Airway Bowl, usually filled with the sounds of crashing pins and loud conversation, fell silent on the evening of Feb. 1.
“I was doing some work in my office when everything got quieter and quieter,” Airway Bowl owner Bob Linebarger said. “I didn’t know if everyone had left or what, so I went out to see.”
No one had left.
All attention was focused on lanes nine and 10 where the team of Dan’s Total Automotive, made up of Joe Rutledge, Dan Anderson, Kevin Gouin and brothers Bob and Dave Johnson, was on its way to breaking the Spokane Bowling Association’s record for high scratch game for a five-man team.
With a score of 1,261 in the night’s third game, Dan’s Total Automotive broke the 1,258 record, which stood for 20 years. It was set by Jim Hansen, Dick Hoering, Bob Meulner, Ed Stevens and Bob Nielson in the 1974-75 season at North Bowl.
After losing the first two games in the handicap Merchants League, the members of Dan’s Total Automotive knew they would need a strong third game to split with opponent Do Right Services by taking high series as well.
No one was prepared for what came next.
“I think, going into the 10th frame, we realized by the number of marks we had that we had a shot,” Rutledge said.
Rutledge, a 26-year-old maintenance instructor for the Air Force, led off the 10th with two strikes and a nine-count, and finished with a 232.
He was followed by Anderson’s 269.
Forty-year-old Dave Johnson, a correctional officer at Pine Lodge in Medical Lake, finished with a 204.
“We just got beat really bad the first two games and, in the third game, we just came back,” Johnson said. “I knew we had a chance to get the high game for our league, but that’s all I knew.”
Kevin Gouin, a 34-year-old auto mechanic, also struck out in the 10th frame, finishing with a 257.
“The first two games we didn’t bowl very well,” Gouin said. “Then the next thing we know, Bob Johnson said ‘Hey guys, if we keep this up we’ve got a chance at it.”’
As for Bob Johnson, who anchored the team, he was working on a 300 game going into the final frame, but had to settle for a 299 after leaving a pin on his last throw.
“That was a let down for myself, but not for the team,” said Johnson, who has bowled five previous sanctioned 300’s. “Anytime you get 11 (strikes) in a row, you definitely want the 12th one.”
As it was, Bob Johnson’s 297-pin performance is what pushed the team over the edge to get the record, as he needed to bowl at least a 297.
“I think what kept everyone going is that Bob had a chance to shoot a 300,” Rutledge said.
Although having a chance at the record put extra pressure on the team, especially in the final frames, the members handled it like pros.
“I wanted to do pretty well to keep (Bob’s) momentum going,” Gouin said. “After I struck out, I knew Bob had to strike out.”
Even after the game was over, the team had to wait until the scores were added up before they knew they were the new record holders.
“I thought we were four or five pins shy,” Bob Johnson said. “I was just trying to stay focused on my 300. I knew I had to strike out to get the record.”
In addition to Bob Johnson, Anderson and Rutledge have bowled 300 games, while Dave Johnson has thrown a pair of 299 games and Gouin has hit 289.
As for the team that held the record for the past 20 years, there are no sour grapes.
“I’m excited for the people that did it,” said Hoering, now 53. “I think it should be (broken). That was a long time ago.”