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Marion Ladewig - Personal Struggles

Famous Sports StarsBowlingMarion Ladewig Biography - Career Begins In Local Alley, Wins First All-star, Personal Struggles, Chronology, Awards And Accomplishments

Personal Struggles

Easily unnerved by the stress of competition, Ladewig struggled to maintain her control. She later admitted that Morrissey often berated her severely in his attempts to revive her fighting spirit. After Ladewig discovered that chewing gum relieved her stress she was never without a supply. Sportswriters dubbed her "The Chiclet-Chewing Lady" for her noticeable gum chomping during competition.

Success came at a price. Ladewig was on the road often for competitions and promotions. She filmed bowling commercials with Don Carter and presented exhibitions with male star Buddy Bomar on alleys laid over two flatbed trucks. And there was always the practice to maintain competitive form. The toll on Ladewig and her family prompted her to announce that the 1955 All-Star tournament would be her last. Rather than going out on top, she came in third. Looking like a youthful bobby soxer in stylish skirt and sweater sets, forty year old Ladewig graciously accepted her defeat as Life Magazine captured the event in photos for a feature titled "An Ordeal On the Alleys." The winner, Sylvia Wene Martin, had trailed Ladewig as runner-up in the event for the previous three years.


1914 Born in Grand Rapids, Michigan
1937 Begins bowling career
1954 Announces next All-Star Tournament will be her last
1955 Loses All-Star Tournament in finals
1956 Returns to win All-Star Tournament
1964 Retires from professional competition

Awards and Accomplishments

1941 Western Michigan Gold Pin Classic doubles
1945 National women's high average
1949 First BPAA Women's All-Star Tournament; national women's high average
1950 Women's All-Star Tournament
1951 WIBC All-Events titles at city, state and national levels; Women's All-Star Tournament
1952 WIBC and Women's All-Star tournaments; national women's high average
1953 Michigan Woman Athlete of the Year
1954 Women's All-Star Tournament
1955 WIBC All-Events; WIBC doubles; national women's high average; Jo Ettien Lieber Award for Distinguished Service to the Game of American Tenpins from NWBW
1956 Women's All-Star Tournament
1957 World Invitational title
1958 WIBC doubles
1959 First woman named to Michigan Sports Hall of Fame; Women's All-Star Tournament; WIBC doubles
1960 First PWBA Tournament; World Invitation title
1961 Fourth place Associated Press Woman Athlete of the Year
1962 World Invitational title
1963 World Invitational title; Women's All-Star and WIBC tournaments
1964 World Invitational title; Inducted WIBC Hall of Fame
1973 Voted Greatest Woman Bowler of All Time by BWAA
1984 Inducted Women's Sports Foundation Hall of Fame
1991 Inducted International Bowling Museum Hall of Fame
1995 Inducted Professional Women Bowlers Hall of Fame
2000 Named to Sports Illustrated 100 Sports Women of the Century

Ladewig's retirement was short lived. She returned to capture the All-Star title in 1956 and again in 1959. She tossed her fifteen pound eight ounce ball down the lanes at seventeen miles per hour delivering 507 foot pounds of energy to her ten pin target to win the first of five World Invitational titles (1960, 1962-1964).

Back in top form in 1960 Ladewig won the first Women's Professional Bowling Association (WPBA) tournament over a field of 100 women at the North Miami Beach Pinerama Lanes. She was a contender for the 1961 Associated Press Female Athlete of the Year. Olympic gold medal track star Wilma Rudolph was chosen but Ladewig's fourth place standing was the highest ever for a female bowler. She again won the two most important individual bowling tourneys—the All-Star and the World Invitational—in 1963 when she was a near-fifty grandmother. The following year she retired from professional competition and was inducted into the WIBC Hall of Fame.

Off the lanes Ladewig was a charmer. In competition she was cool, known for her closed mouth and intense concentration. "None of us got much talk out of her while we were on the lanes," commented Marge Merrick, who defeated Ladewig for the 1961 WIBC crown. "It just wasn't her idea to pass the time of day out there. She was only out to win and she's certainly done enough of that to prove the worth of keeping quiet."

Ladewig described her delivery as an angle ball with a slight hook. Observers swore the hook was invisible and described her consistent delivery as machine-like. Accuracy was her greatest asset. Ladewig said the game never became easy for her and that fact kept her working hard. No one could match her in taking down spares. "I spared 'em to death," she liked to say.

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