Front Row: Rich Jerome: Mr. Perfection On The Lanes

Posted on January 13, 2009

Edited by Larry Harris

Middlesex resident Richard Jerome Jr. is one of only a dozen people in the world who have bowled a perfect 900 three-game series, a feat the 29-year-old accomplished Dec. 22 at Brunswick Lanes in Perry Hall.
(Larry Harris)
Move over, Michael Phelps. Make some room over there, Joe Flacco and Ed Reed. There is another genuine hero walking the streets of Baltimore today.

His name is Richard Jerome Jr. and last Dec. 22 he joined an extremely exclusive club when he bowled a perfect 900 three-game series at the Brunswick Lanes in Perry Hall. Only a dozen people in the world have ever accomplished this feat and had it sanctioned.

That's 36 strikes in a row, people -- 36 times hurling that big, heavy ball down the lane and not leaving a single pin standing. Having trouble grasping the enormity of that? Think 36 consecutive pass completions in an NFL game. Think 12 innings of no-hit baseball. And as amazing as the accomplishment seems, the circumstances surrounding it were pretty unusual.

Jerome is 29 years old and works hard at his day job as a process technician for the Graham Packaging Company. He is no stranger to top-notch bowling, having racked up more than a dozen 300 games in the past. But three in a row? That puts him on bowling's Mount Olympus.

The kicker is that Jerome was actually acting as a substitute in the Monday Night Mixed League for a woman who had recently undergone surgery. Needless to say, his adopted team -- the Cocktails -- is pretty happy he showed up.

So what is next for this 5-foot-11, 230-pound linebacker-sized resident of Middlesex who is a graduate of Sparrows Point High School? Can the pros be far behind?

"Well, the pro tour certainly is something any bowler would like to be a part of," said Jerome, who started bowling as a teenager, "but it takes a great deal of time away from your family, and you have to have some good backing. It's not an easy process to just jump out there and go on the road when you have responsibilities."

Those responsibilities include wife Felicia and 7-year-old daughter Alayna. They say they'll be happy with whatever decision the man of the house makes, but the current economic climate does not encourage daring ventures without some sort of safety net.

Bowling officials, local and national, were quick to the scene to authenticate Jerome's incredible night, measuring the Perry Hall lanes for proper levels, spacing and oiling. Everything was on the up-and-up and documents were sent to and approved by the U.S. Bowling Congress.

"I admit I was a little nervous before that last ball," Jerome said. "About halfway through the last game the whole place stopped and gathered around to watch. It was a little rattling and my whole body was numb. I took a few extra seconds on that last ball."

Earl Biscotti is president of the local bowling association and he and wife Sandy are responsible for making sure all the proper paperwork gets filed. Sandy was especially pleased with Jerome's achievement.

"We're talking about Ravens-victory proud," she said after verifying all the I's were dotted and T's crossed. "In the bowling world, you can't imagine how much excitement this has created."

--Larry Harris

Joe Isn't Only Cool Flacco

Could there be a Flacco in the Orioles' future? You never know.

Joe The Quarterback isn't the only athletic member of the family living in the area. It's been well documented that the low-key but highly efficient Ravens signal-caller has been sharing an apartment with younger brother Mike Flacco, who is attending Catonsville Community College and could be a candidate for the school's baseball team this spring.

Orioles scout Dean Albany, who also runs the local amateur team that has dominated the All American Amateur Baseball Congress tournament in Johnstown, Pa., for the last half-dozen years, took advantage of the situation and scheduled a workout recently to get an up close and personal look at the Flacco who is not featured on the T-shirts that have flooded the local market.

"Mike's built a lot like Joe -- about 6-4, 220 pounds," Albany said of the 21-year-old Mike. He's not, however, a candidate to help solve the O's pitching woes, as one might suspect -- or hope.

"He's got some tools and plays first and third base," said Albany, who covers much of the East Coast and the Mid-Atlantic area for the Orioles. "He had some back problems which kept him from playing much in high school, but he seems fine now."

Like everyone else who has had contact with the family, the scout is impressed by more than just the athletic ability that has been on display.

"If you meet the parents, you understand why the kids are so impressive," said Albany, who will undoubtedly keep an eye on the "other" Flacco in town.

--Jim Henneman

'Plunge' Attracts A Cold Crowd

They will gather by the thousands on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay, ready to make that fateful run. Some call them crazy and others downright insane, but all the critics must tip their caps.

Almost every participant that makes the short trip from shore to shock for the 13th annual Polar Bear Plunge Jan. 24 at Sandy Point State Park would probably admit that they are a bit crazy. To jump into sub-zero waters for charity isn't the sanest way to help others, but if this event is crazy everyone should be so nuts.

It has become a spectacle like no other. Plungers line the beaches at Sandy Point, ready to attack the mighty Chesapeake like it owes them money. And they always win.

That money goes straight to the Special Olympics Maryland, the state's largest year-round organization devoted to sports training and competition for children and adults with intellectual disabilities.

Plungapalooza '09 has already garnered more than $1 million in total donations and shows no signs of stopping. It is an event that has truly taken on a life of its own with pig races, live music, games and prizes, a costume contest and even a Little Miss Polar Bear Plunge pageant.

One thing remains as the Plunge's biggest draw -- anyone can participate. As long as you sign up and find some folks who want to give to a worthy cause, you're in.

With just $50 in pledges, Plungers automatically get the official Polar Bear Plunge sweatshirt, a complimentary lunch, a photo gift and bragging rights over all the people who couldn't bear it.

This year, entrants can plunge alongside popular locals like Ravens players and media personalities. One of those popular local faces will be Ravens superfan Rick Bowlus, aka. Poetic Justice. Bowlus is one of 50-plus Super Plungers who has raised more than $10,000 by pledging to take a dip in the icy cold water once every hour for 24 hours.

