New-York Historical Society's Bill Shannon Dictionary of New York Sports

Category Archives: Bowling

Kay Brinson


Kay Brinson (Bowling.  Born, ?; died, ?)  There are few people in any sport in this century who can truly be said to be pioneers, but Kay Brinson is certainly one who can claim the honor.  She was a pioneer among black bowlers, fighting for both men and women to have the right to match strikes and spares equally with other bowlers.  Although never a bowler of championship caliber herself, Brinson’s dedication in promoting the rights of black bowlers eventually elevated African-Americans to the same level as others in the sport when the American Bowling Congress lifted its race restrictions at its 1950 convention.  Brinson then swung into action organizing black leagues and eventually opened her own bowling center (in Jamaica, Queens) although it was destroyed by a fire a few years later.  Her only support during the struggle for equality came from Joe Ferguson, the first black male bowler certified by the A.B.C. for membership.  But Brinson went well beyond pushing for black bowlers’ rights. She also served as the long-time secretary of the New York Women’s Bowling Association and, in that capacity, pressed local newspapers and other media outlets to increase their coverage of women’s bowling events regardless of the race of the bowlers.  She also handled statistics and publicity releases for women’s single events throughout the New York area and successfully improved the amount of quality coverage these events received, sometimes producing coverage in New York papers for her events that exceeded that accorded men’s events.  All women bowlers owe a great debt of gratitude to the pioneering work of Kay Brinson.

Lou Campi


Lou Campi (Bowling.  Born, Verona, Italy, March 18, 1905; died, Dumont, NJ, Aug. 31, 1989.)  Luigi (Lou) Campi was one of the most famous of the Eastern bowlers in the earliest days of the sport on television by virtue of performing a feat that defied astronomical odds.  In 1948, Campi was selected as the first Eastern bowler in a live television series of head-to-head matches against the best of the Western bowlers.  The series, staged at the Bowlmor Lanes on 14th Street in Manhattan, was to run 13 weeks.  When either an Eastern or Western bowler lost, he was to be replaced by another star from that region of the country.  No other Eastern bowler ever appeared on the series.  Defeating such great stars as Ray Bluth, Don Carter and Dick Weber, Campi rolled through the entire 13-week series without a defeat.  When the series was extended an extra week (with a new sponsor), he won again.  Finally, in the 15th week, he was beaten, and the series ended.  Campi also holds the distinction of winning the first event ever staged by the Professional Bowlers Association, the 1959 Empire State Open at Albany, N.Y.  By 1959, Campi was near the end of his career as a top-flight bowler, but he had been a B.P.A.A. All-American in 1957, which was also the year he won his second B.P.A.A. All-Star doubles title (teamming with his pal Al Faragalli).  Campi, who bowled six sanctioned 300 games during his brilliant career, was also part of the 1948 B.P.A.A. doubles championship.

Marty Cassio


Marty Cassio (Bowling.  Born, Palermo, ltaly, Aug. 15, 1904; died, Rahway, NJ, Dec. 20, 1972.)  Marty Cassio moved to the United States at the age of five.  Like most immigrants, he went to work at an early age.  A career in sports appeared doomed when as a youth he plunged through a plate glass window while carrying an armful of clothes when earning a few bucks at a tailor shop.  As a result of the accident, Cassio’s hand was shrunken and his ring finger and little fingers were permanently curled.  In 1930, Marty Cassio took up bowling.  He became a tailor in Rahway, N.J., and was “The Bowling Tailor.”  Without a strong wrist to power the ball, Cassio relied on accuracy, which he perfected.  His biggest asset was his determination, which he combined with consistency.  He anchored many championship teams in major leagues throughout the New York metro area during his career.  His performance in American Bowling Congress tournaments is highlighted by his 1946 record of leading the ten-year averages, with a 203 for 90 games across 30 sets of lanes. Cassio finished in the top ten six times in A.B.C. tournaments in singles, doubles and all-events.

Ned Day


Ned Day (Bowling.  Born, Los Angeles, CA, Nov. 11, 1911; died, Milwaukee, WI, Nov. 26, 1971.)  When bowling was introduced at Madison Square Garden No. 3 in the 1940s, Edward Gately Day, Jr., was the sport’s biggest draw.  Day put on exhibitions that excited interest in the sport, setting the stage for an exhibition by Andy Varipapa in 1952 and a series of tournaments in the 1960s, all staged on the floor of the main arena.  Day first came to public notice with a tournament 834 series (300-276-258) in 1939.  In 1952, Day was the A.B.C. all-events champion.  He died after a heart attack in his bookstore.

Joe Falcaro


Joe Falcaro (Bowling.  Born, New York, NY, Jan. 3, 1896; died, Cedarhurst, NY, Sept. 6, 1951.)  Guiseppi (Joe) Falcaro was based in Brooklyn and became the dominant match-game bowler of the late 1920s and 1930s, holding the B.P.A.A. match-game championship for four years.  Falcaro was a flamboyant and colorful character both on and off the lanes. He brought showmanship to bowling along with Italian native Andy Varipapa.  The two formed a dominant doubles team for many years that contributed to the growth of the sport.  Falcaro first captured the B.P.A.A. title when he defeated Detroit’s Joe Scibner in 1929 and defended successfully in 1930, 1931 and 1932.  He gave up the title in 1933 for reasons unrelated to his bowling ability. He became involved in a social relationship with a lady whose husband resented his intrusion and expressed his displeasure with a bullet.  Falcaro defaulted his title to Joe Miller of Buffalo but recovered and toured the country as a famed exhibition bowler.  On Nov. 29, 1934 in Fremont, Ohio, he bowled the five best local bowlers and turned in a startling series of 279, 279, 279, 279 and 289. His five-game pinfall of 1,405 was the second highest in U.S. bowling history up to that time.  Falcaro also owned a well-known bowling establishment at 181st and Broadway adjacent to the IND subway station in the 1930s and 1940s.  Many famous bowling stars and greats of other sports including Sugar Ray Robinson bowled exhibitions there.

