Seasonally late rains had been washing over the Bay Area all week, and it looked like touch and go whether the annual Berkeley-Palo Alto Meat Axe Tournament would be rained out (as had PIMD’s Opening Day just one week before). But the weather gods relented at the last minute, albeit with an unseasonable chill in the air, allowing 5 Triples teams from each club, including several novices, to assemble on Berkeley’s green March 24 to renew this now vintage competition.
The conditions, however, did not hinder a morning of fine bowling all round, at the end of which Berkeley led by 4 games to 1 and looked comfortably in control. However, Palo Alto wasn’t giving up that easily. As the afternoon games finished one by one, Palo Alto took three of them, resulting in a 5-4 position in Berkeley’s favor as the crucial final game drew to a close.
When the skips took to the mat, Berkeley was up by three points in the game, but down two in the head with two excellent bowls by PA’s lead (and a novice), Rose Selby, sitting within inches of the jack. But Rose soon learned the eternal fate of leads everywhere as John Luster, Berkeley’s skip, rolled a perfectly weighted bowl to exactly the right place even closer to the jack and leaving Bud Birkenseer, skip for Palo Alto, few options. Despite valiant efforts, Bud could not dislodge John’s bowl, and the much-coveted trophy reverted to Berkeley again with a 6-4 victory on the day.
Palo Alto took the loss with graciousness and bold cries of “See you next year!” when they will have the home advantage. All agreed that it was good to get back on the green and looked forward to a highly competitive season–in hopefully better weather–in the months ahead.
[Contextual note: The Meat Axe Tournament between Berkeley LBC and Palo Alto LBC began in 1958 as a bowling equivalent of the “Big Game” between Cal and Stanford. One of several traditions surrounding that match-up is that the victors get to carry off the “Stanford Axe” at the end of the game and hold it for the coming year. We bowlers have carried on that theme with our butcher’s cleaver mounted on a plaque highlighting each year’s winner. While we don’t (yet!) have our own Wikipedia page, the trophy is cherished with no less intensity than its footballing archetype.]