"Leading up to the big day," Bowlus said. "We encourage relatives, friends, co-workers, local businesses and organizations to plunge with us. I have sent out over 150 letters, over 400 e-mails, made tons of telephone calls, and have visited many businesses to encourage involvement."

Bowlus and other members of Ravens Roosts from around the state put on a party like no other on the day of the event, calling it the largest tailgate party in January.

"About 7:30 a.m., the two Ravens Fan Buses will be at Sandy Point," Bowlus said. "We will be front and center; you can call us party central. Music, breakfast and drink are all part of the festivities.  … It is so much more than just the plunge."

Bowlus loves to make that point that for so many plungers it is more than just that quick dip in frigid water.

"It is all about the Special Olympics athletes," he said. "It is a way for us to help them feel wanted, needed, respected and just brighten their lives. This is a wonderful, contagious event."

--Ben O'Brien

Locals Ensured Birthday Bash Was Success

The Football Curmudgeon rides again:

• Baltimore committee members who put together the three-day celebration of the 1958 "Greatest Game Ever Played" can pat themselves on the back with good reason. A ballpark estimate has it that nearly a half-million bucks was raised for three very legitimate charitable organizations. What a pity the NFL didn't choose to join in, instead of watching the sky while the festivities went on. Oh, commissioner Roger Goodell did show for a Ravens-sponsored dinner, but the NFL itself could have done so much more in support, advertising, TV coverage or funding. Thanks to local efforts, those elderly gentlemen from the Baltimore Colts and New York Giants who participated in that championship game were properly honored.
 
At least the league could have offered to contribute to the charities, but there was minimal interest from the New York office in recognizing the game that put pro football up front to stay.

Not that there weren't problems. There always are with an undertaking of that magnitude, but as one wag pointed out, "Well, they won't ever have to do it again." 

• Dr. Ed McDonnell, one of the most respected and talented orthopedic surgeons who ever repaired a knee ligament, is recovering from a stroke at age 92. For many years the caretaker of all Baltimore Colts orthopedic problems, he pioneered many procedures that are taken for granted today.

• As it turns out, when Jason Garrett shot this city the bird and turned down the Ravens' coaching job to stay with the Cowboys as a $3 million assistant, it was the best thing that could have happened in Baltimore.

• Broncos owner Pat Bowlen cried when he fired coach Mike Shanahan. Why? Maybe because he still owes his "good friend" $20 million.

• After the Panthers beat the Saints to clinch the NFC South regular season title, running backs DeAngelo Williams and Jon Stewart gave their shoes to fans, which may or may not have been as satisfying as throwing them at a politician.

• If the same guy, Chad Pennington, won the Comeback Player of the Year twice in three seasons, he must have put up a really crappy resume in between. After what the Ravens did to him in the playoffs, maybe he can win it again next season.

• How silly are those postseason awards? Well, New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees didn't get a single vote for MVP, but he easily won Offensive Player of the Year. Go figure.

• San Diego owner Alex Spanos has revealed he is suffering from early stages of dementia. Most everyone in the league thought that dreaded disease had infected Detroit management many seasons ago when it turned the team over to recently-fired Matt Millen.

• What goes on under those NFL pileups when it sometimes takes officials a full minute to disentangle players? One man puts it well: "All I can say is that there are a lot of gender identification issues being decided."

--Larry Harris
 
Still Going Strong

All-Pro safetyman Andy Nelson (left) and Hall of Fame receiver Raymond Berry were two of the Baltimore Colts from the 1958 team that was honored in festivities celebrating the 50th anniversary of the "Greatest Game Ever Played" Dec. 26-28.
       
Kettani Bowling For His Buddies

And you thought bowl games were over?

Never! Not when there's important scouting to be done (just no time for these "student" athletes to participate in playoffs, but that's for another day) and the NFL Network needs something live the week before the Big Game (can we use that term without expressed written consent?).

Some of the nation's top collegiate seniors will be tossed together in the Under Armour Senior Bowl, held Jan. 24 in Mobile, Ala., where they will be under the tutelage of NFL coaches as they play a game in front of a perfect one-to-one clipboard-to-person ratio.

The game will feature some big names from the major conferences; the ACC is sending 18 players, the SEC 22. Oklahoma alone will have four participants.

There is only one participant from any of the three service academies as Navy fullback Eric Kettani will become just the second player from Army, Navy or Air Force to play in the Senior Bowl; Navy running back Napoleon McCallum is the other. For those who think service academy players don't stack up in talent contests like the Senior Bowl, McCallum was the MVP of the game in 1986.

While the Senior Bowl is nothing more than a showcase for individual talent, Kettani hopes to shine for all the Midshipmen cheering him on from Annapolis and points across the globe.

"I am in this game because of my teammates and everything they have done the last four years to make Navy football a success," Kettani said. "I will be playing this game for the Navy Football Brotherhood."

--Kevin Heitz

FROM THE CHEAP SEATS

• With the NFL postseason in full swing and college basketball hard into its conference wars, is there any sport more boring in January than the regular season NBA? Somebody please call in June when they start the playoffs.

 • Cheap Seats has always deplored the ridiculous "Baltimore gets no-respect complex" that is relentlessly driven by on-air hosts, but after Joe Flacco didn't get a single vote for NFL Rookie of the Year, maybe they're on to something.  • Remember that old "changing deck chairs on the Titanic" joke? The dysfunctional Cowboys surpassed it by canning special teams coach Bruce Read.  • A holiday card from a gentleman down South suggested that all congressmen should be required to wear those shiny jump suits that NASCAR drivers don for a race. "That way," he wrote, "we would know who all their sponsors are."

--L.H.

Issue 133: January 2009

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