There's a guy that I bowl with on Wednesdays who did something spectacular last night. In addition to shooting a 760 series, which in the ranks of amateur bowlers, is incredibly good, Rich Babcock took a perfect game into the final roll of the 10th frame. He crossed over, unfortunately, leaving two pins. But he still came up with a 298, and rarely have I been happier to see one guy bowl so well.
I only know Rich through Bay View Bowl. A few years ago, we needed a fifth bowler, and he came out of the woodwork to join our team. We bowled together for two years, and I got to know Rich a little better. He's the kind of guy with a memory like a steel trap: he has every line from every episode of "The Simpsons" memorized. He can recall specific conversations on the morning show from the old WQFM. He relays Brewers statistics like he was reading the back of a baseball card. And no matter what is going on outside bowling, he's always happy to be there, doling out the high fives to teammates and opponents alike.
In real life, Rich works as a landscaper in the warm months and as snow plow driver when it gets cold. He's a family man who raves about his daughter, his cabin in central Wisconsin, and of course, which episode of "The Simpsons" was on the night before. He's one of those hyper guys who puts everyone in a better mood on Wednesdays nights, even if he's been plowing snow for the preceding 18 hours. And that's why it was great to watch the action unfold last night.
During the first two games, Rich didn't mention that he was bowling the series of his life. In fact, he was on the opposite side of the alley, so I didn't know until the 10th frame of the third game that something strange was afoot. That's when the music stopped, the entire league held up and watched him bury the pocket on the first two shots.
When Rich delivered the final toss, he shouted "The Isopotes win!" which, of course, was a "Simpsons" line. Even though he didn't strike, friends and teammates hugged him, congratulated him and toasted his success.
When I finally talked to Rich, he was drenched in sweat. And he said to me, "I'll finally get in the paper," which is true. Apparently, if you bowl a 750 series or higher, you get a mention in the sports section.
But that wasn't enough for me, which is why I'm writing this blog.
Rich attributed his success last night to his jukebox skills, as he is, after all, the self-proclaimed "rock and roll doctor." He said he muffed that final ball only because the music stopped and the other bowlers paused to watch him. Rich may be many things, but an attention junkie he is not. He told me the Isotopes line was pre-rehearsed, and he'd been saving it for his first perfect game (this was the best game he ever bowled, besting a 278 years ago. It was also his first 700 series).
I asked Rich if he'll remember this night forever, and he said, "Next to the birth of my daughter, this is the best night of my life." And I believe him.
I think Rich will get some sort of patch or mug or watch from the sanctioning body of bowling, in addition to his newspaper mention. He'll also get his name on the board at Bay View Bowl for the remainder of the season. And, he'll get this tribute blog, which I hope he reads.
Congratulations, Rich, for an outstanding night of bowling. It couldn't have happened to a better guy.
Andy is the president, publisher and founder of OnMilwaukee. He returned to Milwaukee in 1996 after living on the East Coast for nine years, where he wrote for The Dallas Morning News Washington Bureau and worked in the White House Office of Communications. He was also Associate Editor of The GW Hatchet, his college newspaper at The George Washington University.
Before launching OnMilwaukee.com in 1998 at age 23, he worked in public relations for two Milwaukee firms, most of the time daydreaming about starting his own publication.
Hobbies include running when he finds the time, fixing the rust on his '75 MGB, mowing the lawn at his cottage in the Northwoods, and making an annual pilgrimage to Phoenix for Brewers Spring Training.