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Bowlers Journal At 100 By Mort Luby Jr. (Part 10 in a 12-Part Series)


E HAD MANAGED to keep our little ship afl oat for many years, despite a pathetic sales force. I supposedly handled advertising sales in the Midwest and West, while an equally inept ad peddler from New York covered the East Coast. We were both miserable marketers, but Bowlers Journal for me to lure decent sales people.

W wlers Journal’s cheap ad page rate made it impossible The typical ad rep works on a

straight commission, meaning low ad rates equate to lousy pay. That’s why I was lucky that St. Louis

publisher C.C. Johnson Spink fired Bob Inserra from the sales force of the Sporting Goods Dealer.

I’d met Bob several

times at various sport- ing goods shows while he was working for Spink. Although we

Mort Luby Jr.

were competitors, we always got along just fine.

Art Serbo, Brunswick’s longtime pub- lic relations director (and a congenital matchmaker), called me one bright day and said that In- serra had been fi red and was looking for a job. I knew that Bob was one of the highest earning ad reps in the sports industry (that’s why Spink fi red him), and I was hesitant to call him. Although Bob was well aware of our low ad rate (to say nothing of my legend- ary frugality), he surprised me by coming aboard at Bowlers

Journal. His fi rst monthly pay check, he loved to remind me, was $246.

From then on, Inserra was our se- cret weapon. He ingratiated himself with most of our industry suppliers and promptly boosted our ad revenues. He also bolstered the editorial department by submitting a never-ending stream of handwritten reports and photos from the fi eld. (He also sponsored numerous com- pany bocce tournaments in his backyard, thereby improving employee morale.) With the sales department in good hands, I began dreaming about starting another magazine. Building a huge pub- lishing empire was about the last thing on my mind. I simply wanted to enlarge the business to the point that we could hire enough people to cover all the bases. Whenever a member of the staff quit or was fi red, we had no replacements. We had no clout with our suppliers, because we were so small.

Bowlers Journal’s nameplate had actually changed several times over


Brunswick’s longtime public relations director, Art Serbo (left), was largely responsible for the hiring of Bob Inserra (right), who became a “secret weapon” for Bowlers Journal.

the years. Grandpa Dave’s fi rst masthead read, “Bowler’s Journal, Devoted to All Athletic Sports.” Then it became

“Bowlers Journal, the National Bowling Magazine.” Then it was “National Bowlers Journal and Billiard Revue” (where did they get that spelling?). Because bowling and billiards

had grown up together, we had run quite a few billiard stories over the years. Despite the lean years of the mid- 1960s, billiard advertising had actually saved our bacon. It meant only two or three additional pages of ads per issue, but that was enough to keep the wolf from the door.

The fact that we then served as the “offi cial publication” of the Billiard and Bowling Institute of America was another impetus for covering pool. Besides, I personally enjoyed covering pool tournaments and relished the time I spent with pool players, certainly some of the more fl amboyant characters in all of sport.

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September 2013

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