Splitzter - October 24, 2003

Eight hundred and forty seven. Around the Chicagoland area, this would be an area code. In Henry county, it’s the highest series ever shot during league play. This pinnacle of bowlingdom is currently shared by Shane Bofia and Rick Riebesel. Well fellas, add another placemat at the table because guess who’s coming to dinner. Tom Hoeffel was zoning Monday night in the N R & G Recycling league. You think Air Jordan can stroke the ball? You should have been watching Tommy.

Game one saw our hero stroking the first eleven strikes before a “solid” Brooklyn shot left a wobbly nine pin. A 299 game. Congrats came from every corner of the center and landed on Tom as he took the jabs from his fellow bowlers concerning crossing over on the last shot. Nice guy that he is, Tom flashed that Tommy grin of his and enjoyed the moment. Things settled down and the evening continued.

Half way thru game two you saw fingers pointing at the screens on 15 & 16 as folks began to notice that he was on a roll again. Tom had the first six strikes again, then seven, then eight. This couldn’t be happening. A solid ten pin leave in the ninth frame shattered the strike onslaught and Tom finished with 269.

Game three began like the others, with Tom throwing his first four strikes. Hurriedly, guys were doing the math, counting fingers and toes (yes, I did see Junior Mohler take off his shoe to count digits). What would it take for Tom to shoot the season’s first 800 series? My $1.97 calculator told me a 232 would be needed to get the job done. A pesky 10 pin in the fifth slowed him down a bit.

Strikes in the sixth and seventh frames assured Tom the 800 number assuming a clean finish with good count. The strike in the eighth rubber-stamped the 800. The bomb he threw in the ninth raised the question I haven’t heard in a year, “What’s the county record?” Tom needed to throw all three in the tenth frame for 847 and a tie. By the time Tom stepped up to take his shot, I believe everyone knew what was on the line and what he needed to do.

The first ball was a thing of beauty, as were most of the others that evening. Ten in the pit, two to go. Ball eleven was a carbon copy of the previous shot with the same results. A roar went up followed by total silence as Tom stepped up for the last shot. The last stroke was everything you’d want to see in a record setting shot. Good speed, right over the mark and ten pins hustling to the back of the pit. It was cool. Guys were yelling, Tommy was speechless (something I’ve NEVER seen) and our bowling hero was swamped by well wishers.

Just so this feat doesn’t get taken for granted, let us recap. Game 1-11 strikes. Game 2-9 strikes. Game 3-11 strikes. That’s 31 strikes out of 35 shots. I can’t be the only one to be amazed by this. In talking with Tom after the fact, he spoke of the four shots that he got away with. Gheesh, four shots he got away with? Now that’s a zone. Anyone who has watched Tom throw knows two things: 1-When he’s got his “A” game, the ball rolls right off his hand and drops maybe 2 inches to the lane. Yes, he’s that smooth. 2-When he’s on his “A” game, he’ll carry absolutely everything. Not because he’s lucky, but because he won’t miss his mark or his speed by more than a fraction. Tom’s been bowling since he was a wee pup in the Saturday junior leagues and a night like this was made for an individual such as him, one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet and a very good friend. Nice job, buddy.

Oh, and by the way. Dan Hall shot a 300 Wednesday night.