“The Maestro Of The Alleys Carries On
He took a deep breath, looked into the yawning maw of the bowling alley and at the 10 pins standing far down the shining lane.
He considered the score sheet and took a deep breath. He had just bowled eight strikes in a row for three succeeding games. He was going for 10 straight strikes in this one, and the world’s bowling record.
He rolled the ball down the alley, straight and true but he missed a strike. He recouped by knocking down the remaining pins for a spare.
He threw the next ball. He was in the last frame and tense as a fiddle string. There was a lot more involved than just winning a Moline city league game that night in 1924.
Spectators and teammates moaned. The four and seven pin still stood. Tension mounted as he waited for his ball to return.
A teammate pulled anxiously at his shirt.
“Remember Abbie, you’re shooting for a world bowling record,” he murmured. A reminder like that was the last thing handsome Abbie Hartzman of Moline needed right then. He was six pins below the world record and still had a chance to crack it. He was bowling a league game and his score would be official and of record.
He frowned at his worried compatriot while his nerves wound tighter. As he sighted the two pins expertly he tried to ignore the atmosphere around him which was so thick you could cut it with a knife.
He threw the ball using none of his usual acrobatics or fancy footwork. He just threw it straight and fast. Then waited.
There was no sound of crashing pins or of the ball slamming into wood. There was just dead silence. The noisy gallery was quiet in hushed unbelief.
He had missed entirely and the world record still stood. But Arvid “Abbie” Hartzman rolled up a local bowling record that night – a solid 789 for three games – that is still unbroken 42 years later in Moline.
Legend Of The Alleys
Now 74, Abbie’s eyes still sparkle with pleasure as he remembers the days that followed his notable game. Fifteen and 40 years later sports writers were still marveling in bowling stories about the unbeatable record Abbie rolled up that night.
Today he pursues a less strenuous recreation – shuffleboard – but the devilish little pucks take a lot of skill and he works hard every day at the Wunder Y tavern on 16th St. perfecting his shooting techniques and on a continually better game.
But bowling is a story with Abbie Hartzman, who is a legend on the alleys.
Abbie began bowling back in 1921 when the game was just catching on and beginning to be popular.
Days he worked at his job as a draftsman for Velie Motor Co. but nights he spent bowling, mostly at the alleys at the LeClaire Hotel.
The game intrigued him. Being a bachelor with plenty of free time on his hands he began spending more and more time perfecting his game. Soon he was bowling every night of the week and twice on Saturday and Sunday.
He says now that he was so busy with bowling that he had no time for girls or dating so he never married.
They gambled on the games then. The bowlers made up a jackpot and paid off on the average high number of pins.
Abbie soon became one of the best bowlers in the region. He was also a colorful bowler and became known as “the Maestro of the Alleys.”
Sports writers turned out reams of glowing copy on Abbie’s style, his feats with the ball, and his antics on the alleys.
“Abbie is probably one of the most colorful bowlers in the tri-cities,” Art Unger, sportswriter, reported in a column many years ago. “He is a regular contortionist on the alleys using plenty of the so-called ‘body English’.”
“Many are the times during his career that teammates have feared for his safety if he happened to be shooting in a 10-pin establishment with a low ceiling because his acrobatics on the alleys includes many leaps high into the air.”
…They called him Professor Hartzman around Simpson’s Alleys in Moline, where he was employed as an instructor.
He was a member of the Tri-City Classic league for many seasons.
In 1928 Abbie received a diamond medal from the American Bowling Congress for bowling a perfect score in a tri-city league match.
As time went on, Abbie’s accomplishments grew. So did his collection of newspaper clippings. His picture was often in newspapers as he broke record after record and smashed to victory in tournament after tournament.
He bowled a lot at the Elks Lodge bowling alley. He has been a member of the lodge since 1919…
…He bowled in 11 American Bowling Congress tournaments in as many years in Detroit, Chicago (twice), Minneapolis, St. Paul, New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Milwaukee, Des Moines.
Abbie was so carried away by bowling himself he wanted to interest as many people as possible.
He helped organize the first women’s league in local bowling in 1927 with five players to a team. The organization meeting was different to say the least.
“They were so shy about the whole things that no one would nominate any one for officers, so I nominated all the officers myself and had them vote on my nominations,” he said.
Then everyone got stuck on a name for the league and Abbie finally told them to call it the White Way League in honor of the proud new White Way street light system just installed in Moline.
That original league in still bowling today…
…In 1947, Abbie’s bowling career ended abruptly and violently.
As he was driving home late one night, a car crashed into his and Abbie was badly injured. His right leg was smashed and remained stiff after it healed.
This meant the end of Abbie’s fancy footwork and it also meant the end of his bowling career for his co-ordination in that leg was also gone.
Now he is retired. He spends his days pleasantly at the Elks Lodge and finishes early at the Wunder Y playing shuffleboard.
And once in a while he shyly shows a new acquaintance his precious hoard of yellow, time-brittle clippings.
Then time turns back to those palmy days in bowling when records were thrilling news – and handsome Abbie Hartzman was the high-leaping, fan-gathering, records-setting “Maestro of the Alleys.””
November 4, 1966