'Tis Maryland born and Maryland bred. That's duckpins, folks.
It was the spring of 1890 that John McGraw, the fabled Orioles manager, and a friend, Wilbert Robinson, figured out a way to juice up business at their Diamond Lanes [tenpin lanes, of course] in Baltimore. They whittled down a few tenpins and a few tenpin bowling balls [they were made of wood, too] and a smaller version of tenpins was born.
Baltimore Sun sportswriter Bill Clark coined the term "duckpin" after some bowlers commented that the flying pins resembled a flock of flying ducks.
The duckpins were reduced from the 15-inch tenpin size to the present size -- just over nine inches; the weight was reduced from approximately 3 1/2 pounds to about 1 1/2 pounds. The rest is bowling history.
The game took off like gangbusters. Today the National Duckpin Congress claims almost 200,000 members and estimates of regular duckpin bowlers run into the millions. The Baltimore metropolitan area is a hotbed of duckpin action -- except for one locale.
Harford County doesn't have a single duckpin facility available to its citizens.
Nobody knows, but it sure isn't because of lack of interest in the sport.
It seems an item for "Ripley's Believe It or Not" that Harford County, without a single duckpin lane, is home to some of the finest duckpin bowlers in the nation.
"We have a bunch of fine young bowlers in Harford County," Frank Applestein said. "I know, because they travel from Harford County to bowl at Greenway East in leagues and tournaments."
For almost 20 years, Applestein has been active in youth duckpin bowling in Maryland.
Is there a groundswell of interest in building a duckpin center in Harford County? You bet.
"There are groups who are exploring the possibility of building a duckpin center," Kathy Williams said. The Bel Air resident and president of the Women's Baltimore Professional Duckpin Association sees a definite need for a duckpin lane.
"Many, many duckpin bowlers who have moved to Harford County have switched to tenpin bowling because they don't want to have to travel to Baltimore County or Baltimore to participate in the sport. I know that right now I could put together a whole league of senior citizens if there was a duckpin center in Harford County," she said.
Would there be support from other organizations?
John Shanahan, president of the Baltimore Bowlers Association, would welcome another duckpin center.
"Our duckpin organization is active now in about 30 centers, and the BBA would immediately extend a helping hand to another center in Harford County. The BBA is always trying to make duckpin bowling better for the bowlers."
The BBA is a duckpin organization set up to assist sanctioned duckpin bowlers in the Baltimore area.
"It's a shame that a duckpin facility doesn't exist in Harford County," said Bill Hunt, President of the National Duckpin Bowling Congress, headquartered in Baltimore as the supervising duckpin bowling organization in the United States.
So any endeavor to launch a duckpin bowling center in Harford County would have the full support of the duckpin community and its organizations.
There's a ready market of active duckpin bowlers who would welcome a duckpin lane in Harford with enthusiasm if it got rolling, but so far no one has picked up the ball.