Web Special / February 2005

My All-Time, All-Miss Team

Years ago, PBA touring member Ed Bourdase, an extremely gifted player from California, issued this infamous statement, "Spares are for sissies!" Bourdase, a somewhat temperamental player, displayed little fondness for spares and, not too surprising, Mr. Bourdase's wavering attitude towards spares stunted a career that limited him to merely three titles. Bourdase's misses were certainly not due to his lack of ability. He was as proficient as any of his contemporaries, yet he exhibited utter contempt at getting "tapped" and literally threw away pins, especially on solid 10-pin stands.

In 1990, I selected the first PBA All-Miss Team. It was composed of PBA players who employed the most pathetic spare games on tour. I continued to distinguish this annual group of dubious bowlers until 2000, at which time I cut back my activities on the PBA Tour and limited my tournament coverage to the "major" tournaments (U.S. Open, ABC Masters, PBA World Championship, and the PBA Tournament of Champions) and one or two other events.

For the past year or so, one of the most frequent questions I hear is, "What happened to your annual All-Miss Teams?"

For those unfamiliar with All-Miss Teams of the past, the yearly roster consisted of five or six PBA members who best symbolized the word MISS, an acronym for "Miserable In Spare Situations." This was a select group of bowlers who were terrific strike artists, yet they were chosen for their inability, contempt, or perhaps aversion to converting spares.

Prior to the takeover of the PBA by the present owners, the selection of these players was rather simple. A majority of the chosen few were annual repeaters and, on various occasions, new names began to grace the roster. But, by and large, you could practically rely on the "regulars" every year.

The 2005 All-Miss Team will be displayed in the near future, but, as a tribute to our past All Miss members, I'd like to regress in time and name my All-Time, All-Miss Team.

It would be difficult to name a captain for the All-Time, All-Miss Team. They were all equally woeful at converting 10-pins, and their attempts at most spares was not only an adventure but, in most cases, an exercise in futility. All possessed thunderous strike balls, and they all shared one common trait with the fabled gorilla who hit a golf ball 400 yards, including putts: They threw the same way at spares as they did at strikes.

Every team deserves a captain. So, on the strength of his longevity, Kelly Coffman deserves this honor. Coffman competed on the PBA tour for 12 years yet never recorded a victory. Kelly, a perennial All-Miss member, earns this distinction for lifetime achievement in blowing spares. As far as strikes were concerned, Kelly Coffman was the Robert Smith of his era. Kelly possibly generated more revs on his delivery than Smith. I base this opinion on the fact that Kelly was able to apply over 20 revolutions on his delivery with a polyester ball. Heaven knows how many revs he accomplished with reactive or proactive urethane equipment, but one thing remained certain: He was extremely adept at whiffing spares, especially 10-pins.

Bob Spalding, another strikemaster, managed one title, the Quaker State Open in 1995, and he came within one strike of capturing the Brunswick World Tournament of Champions in 1996. Nevertheless, he surely deserves a spot on the All-Time, All-Miss Team. Like Coffman, Spalding was a super-torquer and, although he did succeed in recording one title, his wretched spare game prevented him from again entering the winner's circle. His lone victory was a verification of the old adage, "Even a blind hog found an acorn."

Bob Vespi, a holy terror on the PBA Southeast Regional Tour, made an immediate splash after joining the regular PBA Tour. He recorded two titles and displayed a slow, tantalizing, explosive strike ball. In 1992, after qualifying as top seed for the PBA National Championship in Toledo, Vespi's woeful spare game reared its ugly head. Eric Forkel, demolished Vespi, 217 to 133…that's right, one-thirty-three … SCRATCH. Shortly thereafter, Vespi's feeble attempts at converting spares sent him packing—in pursuit of an alternative livelihood.

Scott Alexander managed one glorious moment in his PBA career. He captured the PBA National Tournament in Toledo on February 25, 1995. He defeated Wayne Webb 246-210 after Webb disposed the following stars...Jason Couch 235-225, Don Genalo 248-215, and Mike Aulby 255-215. In addition to the $35,000 first place check, Alexander also received a 1995 Chevrolet Lumina. Not too long after, Alexander's dreadful spare game forced him to seek a different means of support.

Last but not least, Mark Bowers. The burly Miss-Master from Maryland left no doubt he was one of the worst of the worst. During the 1994 season, Bowers, a right-hander, missed a significant portion of the season, but he missed enough spares in the tournaments he did bowl in to justify his position on the team. Bower's specialty, in addition to flagging 10-pins, were any other single pin, two-pin combinations, or other assorted spares on the left side.

This All-Time, All-Miss Team is loaded with powerful strike ball artists who earned their spurs with plenty of room to spare.