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Bowlers Journal At 100 SCHOOL DAYS AND FREEZING ARENAS


had met on the campus of Notre Dame several years earlier on a blind date arranged by the daughter of one of my professors.


I had planned to cover the 1956


ABC Tournament in Rochester, N.Y., for the wire services and the usual list of Bowlers Journal Press Service clients. Alas, Fitzgerald, who’d been handed our portfolio three years earlier, refused to surrender it.


Denied the Associated Press and United Press accounts, I shopped


around for another major client. I fi nally had to settle for International News Service, which was running a weak third among national news wholesalers. I also managed to sign up 40 daily newspapers, largely because of my father’s clout with sports editors around the country. My new bride and I headed off to Rochester in the dead of winter and spent nearly three freezing months in the Rochester War Memorial. Between dispatches to my newspaper accounts, I batted out stories for Bowlers Journal and mailed them back to my “co-editor” in Chicago. Meanwhile, Fitzgerald glowered at me from across the pressroom; he was highly annoyed that I had managed to corral some of my father’s old newspaper accounts.


Mort Sr. came to visit us in Rochester on his way to Buff alo, N.Y., to pick up the Billiard and Bowling Institute of America Industry Service Award, the last of many kudos recognizing his huge contributions to the sport. It was obvious that he was fading fast.


A few months after the ABC, I was back in the Chicago offi ce when I got a call from my mother. My father had died in his sleep in a berth on a Pullman car on his way back from a party for ABC President Clarence Leonard in Houston. He was only 60.


The funeral was huge. Hundreds of his business and journalism pals came from all over the country. I’m sure a lot of them glanced over the casket at this skinny, pale lad of 25 and wondered if I was going to be able to fi ll my old man’s shoes.


Thankfully, I had plenty of help. One of my father’s hard-drinking chums, Byron Schoeman, an editor for the Daily Racing Form, came to our offi ce during his lunch break every afternoon and showed me the niceties of layout and editing. Ernie Ahlborn, who’d been on staff for three years, handled most of the advertising. My mother, who in the past had been involved only in the periphery of the business, took charge of bookkeeping and circulation duties.


With all this backing, I was able to go off to the ABC Tournament every February and continue my BJ Press Service chores. Fitzgerald gave up his ABC reporting and went to work full-time with the Chicago Tribune, enabling me to build up our wire


service and daily newspaper network.


In addition to the ABC, we covered many other events, including the BPAA All-Star and the World’s Invitational. The volume at these events was so enor- mous that I would hire three or four additional writers to help handle the load.


In addition to providing a reliable stream of income, the Press Service bolstered the company in many ways. Back in the days when ABC was bowling’s biggest and best showcase, it put us in the heart of the action. It also enabled us to wield considerable clout with the all-important news services.


Byron Schoeman, with a cigar always at hand (or in mouth), wrote a popular Bowlers Journal column called “The Last Word” for many years. The veteran newsman also provided Mort Luby Jr. with valuable training in editing and page design.


I knew most of the import- ant editors at Associated Press and United Press headquarters. When I’d call and suggest a bowling story, they’d listen. At least, most of the time.


Ted Smits, the legendary general sports editor of the Associated Press, once turned down my suggestion that I cov- er an important international event in Sweden. ABC Public Relations Director Bruce Pluck- hahn and I went to New York, and invited Smits to lunch at Toots Shor’s. After numerous dry martinis, Ted fi nally agreed. But Bowlers Journal maga- zine, now as well as in the past, has always been the heart and soul of this company. The BJ Press Service helped sustain our fl agship periodical for many years but, in the end, it proved vulnerable to the changing cul- ture of the media and the pub- lic at large.


We covered the ABC for the wire services for the last time in 1972. The magazine, however, has soldiered on through thick and thin.


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April 2013


EVERYTHING BOWLING, ALL THE TIME


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