SYRACUSE — Ed Sebring throws a mean left hook. If he delivers it just perfectly, he can apply a knockout blow almost every time.
At 71, the Street resident throws his knockout punches more often than not in tenpin bowling competitions. The lefty -- and a Harford-Cecil County SeniorsTournament champion several times over -- showed off his deadly hookat the U.S. National Senior Sports Classic here last weekend.
That hook, which almost puts the ball in the gutter, comes from afew adaptations he's made to counteract the effects of aging. Arthritis in his wrist means Sebring can't bowl like he used to, so he picked up a new ball and a new style to make the most of what power he does have. His arm and fingers do most of the work.
"I hold the ballwith my thumb at three o'clock and roll it hard," said the Philadelphia native. "I aim for the gutter. If it works, it comes right into the 1-2 (pin) pocket. If it misses, the ball comes into the 1-3 pocketand pushes everything over like a snow plow."
A gold-medal winnerin the 70-74 age group at the Maryland Senior Olympics last October,Sebring didn't have the same charm at the nationals. His best three-game set was a 505 last Friday. The next day, he rolled 437.
"I bowled terrible," said Sebring, who did not qualify for the roll-off among the top six in each age group. "But nobody in this group did verywell. We didn't have a 200 game. With seven guys over two days, that's very unusual. In warm-up, I had two -- 227 and 221."
Nobody in the bowling alley can miss "Big Ed."
He stands 6-foot-5 and wears a Carolina blue bowling shirt with "Ed Sebring" in red script across the back. Right underneath his name, there's a drawing of a bowling ball crashing into three pins.
Sebring also has a kelly green polo shirt with similar decorations. The designs on both were painted by Grant Teague Jr. "He's an artist and he makes them for the whole team at Bel Air Bowl. I just wear them for the novelty," said Sebring, adding that he's not superstitious.
But he could have used some good luck at the nationals competition, especially on the first day of competition when an allergy to rosin and powder gave him some problems. American Bowling Congress rules prohibit rosin or powder by the competitors' chairs and the scoring table, said Sebring, but it was evident in a couple of spots on the ball-return rack.
Although his allergic reaction wasn't serious, a couple whiffs of the powder dried out his throat. That ruined his concentration.
"In the first game, I had four strikes and a spare. Then, when I turned around, I saw (the powder). On the next ball, I got three pins. On the second ball, I didn't get anything. From that point on, I lost control," said Sebring, who has a 170 average.
His early marks salvaged the first game, a 175, but Sebring managed only a 134 in the second game. However, he bounced back in the third game to roll a 196.
"I decided in the third game I would sit as far away from it as I could and I wouldn't think about it. Tomorrow (Saturday), there better not be any powder or rosin up there."
There wasn't, but his bowling didn't get any better. "You have those kinds of days sometimes," said Sebring, who usually bowls his best games in tournaments.
Still, like most of the other seniors here, Sebring was glad he came, regardless of his score. "You have something in common with all these people. First, you're old. Second, you're bowling. You never hear any talk like, 'I'm the top man. You're going to have to beat me.' You just do the best you can that day."
A retired supervisor in charge of maintenance at the Peach Bottom nuclear power plant near Delta, Pa., Sebring has been bowling for 50 years. He says he took his wife, Ruth, to the bowling alleyon their first date. Both have bowled in leagues through the years, but now Sebring just substitutes at Bel Air Bowl and Forest Hill Lanes.
During the summer months, he and his wife are more likely to befound cruising the Mid-Atlantic states in their motor home. Their son, Scott, now owns the 60-acre family farm where quarter horses and cattle have been raised for the last 13 years.
That leaves Sebring and his wife free to spend much of the winter in Sebring, Fla., where, he likes to joke, "I own everything."