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ND Hall of Fame bowler Meyer suspended for shaving pins off scoring average

North Dakota Hall of Fame bowler Russ Meyer's membership in the United States Bowling Congress has been suspended after he was found guilty shaving pins off the scoring average. Forum file photo

MOORHEAD – Ralph Hennebry, 63, doesn’t know North Dakota Hall of Fame bowler Russ Meyer personally. He’s not even sure he’s ever bowled against the 55-year-old Fargoan in the 47 years he’s been bowling in adult leagues.

What he is sure about is Meyer, as acting secretary of the First Nighters Bowling League at Sunset Lanes in Moorhead, shaved pins off his average.

“The secretary is a caretaker of a league,” said Hennebry, a well-known bowler in the F-M area. “It was something that should not happen. He’s too good of a bowler to do this. It’s sad that he resorted to this.”

What started as a bowler coming to Hennebry, who isn’t in the First Nighters League, with curiosity has ended with Meyer – a North Dakota Bowling Hall of Fame member – being suspended indefinitely by the United States Bowling Congress.

“I can confirm that Russ Meyer has been charged and found guilty of violating USBC Rules 17a-2 and 17b-5 along with being suspended from membership in the United States Bowling Congress,” USBC senior director Michael Spridco said. “He can apply for reinstatement after one year.”

Rule 17a-2 of the USBC handbook states “Misrepresenting an average to gain a greater handicap, or qualify for a lower classification in an event” under the “Unfair Tactics” category. Rule 17b-5 states “Misfeasance, malfeasance or nonfeasance of office” under “Improper Conduct”.

Most bowling tournaments give extra pins to bowlers based on their reported averages. These pins are added to their actual scores to form a total score, which is used to determine winners and cash payouts.

North Dakota Bowling president Duane Wolf said Meyer’s hall-of-fame status will most likely be coming up at a September meeting.

“I haven’t had anything brought up on that at this point,” Wolf said. “I’m sure it’ll be a topic of discussion at our next meeting and I’ll have to go through the USBC and see what their regulations are on that.”

As of January 2012, Meyer had notched 300 games 11 times, including three in less than a one-month span beginning in December of 2012.

Attempts to reach Meyer by phone at his home and work were not returned.

Last October, Meyer bowled a 759 series early enough in the season that his average should have changed quite a bit. A friend of Hennebry and bowler in the league was a bit curious as to why that wasn’t the case in the weekly standings sheet Meyer was responsible for putting together as acting secretary.

Hennebry was an auditor for the state of Minnesota for more than three decades. Seeing why Meyer’s average didn’t move very much was simple subtraction.

“We looked at the previous weekly standings sheet for Russ’ total pins and then we took the current week’s standing sheet and just subtracted to see how much his total pins went up,” Hennebry said. “His total pins only went up 709. He had shaved 50 pins off it, yet the weekly standings sheet showed 759 as the high series for that week. That got this gentleman and I curious.”

Hennebry found that for five straight weeks Meyer’s recap sheets did not match his weekly standings sheet. The pin totals were lower on the standings sheet for six of the 12 weeks.

Hennebry was a bowling league secretary for 20 years, so he understands the position. To look into it possibly just being human error, Hennebry compared recap sheets to the weekly standings of 50 other bowlers.

The biggest mistake was 20 pins in which a seven could have been mistaken for a nine due to handwriting. There were six other mistakes and those resulted in the total pins, not the bowlers’ averages, being between one and four pins off.

“He didn’t make that big of an error with anyone else,” Hennebry said. “As a secretary, your average should be the most accurate. You know what you bowled. I don’t know what someone bowled four lanes down.”

Hennebry found that Meyer had shaved seven to eight pins off his average this season. He also found discrepancies from last season’s totals in the First Nighters League when Meyer was secretary. Of the six weeks of bowling Hennebry looked at, he found Meyer had shaved 68 pins off his total pin count in three weeks.

“That’s rather significant,” Hennebry said. “The lower your average, the more handicap you get. An eight-pin swing would get you anywhere from seven to eight pins per game more than what you were entitled to. It’s like getting 11 frames instead of 10. It’s a serious issue.”

After a formal complaint was made in the league and the complaint was served on Meyer, the league scheduled a meeting of all captains and officers of the league. Meyer had the opportunity at that meeting to explain how the differences in pin totals occurred, but he did not attend.

Meyer was voted out of office as secretary and out of the league.

Hennebry sent the complaint to USBC in early spring and the ruling came Aug. 22 to suspend Meyer. Meyer is eligible to be reinstated Aug. 22, 2015.

Despite everything he has found, Hennebry still believes Meyer is a hall of famer.

“The hall of fame ballot, for ability, doesn’t ask if you kicked your dog,” Hennebry said. “It asked you what were your games, how many tournaments did you win, what were your high series, what were your averages. It’s completely based on ability and Meyer has the ability. He earned the right to be in the Hall of Fame.”

He doesn’t think he’ll ever get reinstated to bowl or be a part of any USBC-sanctioned bowling event again.

“As a person in charge of putting those scores in, you’re held to a higher level,” Hennebry said. “You’re controlling everything that goes into that person’s average. Tournament managers rely on those averages. It affects tournament bowlers everywhere.”

Chris Murphy

Chris Murphy is a sports reporter for the Forum. He's covered high school and college sports in Chicago, North Dakota and Minnesota since 2009 and, for some reason, has been given awards for doing so.

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