Remembering a trailblazing bowler who made York County history more than 8 decades ago
- Merle "Dutch" Seibert rolled York County's first 300 game in bowling.
- The perfect game came on April 24, 1936, at Hanover Lanes.
- He achieved the feat using a two-fingered ball, with heavier pins and lacquered lanes.
Merle "Dutch" Seibert's name has faded into the dusty archives of York County sports history.
Mention his name today and most local sports fans will give you a puzzled look. At one time, however, Seibert was one of York County's most celebrated athletes.
On April 24, 1936, Seibert became the first York County bowler to roll a perfect game. He put together 12 consecutive strikes at Hanover Lanes, which was located in that borough's downtown.
In 1936, a perfect game was one of the most difficult feats in sports. It was the time of two-fingered bowling balls (bowlers used their thumb and middle finger), heavier bowling pins, lacquered lanes, smoke-filled alleys and pin boys.
The American Bowling Congress awarded a gold medal to Seibert, who lived in Hanover, for his achievement.
The difficulty of the feat is magnified when you realize only four other men in the county matched it over the next 22 years. By 1958, the short list included Seibert, Clifford Platts, Maurice Myers, Robert Dick and Dick Schultz.
A standout bowler: Seibert's perfect game wasn't a fluke. He was one of the best bowlers in York County. He competed in the York County League from 1933 through 1951, leading the league in average five years, four of them consecutively. He competed with the York Dutch Club in the York Major League. His team won the league championship six out of seven years.
Seibert, who died in September of 1961, and Howard Little were the first bowlers inducted into the York-Adams United States Bowling Congress Hall of Fame in 1964. Seibert and two of his sons, Don and Bill, are also members of the South Central Sports Hall of Fame.
"Our entire family was always proud of my grandfather's accomplishments," said Randy Seibert, 64, proprietor of South Hanover Lanes. "I was only 5 when he died, but I was well aware that he had been an excellent bowler."
Family of bowlers: Dutch passed down his love of bowling to his sons and grandchildren. Randy's father, Dick, competed in a number of leagues during the 1950s and 1960s. Randy and his brother, Mike, and sister, Linda, also took to the lanes and became high-average bowlers.
For years, the shadow of Dutch's perfect game hung over the family. The goal was to duplicate his feat. For decades, however, none of the Seiberts matched it.
"My dad tried for a 300, but the best he could do was a 289 game," Randy said. "Then he started to hope one of the kids could do it."
Breaking through: Randy came close a couple times. He rolled a 299 in 1982 and a 298 in 1989. He got another shot at a perfect game in October 1995. This time, he didn't let it slip away.
"I started to think about a 300 game in the seventh or eighth frame," he remembers. "But, no one talked about it. The more you talk about it, the more nervous you get. I had come close before.
"I didn't want to think about it, and I didn't want to look at anybody. I wanted to get it over with, one way or the other."
Without much hesitation, he rolled three quick strikes, ending decades of Seibert frustration.
"I said, 'Finally,'" Randy recalled. "My first thought was that I did it for my family. It was a relief to all of us."
Although it's been 84 years since Merle "Dutch" Seibert rolled the first 300 in York County, it's a feat that deserves to be remembered by local sports fans.
Reach Barry Sparks at firstname.lastname@example.org.