Ladewig, Marion (1914—)

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Ladewig, Marion (1914—)

American bowler who was inducted into the International Bowling Museum Hall of Fame in 1991. Born Marion Van Oosten on October 30, 1914, in Grand Rapids, Michigan; married in 1930 (divorced 1940); children: one daughter, LaVonne.

Won the first National All-Star Match Games open to women (1949); won numerous Women's International Bowling Congress (WIBC) tournaments; was the first woman to win the Bowling Proprietors Association of American Women's All-Star title (1949); won seven more All-Star tournaments (1949–53, 1957, 1959, and 1963); named Woman Bowler of the Year nine times (1950–54, 1957–59, 1963); held World Invitational titles (1957, 1960, 1962–64); was Women's International Bowling Congress All-Events champion (1950 and 1955); helped organize the Professional Women's Bowling Association (PWBA); retired from tournament play (1965); raised professional bowling to new competitive heights and wrote syndicated column on bowling tips.

Marion Ladewig was born Marion Van Oosten in Grand Rapids, Michigan, in 1914. She launched her athletic career on the softball field, playing shortstop on her brother's baseball team before moving to the local women's team. Though married at 16, Ladewig continued to

play softball until William T. Morrissey, Sr., a Grand Rapids bowling proprietor and sponsor of the Fanatorium women's softball team, spotted her. Noting her strong throwing arm, Morrissey became convinced that the 21-year-old Ladewig would make an excellent bowler. After a couple of free games at his bowling alley, she was hooked. Morrissey, who became her coach, insisted she practice daily. In order to help pay expenses, she swept up and emptied ashtrays at Morrissey's Fanatorium Lanes for $2.50 a day.

By 1937, Ladewig had dropped softball to devote herself full-time to bowling. In 1941, she won the Western Michigan Gold Pin Classic. In 1943, she took the prestigious Chicago American event. By the late 1940s, Ladewig won her first National All-Star Match Games tournament. In 1949, the first year the tournament was open to women, Ladewig won the first of her eight titles.

In 1950, Ladewig, whose petite appearance belied her power, began to win the Women's International Bowling Congress (WIBC) national championship tournaments as well, making bowling history in the 1951 championship. She defeated all 63 women as well as all 160 men who were competing for the men's title. On the first day, she bowled an eight-game block of 1,981 pins—255, 279, 247, 227, 247, 224, 255, and 247; her average was 247.6 in the qualifying round.

Marion Ladewig bowled a total of 31 annual WIBC championship tournaments and had the third-best average for women who bowled 30 or more WIBC championship tournaments. In addition, she won the World Invitational crown five times, the National Doubles twice, and the Women's International Bowling Congress All-Events title twice. She was chosen Woman Bowler of the Year nine times by the Bowling Writers Association.

Following her divorce in 1940, Ladewig made bowling her livelihood. In 1950, the Brunswick-Balke-Collender Company hired her. She worked for Brunswick for the next 30 years, traveling over 100,000 miles a year throughout the United States, Europe, North Africa, and Asia, putting on exhibitions, conducting instructional clinics, and making television appearances. In 1960, she helped organized the Professional Women's Bowling Association (PWBA). By this time, Ladewig owned her own bowling center in Grand Rapids.

When she retired from tournament play in 1965 at age 50, with a career average of 190, the trim athlete and grandmother of five had dominated bowling for two decades. At the height of her fame, she made $25,000 a year from bowling, a truly respectable sum for the period. In addition, she wrote a syndicated "tips" column, was a sportswear design consultant, and continued to remain on Brunswick's advisory staff. Marion Ladewig demonstrated that professional bowling could be a lucrative sport for women and raised competitive bowling to new heights as a professional. She was one of five female pros to bowl in the first edition of the National Bowling Hall of Fame tournament and, in 1991, was inducted into the International Bowling Museum Hall of Fame. Helen Duval , winner of five BPAA All-Star finals, and Joyce Deitch , president of the Women's International Bowling Congress, were inducted in 1993 and 1999, respectively.


Hollander, Phyllis. 100 Greatest Women in Sports. NY: Grosset & Dunlap, 1976.

Woolum, Janet. Outstanding Women Athletes: Who They Are and How They Influenced Sports in America. Phoenix, AZ: Oryx Press, 1992.

Karin L. Haag , freelance writer, Athens, Georgia