Baltimore's Toots Duckpin champ: Barger dominated her local bowling the way Babe Ruth dominated baseball.

October 01, 1998

BEFORE Cal Ripken, before Brooks Robinson, even before John Unitas, there was Toots Barger -- a superstar in a sport that is uniquely Baltimore.

Elizabeth Barger, who died Monday at 85 in Frederick, was duckpin bowling's equivalent of Babe Ruth. She dominated her sport for decades.

With the growing popularity of television in the 1950s, she became this town's reigning celebrity. Big TV audiences watched her triumph 12 times in the Evening Sun duckpin bowling tournament.

For a quarter-century, Toots Barger ruled the world of duckpins, those squat, foot-high pins spaced so widely apart that it makes tenpin bowling with those gigantic balls look easy.

She captured every major national duckpin title and every local title. She was ranked No. 1 in the country 13 times. Her maddening consistency, accuracy and nerves of steel made her nearly unbeatable.

Ms. Barger popularized the sport in the 1940s and 1950s in the town where duckpins got their start. Her longevity, skill on the duckpin lanes and popularity with sports fans made her a Baltimore icon.

Pub Date: 10/01/98

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