US 3831939 A
A mechanism for automatically returning a bowling ball to the bowler, in a toy bowling game, is described. The mechanism comprises an inclined apron which the ball travels up after passing through the bowling pin area. If the ball has been bowled with sufficient force, it will pass along the complete extent of the inclined apron and fall off the top of the apron onto a ramp which is inclined downwardly to either side, from its apex which is aligned with the center line of the apron. The ball then passes onto either a right or left hand downwardly inclined ramp from which it rolls back toward the bowler. A one-way gate is provided at the lower end of the apron for permitting the ball to pass onto the apron but preventing the ball from returning into the bowling pin area when the ball has been bowled with insufficient force to carry it to the top of the apron.
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Description (OCR text may contain errors)
United States Patent 1 1 1111 3,831,939
Lorber lI Aug. 27, 1974 BOWLING BALL RETURN MECHANISM  ABSTRACT lnvemorl Kenneth 5823 Osceola A mechanism for automatically returning a bowling Washington, DC. 20016 ball to the bowler, in a toy bowling game, is described. The mechanism comprises an inclined apron which  Wed 1973 the ball travels up after passing through the bowling PP 324,170 pin area. If the ball has been bowled with sufficient force, it will pass along the complete extent of the inclined apron and fall off the top of the apron onto a (g1. p which is inclined downwardly to either- Side, [581 Field 01 Search 273/37, 38, 39, 44, 45, from apex whlch algned center of 273/48 53 the apron. The ball then passes onto either a right or left hand downwardly inclined ramp from which it lls back toward the bowler. A one-way gate is pro-  References Cited v1ded at the lower end of the apron for penmttlng the UNITED STATES PATENTS ball to pass onto the apron but preventing the ball 1,252,534 l/l9i8 Bauch 273/38 from returning into the pin area when the 1,980,105 11/1934 Staff 273/37 ux has been bowled with i ffi i t force to carry it to X of F R 1,019,397 2/1966 Great Britain 273/44 Primary Examiner-Anton O. Oechsle Attorney, Agent, or Firm-Berman, Bishoff & Platt 1 Claim, 7 Drawing Figures i i- ;255 22 x1 4 I 7 11 R BOWLING BALL RETURN MECHANISM BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION 1. Field of the Invention This invention relates to bowling games and more particularly relates to an apparatus for returning bowling balls to the vicinity of the bowler after they have entered and passed through the pin area. The ball return mechanism of the present invention may be used in conjunction with either untethered or tethered bowling pins and may be used either indoors or outdoors. Tethered bowling pin apparatus to which the present invention is particularly suited to set forth in US. Pat. No.
15863325 of Mortimer Lorber.
2. Descriptioii of the Prior Art Various types of ball return mechanisms have been described in the prior art. However, none of them is practicable for use in a home bowling game, nor do any of the prior art devices possess the unique advantages and features of the present invention including ease of assembly and handling, simplicity of construction and efficacy in performing its intended function.
In US. Pat. No. 3,445,l 1 l to Powell, a ball trapping and returning mechanism is disclosed. However, this device is useful only for developing ones bowling form and would be impractical for use in returning balls in a bowling game for the reason that the ball would roll down into the pin area from the rear and knock them down.
In one prior art ball return system a ball return mechanism in the form of two parallel wires is disclosed. However, there is no automatic feature to this device, since the ball must be placed manually on the wires.
Another prior art system requires a manually operated elevator mechanism for raising the ball up an incline so that it can roll back toward the bowler. This cumbersome and needlessly complex mechanism stands in marked contrast to the present invention.
In still another known system, a conveyor belt is used to move the ball upward to a raised position and then down along a track extending alongside the alley to the bowler. Again, this mechanism is needlessly complex and cumbersome. Moreover, it would be entirely unsuitable for a home bowling game which is set up on the basement floor, for example, since for this device to operate, the ball must be conveyed to a lower level after being bowled.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION Accordingly, it is the primary object of the present invention to provide a bowling ball return mechanism which eliminates the disadvantages of the prior art devices, which is particularly adapted for use in connection with an at home or in school bowling game, which can be disassembled to enhance its portability, which is of simple construction and which can be used indoors or outdoors.
A further object of the present invention is to provide a mechanism for preventing bowling balls which are propelled with insufficient force to make use of the return mechanism from rolling back into the pin area.
