Written in multi-color marker on a dry erase board next to the basement bowling lanes at Polish Hall in Riverhead is the alley’s “300 Club.”
There’s just one entry: Pete Victoria 4/27/15.
Despite being heralded as Suffolk County’s first bowling alley and perhaps even one of the state’s oldest, it was believed that no one had ever rolled a perfect game at Polish Hall until Monday. The first person to accomplish the feat is Mr. Victoria, a 61-year-old plumber from Mattituck.
“Everyone’s talking about it,” said Polish Hall president Ziggy Wilinski. “As far as we can tell it’s never been done here. It is amazing for the history of this building.”
Mr. Victoria, who took up bowling about 35 years ago at the now-defunct Riverhead Lanes and has a 210 average, said it’s the seventh 300 game he’s ever bowled. He did it once at Westhampton Bowl and five times at the former Mattituck Lanes. He also once bowled the third-highest series (three games) without a 300 game in national history — an 877 on Oct. 8, 1994, according to the United States Bowling Congress record book.
Mr. Victoria almost missed his chance to bowl a 300 this year. He cemented the perfect game — 12 consecutive strikes — as the last bowler in the final frame on the concluding week of the season. And while that particular game was mostly smooth sailing, he said the 10-pin stood up for a while on that final throw before crashing to the floor.
“It was great,” the New Suffolk native said. “I was really throwing a good ball all night. Then I finally did it.”
For Mr. Victoria, who started bowling on Monday nights at Polish Hall 10 years ago, rolling a 300 there was a long time coming. He already held the high mark for the season with a 277 game and had come close to perfection on other occasions.
On one particular night, he rolled 22 consecutive strikes without a 300 game. That’s the most you can possibly throw without reaching the milestone. He picked up a spare in the first frame that evening and missed a strike on his final throw of the second game.
“That was a tough one,” he said.
What makes Polish Hall so challenging is how much the conditions can change throughout a game or series. It’s a tiny basement space with just four lanes, and despite a refurbishing in recent years that modernized the facility with synthetic lanes, you won’t get the same familiar feel as bowling at your regular neighborhood bowling alley.
“The oil changes so quickly and you’re so confined,” Mr. Victoria said.
Of the 10 to 14 guys he regularly bowls with, he estimated four or five others have the potential to eventually match his feat. For now, though, he’s in a club all by himself.
So, just how historic is his 300 game?
Mr. Wilinski said he doesn’t know exactly when the lanes were installed at Polish Hall. The current building on Pulaski Street replaced the previous structure in 1927. The earliest newspaper report of a bowling league forming there is in a 1938 issue of the former Watchman newspaper.
A 2011 News-Review profile on Polish Hall stated it was Suffolk’s first bowling alley. Mr. Wilinski said he’s been told it’s among the oldest continuing alleys in the state, but he has no hard data to prove that.
While the 1920s or 30s may seem a little late to be the first or oldest of anything, consider that the sport only rose to prominence in America in the late 19th century and didn’t experience its first real boom until the late 1950s, according to various historical sources. The closure of New York City’s oldest surviving bowling alley made national headlines last year and that alley was built in 1938 — possibly the same year as the one at Polish Hall.
Mr. Victoria said he can only say for sure that he knows nobody in the last decade who has rolled a 300, there’s no record of a perfect game at the alley and that others more familiar with Polish Hall history say it has never once happened.
As for the man who finally did it, bowling a perfect game was only the second-happiest moment of his month. Number one on that list was the arrival of the first grandchild for him and Judy, his wife of 36 years. Victoria Scholtz was born to their only daughter, Heather, on April 19.
“Nothing beats it,” he said of becoming a grandfather.
Not even 300.