"The most common question I’m asked when I’m out among bowling fans is to compare the players of my era (1982-1990) to today’s players. So I thought with the next two blogs (this week’s will be Part 1 and the next Part 2) I’d give it a shot. "
He says that there were many more tour stops in the 80's than there are today and more players to beat out in each tournament, but that:
"the best players of today would have had absolutely no problem competing in the '80’s. Conversely, the superstars of my group would have been just fine today…actually, a few of them (Walter, Voss, Duke and Pete) were able to succeed in both eras."
He goes on to say that today's players have to and do know a lot more about equipment and other technical aspects of bowling than players used to. To highlight this point, he writes that more new balls probably come out each year now than came out in ten years in the 80's, that most of today's players utilize many more ball layouts than they used to and carry many more balls around with them, and that they have a more specialized bowling vocabulary and a far more sophisticated understanding of bowling.
Finally, Baker writes that one of the biggest differences between today's players and those of the 80's is that today's players are much more businesslike or even "robotic" in their approach to the game than players used to be. Players in the 80's used to be much more demonstrative when they bowled well or poorly, running out strikes even in qualifying and berating themselves and physically reacting much more strongly than they do today. One example he cites of running out strikes involves the great Steve Cook:
"When Steve Cook got it going (which was a lot) and you were within three pairs to his left (his favorite run-out zone) and you bowled before he was done, you literally took your life in your own hands! Cook was a seriously large human being who took striking and winning very seriously. Just ask Norm Duke. One time at the U.S. Open, I was bowling Norm and he was on the approach three lanes over from Cook. Steve ran one out, slapped his hands (which sounded like one of Zeus’ thunderbolts hitting the Acropolis), then pirouetted in front of Duke (probably sparing Norm’s life), picked him up by the side of his arms and set him back down in the settee. Norm looked at me and sheepishly asked, “Can I bowl now?”"
I look forward to reading Baker's second installment of his series comparing and contrasting the players of the 80's with those of today.