February 20, 2001:
Bowling Legend Joe Norris Dies Of Pneumonia At Age 93
02/20/2001 - BWAA
SAN DIEGO, CALIF - Bowling legend Joseph John (Joe) Norris, who was schedule to compete in a record 72nd American Bowling Congress Championships Tournament on March 12, died Monday in San Diego after a two-week bout with pneumonia. Norris turned 93 on Feb. 10.
Norris, who was born in Springfield, Ill., and raised in Detroit, became the first bowler inducted into the San Diego Hall of Champions when he was honored in absentia on Feb. 7. It was the eighth hall of fame to recognize his extraordinary career.
Norris, regarded as one of the best team bowlers in history, organized the first of the fabled "beer teams" when he secured Stroh's Bohemian Beer's sponsorship of his ABC Tournament team in 1933. Under Norris' captaincy, the Stroh's won the 1934 ABC Tournament team title, captured five National Match Game championships between 1934 and 1945, and added another pair of ABC Tournament titles with the Tri-Par Radio team in 1954.
The one-time "Boy Wonder of Bowling" won a number of individual titles as well as team championships. He bowled with a team of legendary American bowlers in an exhibition match against a team of German bowlers prior to the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin and in 1994, at age 86, he became - at the time - the oldest bowler in ABC history to bowl a 300 game. But his legend grew in the ABC Tournament, an annual event except during World War II when it was suspended. Norris bowled in his first ABC Tournament in Toledo, Ohio, in 1926 at age 18 and missed only once - in 1942 - when he was recovering from surgery to remove his appendix.
In 1986, Norris became only the third bowler ever to knock down 100,000 pins in ABC Tournament competition. In 1992, he surpassed the lifetime pinfall record set by the late Bill Doehrmann of Ft. Wayne, Ind., in his 71 tournament appearances. In 2000 in Albuquerque, N.M., where he tied Doehrmann for most lifetime tournament appearances, Norris increased his record pinfall total to 123,770 pins for 642 games, an average of 192.78 over a span of seven decades.
"Joe Norris was a true treasure of our sport," said American Bowling Congress Executive Director Roger Dalkin. "We are going to miss him, but rather than mourn him during our annual convention in Reno in March, we're going to celebrate his life and all he did for our sport.
"Joe was a great bowler and a wonderful man. We would have loved to have seen him break the participation record, but that just illustrates how remarkable that record is in the first place."
After tying Doehrmann's appearance record in 2000, Norris said, "Old age doesn't bother me. I figure that's part of life. I've been pretty lucky, health-wise. I've been pretty lucky bowling, too. It has taken me to every continent, 45 different cities.
"I came from a poor family and we didn't have any money for education," he said. "I'd probably have been selling shoelaces on a corner if it hadn't been for bowling. But it was more the friendships and traveling and being with the right people that meant the most to me."
Norris was preceded in death by his wife Billie. The couple had no children.
A memorial mass in Joe's honor will be held Tuesday, Feb. 27, at 10 a.m. at:
Our Lady of Grace Church
2766 Navajo Road
El Cajon, CA 92020.
In addition, the family has requested memorial contributions can be made to the:
Joe Norris Memorial Fund
c/o San Diego Bowling Association
4400 Palm Ave., Suite B,
La Mesa, CA 91941-6524.
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