A further object of the present invention is to provide a simple ball return mechanism which is not dependent on any external power source and which utilizes the potential energy stored in a bowling ball as it ascends an inclined apron.
These and other objects are achieved in the present invention by the provision of an inclined apron disposed just behind the pin area. Situated between the foot of the apron and the pin area is a one-way gate which permits the ball to start up the apron after it has passed through the pin area but which prevents its return into the pin area if it has been bowled with insufficient force to carry it to the top of the apron. Behind and below the top of the apron is a ramp having two downwardly inclined portions which meet at an apex substantially aligned with the center line of the apron. The two downwardly inclined ramp portions are joined to two side return ramps which are also downwardly inclined so that the ball will be returned to the vicinity of the bowler after it has passed from the rear ramp down along one of the downwardly inclined side ramps.
DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS FIG. 1 is a top plan view of the ball return mechanism of the present invention;
FIG. 2 is a sectional view taken through the line 22 in FIG. 1, looking in the direction of the arrows;
FIG. 3 is a sectional view taken on the line 3-3 in FIG. 2, looking in the direction of the arrows;
FIG. 4 is a front elevational view, looking in the direction of the arrows 4-4 in FIG. 2;
FIG. 5 is a cross-sectional view taken on the line 5--5 in FIG. 3;
FIG. 6 is an enlarged fragmentary view of a portion of FIG. 2, showing a detail of the one-way gate mechanism of the present invention; and
FIG. 7 is an elevational view illustrating one method for securing the return of a ball which has not been bowled with sufficient force to carry it to the top of the apron.
DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION Referring now to the drawings, there is shown the ball return mechanism of the present invention generally designated by the reference numeral 10. The ball will enter the ball return mechanism 10 by pushing against intermittently spaced vertical members or ball trapping means 11 which are suspended from an elongated elevated horizontal hinge 12, one arm 13 of which is attached to rigid horizontal bar 14, as shown particularly in FIG. 6. Bar 14 is several inches longer at each end than hinge 12 so that it may be attached to vertical panels 15 located at the sides of central apron 16 which extends rearwardly and upwardly beyond hinge 12.
Members 11 may be pushed backwardly by the rolling ball 18. If ball 18, having entered the confines of the area defined by apron 16 and side vertical panels 15 has insufficient force to reach the top 23 of apron 16, it will rebound against vertical members 11 from their posterior aspect. In this situation, the ball will be prevented from rolling back into the pin area since members 11 cannot move forwardly from the vertical position. Vertical stops 19, dependent from bar 14 and horizontal stops 19a, which extend from the medial surface of each panel 15 at the level of movable arm 17 of hinge l2, limit the hinge motion and prevent members 11 from moving to the right of the vertical, as viewed in FIGS. 2 and 6.
With reference now to FIG. 7, it can be seen that handle 21, having hook 20 attached to the end thereof, may be used as a retrieval device to lift or push ball 18 up apron 16 to its top 23, so that it may drop to the ramp 22 (to be described below), which is located behind and several inches beneath the top edge 23 of apron 16.
In the usual case, the momentum of ball 18 will be sufficient to propel it up inclined apron 16, which normally has its forward edge on-the floor and its rear edge 23 about ten inches above the floor. The ball 18 will then roll off the rear edge 23 of apron 16 and fall on to an inverted V-shaped ramp 22, located parallel to and several inches below edge 23. The apex of ramp 22 coincides with the midline of apron 16 and ramp 22 descends laterally from its apex to corner curved ramp portions 27 and thence to downwardly descending side ramp portions 28.
Behind ramp 22 is vertical panel 26 to confine the bowling ball to ramp 22 as the ball passes over the rear edge 23 of apron l6 and on to the ramp. Intermittently spaced horizontal supports 24 connect rear panel 26 to ramp 22 and serve as supports for the ramp. The anterior ends of horizontal supports 24 terminate at the undersurface of apron l6 and support apron 16 in its inclined position by means of beveled ends 25a, as seen best in FIG. 2. Each horizontal support 24 is provided with a leg 25 which extends to the fioor level for supporting the structure.
