spent more than $10,000 buying bowling balls to drill; he built his first press in the basement of his home.
He taught himself to be an excellent bowler by watching pro bowling tournament and video tapes. Right now he's averaging about 205 with very little time for practice; Cervenka is busy drilling bowling balls.
The effort has worked well.
Lanehart, because of a youth spent body-building, had various joints that had been subject to a lot of strain; some joints, in the fingers, that had a little arthritis. But Lanehart is a competitor. He wanted a ball to be drilled to help him, not hinder.
Cervenka and Lanehart worked together for years, drilling, measuring, re-drilling, re-measuring, until both were satisfied.
"Ed needed a relaxed pitch to accommodate his arthritis and an increased amount of lateral offset of the thumb," Cervenka said. "Finally, we have a ball where the revolutions come naturally, without strain; now the ball fits his hand more like a glove, it's adjusted to his hand, so that during the release his hand stays behind the ball but still comes out cleanly."
Cervenka these days is at the pro shop in the Fair Lanes - Ritchie bowling center. There, he takes a lot of measurements before doing anything else. You may have noticed that Earl Anthony's thumb and finger measurements totaled four; recently, when Cervenka measured me for a ball, the total measurements were 24 -- four of those measurements were for the thumb hinge alone.
Bowler of the week, Youth Leagues at Brunswick Columbia
Most pins over average per game Division I (6-11)
9/8/90 Kerry Simms: plus 34 pins
9/15/90 Rebecca Hall: plus 49 pins
9/22/90 Brian Hall: plus 46 pins
9/29/90 plus 46 pins
Most pins over average per series, Division II (12-21)
Scott Dolecki: 148 pins over average
Chris Walker: 114 pins over average
Nora Davis: 109 pins over average
Christen Messenger: 85 pins over average