Bowlers on either side of him made their approach to the lane with one arm extended away from their bodies as a counterweight to the 15-pound ball in the other.
It’s not as easy for Jordan Peacock to find his center of gravity.
A congenital birth defect left him with some developmental challenges, including a partial right arm that is stunted just a few inches below his shoulder. What’s more, his entire world was knocked off kilter on April 25 — his 14th birthday — when his father, Tony Peacock, died suddenly.
But everything was aligned on Dec. 8, on his home lanes at St. Clair Bowl. The O’Fallon High School freshman bowled a 300.
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That’s 12 throws, 12 strikes, 120 pins and the sport’s best possible score.
“Honestly, as much as my husband worked with him and trained him and coached him, I knew it wouldn’t be long before he got a 300,” said Pamela Peacock, Jordan’s mother. “He was so excited, and his dad would be very proud.”
I carry 15 bowlers and just wanted to give some guys a chance to compete. Then the kid comes in and bowls a 300.
Mike Imes, O’Fallon bowling coach
There was no certainty that Jordan would bowl at all on that day. He was called upon as a last-minute substitute for the third game of a junior varsity match against the Granite City Warriors.
“I carry 15 bowlers and just wanted to give some guys a chance to compete,” said Mike Imes, head bowling coach at O’Fallon for the last 20 years. “Then the kid comes in and bowls a 300. That’s tough to do when you haven’t warmed up.
“As his coach, and for all he’s been through, you couldn’t wish any more for a kid.”
Jordan is a good student in his special-education classes at OTHS, his mother says, and he functions almost normally with one good arm, even beyond his 200-plus average at the bowling alley.
Five days after his perfect game, his mind had drifted to other topics like “Candy Crush,” a family dinner at LongHorn Steakhouse, and Gabriel Iglesias, his favorite stand-up comedian.
But it never strays too far away from the loss of his father.
“I always think about him, and he’s always watching me,” Jordan said. “He’s always watching me bowl.”
Tony Peacock was suffering from kidney failure on April 16, when he had an apparent stroke that caused him to fall and hit his head. He died nine days later.
He had been avid bowler who made his passion a family affair, coaching first his two sons and then his wife. The sport has been a bond that tied the four together.
“Tony bowled his entire life ... leagues, tournaments. It was something he loved to do,” Pamela Peacock said. “It was something he wanted to share with the rest of us.”
According to the United States Bowling Congress, perfect games are not as rare as they used to be, a fact that’s attributable to wider participation in the sport, better reporting and advances in equipment. Still, fewer than 20 percent of all competitive bowlers will ever achieve a 300.
Tony Peacock died a part of the 80 percent. Four times he fell a pin short at 299, but he never reached the pinnacle of his favorite sport.
He even told me he would see his boys bowl their 300 games before he got his own. That was three years ago. He knew.
Pamela Peacock, Jordan’s mother
“He even told me he would see his boys bowl their 300 games before he got his own,” Pamela Peacock said. “That was three years ago. He knew.”
Justin Peacock, the oldest of the couple’s two sons, bowled a 300 game while still bowling for Imes in high school. He currently is a sophomore bowler at the University of Pikeville in Kentucky.
Jordan came close one time before. If not for a spare in the second frame of a game last summer, he would have been perfect months earlier. He finished, instead, with a score of 280.
“Coming from a bowling family and getting all those repetitions,” Imes said, helped Jordan find those final 20 pins to perfection.
As far as being balanced and maintaining proper form, that stunted arm really is more help than hindrance.
“Honestly, it’s to his benefit as a bowler,” Imes said. “A lot of times, that other arm is what causes you to either tuck the ball or be off balance ... He doesn’t have that issue. He just puts the ball out there and is really, really consistent.”
Last week, on the day he rolled 300, Jordan worked quickly and calmly as if it were any other of the hundreds of games he had bowled before.
“I wasn’t nervous at all,” he said.
By the eighth frame, Jordan had drawn a crowd that erupted in cheers with each additional strike he threw. Bowlers from the opposing team were among those who gathered around him for high-fives and pats on the back following his 12th and final perfect shot.
“It was special seeing him out there because he’s always fun and makes everybody smile and have a good time,” said senior teammate Andrew Orf. “We felt like he was deserving, and afterward, everybody on the team told him how happy they were for him.”
And what would his dad say about it?
“He’d say ‘congratulations, son,’” Jordan said.