Lateral portions 28 of ramp 22, which approach the floor at a relatively steep angle and extend about half a foot in front of apron 16, are supported between side panels 15 and additional outer panels 30 by means of cross braces 29. Thus, on each side of the mechanism is a pair of panels. The inner panel 15 of each pair separates apron 16 from the lateral portion 28 of ramp 22, while the outer panel 30 of each pair confines the ball to the ramp and serves as the outermost wall of the ball return mechanism of the present invention. The other outer limit of the ball return mechanism is defined by rear vertical panel 26 which extends laterally at each end about nine inches beyond the lateral margins of apron 16 to provide a rear confining member for the ramp. Vertical panel 26 also extends above side panels 15 and 30, as seen best in FIG. 2, in order to insure that the ball, when rolled with excessive force, will not leap completely over ramp 22 and thus escape from the confines of the ball return mechanism.
At the junction of rear panel 26 and outer panels 30, horizontal corner braces 32 are connected to prevent ball 18 when it reaches curved portion 27 of the ramp from being trapped in the corners formed by the panels. The corner braces 32 also guide ball 18 so that it stays on the ramp 22 as it curves laterally to portion 27 and then descends along portion 28.
As the ball descends lateral portions 28 of ramp 22, it accelerates and gathers sufficient momentum so that on a smooth surface the ball can travel many yards back to the vicinity of the bowler.
The anterior portion of each inner panel 15 extends about half a foot in front of the bottom edge of apron 16. The inner faces of each panel 15, at their top, serve to suspend each end of horizontal bar 14 to which one arm 13 of hinge mechanism 12 is attached, as explained above. Each pair of panels 15 and 30 are joined in their top front portions by a horizontal connector 33, which adds to the stability of the device which also may be employed as a handle in rolling one portion of the device to the assembly area or to a storage area after it has been disassembled, in the manner to be described below.
The ball return mechanism of the present invention may be disassembled into three separate pieces so that it may be more easily stored. As best seen in FIGS. 3 and 4, the hinge assembly, consisting of horizontal bar 14 to which arm 13 of hinge 12 is fixedly secured and the spaced vertical members 11, which are attached to movable arm 17 of hinge 12 may be disconnected by removing nut and bolts 38 from angle iron supports 39 which are located at the upper medial aspect of each of each of the vertical panels 15. The apron and ramp assemblies may be formed in two halves connected together by hook and eye or sliding bolt assemblies. For example, as shown in FIGS. 2 and 3, apron 16 may be formed in two halves and connected together by hook and eye assemblies 35 placed on the undersurface of each half, rear panel 26 may be formed in two halves and connected together by means of hook and eye assemblies 34 and ramp 22 may be formed in two halves and connected together by hook and eye assemblies 36.
Casters 40 may be mounted on rear cross members 41 on the rear surface of back panel 26. Thus, when it is desired to disassemble the ball return mechanism of the present invention, the hinge assembly is removed, as described above, hook and eye assemblies 34, 35 and 36 are disengaged and each half of the apron and ramp assemblies may be then turned over onto its rear portion of panel 26, cross member 33 grasped and onehalf of the assembly rolled to the storage area at a time.
As shown in FIGS. 1 and 2, the present invention is shown in use with a toy bowling game, utilizing a tethered pin setter device such as that set forth in US. Pat. No. 3,586,325, issued on June 22, 1971 to Mortimer Lorber. The bowling game includes table 50 having legs 51, pins 52 and cords 53 for tethering the pins. The rear legs 51 of the table are placed just behind hinge mechanism 12 of the present invention. Of course, it should be realized that the ball return device of the present invention may be used with any type of bowling game and is suitable for use with bowling pins on any horizontal, smooth indoor floor surface or outdoors. In effect, the present invention provides an inexpensive simulation of the bowling ball return mechanism found in commerical bowling alleys. It should be noted that, as shown in FIG. 1, lateral ramp portions 28 converge very slightly so as to insure that the ball will be returned to the vicinity of the bowler.
While a specific embodiment of the invention has been described, it will be realized that those skilled in the art will readily perceive various modifications which may be made therein without departing from the spirit and intent of the invention. Accordingly, it is intended that the scope of the invention be limited only by the claims appended hereto.
1. A bowling ball return mechanism having a forward end adapted to be positioned adjacent a set of bowling pins, apron means carried by said mechanism substantially medially thereof, said apron means having a front edge and a rear edge and being inclined upwardly from said front edge to said rear edge, ramp means communicating with the rear edge of said apron means for returning a bowling ball in the direction from which it was bowled, said ramp means having side portions 10- said bowling pins, said gate means comprising a hinge extending transversely across said mechanism from one side of said apron to the other side edge of said apron perpendicular to the direction of movement of said bowling ball, and ball trapping means depending from said hinge substantially throughout its entire length.