Splits, spares and strikes: Kaleva the latest Monday NEA bowler to shoot an unlikely 300

Ah, here we are in the midst of a September heat wave where even the coldest temperatures are only down to about average for this time of year.

A young man’s, let alone the rest of us, thoughts are probably still stuck on the golf course.

Yes, it’s now officially bowling season, but we’ll just worry about getting strikes when the first frost hits in, say, just about a week from now.

Unless you’re Doug Kaleva.

The 64-year-old Republic resident made it two straight years that the Monday Northern Electric Automotive Industrial League has had an unlikely member bowl a perfect 300 game on opening night.

Last year, it was secretary-treasurer Harold Reichardt who achieved the feat in this Ishpeming league at Country Lanes. “Rice” admitted he’d never thrown more than “maybe six or seven” strikes to start a game before and had shot a few 278 and 279 games.

Kaleva can’t recall even doing any of that before the season opened last week on Sept. 9.

“I’m just out here to have fun with the guys and have a few drinks,” he said about his teammates and the bar at the lanes.

Lucky for me, I was there at the lanes each time, though I only saw one ball total between the two 300s.

Kaleva did make a claim to fame he seemed more inclined to talk about – recording the first hole-in-one at the top-notch Timberstone Golf Course in Iron Mountain.

“That had to be 10 or 15 years ago,” Kaleva said.

On the bowling lanes, I asked him what his previous high game was, and he said he didn’t have a clue. “279?” I asked, and he said, “Noooo. Maybe 265. I don’t really know.”

Same with another of my standard 300-game queries: What’s the most strikes you’ve had to start a game before this?

“I have no idea. Three?” he added with a hearty laugh.

“This is just recreation for me, it’s a fun night out. If I bowl good, hey, that’s great. But if I don’t, that’s great too.”

It’s probably an attitude that helped him cash in the 300 when he finally had a chance at it. No pressure, no problem.

By the way, Kaleva isn’t as mediocre a bowler as he makes himself out to be, since I discovered he finished last season with a pretty respectable 187 average. On Monday, he shot 670 after opening with games of 180 and 190 to shoot 109 pins over that average using his 15-pound (we think) Columbia Action resin ball.

It’s a ball he’s had about eight years, according to lanes manager Steve DeBakker.

In the 300, he had a “Brooklyn” crossover strike around the sixth or seventh frame with all the rest perfect shots, according to his teammates.

But the 12th and final ball, while not a lucky strike by any means, was lucky in that he didn’t get a bad break on it. It was the only ball I got to see after someone whispered to me what was happening just before Kaleva stepped up to throw the shot.

That last ball hit the 1-3 strike pocket a bit light, and the 5-pin slid to the left corner before pushing the 7-pin off the deck to complete the historic game.

It seemed like it took forever, though in retrospect, it certainly wasn’t slower than any of about 200 or 300 of the strikes I throw every year.

As another aside, Kaleva finally one-upped his wife, Sandy, who has been one of the best women bowlers in Marquette County for a number of years. Last season, her 177 average put her in the top-10 women’s averages, where she been a member nearly every year I’ve been compiling those statistics since the late 1990s.