Junie McMahon


Junie McMahon (Bowling. Born, Passaic, NJ, Jan. 3, 1912; died, Hackensack, NJ, Nov. 1, 1974.) James (Junie) McMahon was not only one of the outstanding bowlers of his time, but also the possessor of one of the smoothest deliveries in the sport. He was the anchorman on some of the best teams in the New York-New Jersey area. Among his bowling peers, he was noted for his consistency in the clutch. The New Jersey native was always at his best in the showcase of bowling, the American Bowling Congress championships, in which he topped the lofty 1,800 mark in his first appearance in 1937. McMahon topped the 1,800 plateau in eleven of the next twelve years. At one point, his 207.1 average for ten successive years was the best in the event. He won the American Bowling Congress title in 1947 and the B.P.A.A. All-Star event, then the sport’s most prestigious tournament, in 1949 and 1951. He was the B.P.A.A. Bowler of the Year in 1950. McMahon bowled the first nationally-televised match ever in 1959, but suffered a stroke less than an hour later and remained partly paralyzed and unable to speak until his death 15 years later.

Johnny Petraglia


Johnny Petraglia (Bowling.  Born, Brooklyn, NY, Mar. 3, 1947.)  At the beginning of his career, it seemed like anything but a career for Johnny Petraglia, who started bowling on the local lanes in his native Brooklyn.  At the age of 18, he decided to take a chance on the Professional Bowlers Tour and his first year compiled the awesome total of $300 in winnings.  But from that beginning, Petraglia became one of the most respected members of the bowling fraternity, serving two terms as president of the P.B.A. (1979-80 and 1989-90).  One of his major victories came in 1978 when he won the Long Island Open at Garden City. He also won all of the major tournaments bowling has to offer, including the PBA National Championship (1980), the Firestone Tournament of Champions (1971) and the B.P.A.A. U.S. Open (1977). Petraglia’s hottest career streak came at the end of 1971 PBA Winter Tour when he won his last three tournaments in succession, finishing with his win in the Firestone Tournament of Champions. That blistering string matched a P.B.A. mark set in 1961 by Dick Weber and subsequently matched by Mark Roth.  However, Petraglia was the only one of the trio whose record-matching win was nationally televised.  He had come a very long way from his first tour victory in Ft. Smith, Ark., in 1966.

Mark Roth


Mark Roth (Bowling. Born, Brooklyn, NY, Apr. 10, 1951.)  One of the first of the hard-throwing, hard-cranking bowlers now  so typical of the Professional Bowlers Tour, Brooklyn’s Mark Roth was a dominant leader in the sport for more than two decades, winning 33 P.B.A. tournaments in a career that began in 1970.  During his first five years on the circuit, Roth did not win a single tournament and only slowly began to move up the money-winning ladder, hitting $36,879 in 1974.  But the next season, he produced his first victory in a tournament (the King Louie Open) and from 1976 to 1979, he won a staggering 22 tournaments. In 1978, his winnings totaled $134,500.  Starting in 1977, Roth won $100,000 or more in purses five straight years as the dominant bowler on the tour and by 1984 had won more than $1 million, becoming only the second PBA bowler to achieve that level.  Roth’s 1984 campaign was perhaps the most amazing of his career in that he entered only 25 tournaments but qualified for the finals 10 times, won four tournaments and finished as the top money-winner on the tour for the fourth time in his career.  His earnings that year ($158,712) represented the second-highest season total ever up to that time.  Perhaps the most impressive single fact about Roth’s record is his consistency. In more than 8,000 games from 1976 through 1991, he maintained a 215-plus average. He won the George Young High Average Award a record five times.

Tony Sparando


Tony Sparando (Bowling.  Born, Brooklyn, NY, Jan. 18, 1906; died, Rego Park, NY, Sept. 21, 1989.)  In 1938, Anthony Sparando set a record for high average in the Metropolitan Major League, then the leading New York area bowling organization.  Twenty years later, when the record was finally broken, it was broken by Tony Sparando.  For much of his career, Sparando was a mutuel clerk for the New York Racing Association and its predecessors but it was as one of the finest pro bowlers in the area that New York sports fans knew him.  In nine B.P.A.A. All-Star tournaments, Sparando bowled 476 games and averaged over 201.  In 1954, he won the American Bowling Congress championship singles during which he rolled one of his two sanctioned 300 games.  He had bowled a 738 series for third place in the A.B.C. singles in 1941. Famed for his accuracy, Sparando was a consistent bowler whose best years were well before the formation of the modern P.B.A. Tour, although he appeared in the second P.B.A. event ever staged, in 1959 at Paramus, N.J.  He finished 22nd in the P.B.A. Paramus Eastern P.B.A. Open. A charter member of the group, he appeared in P.B.A. tournaments sporadically until 1966.  All of his bowling achievements came despite the fact that he had severely impaired vision. He was virtually blind in one eye and had limited vision in the other. Nevertheless, he was among the premier bowlers in the New York area for more than two decades.  Among his other titles were the New York State All-Events, the Peterson Classic and the Landgraf Classic. He was also part of such outstanding teams as the Ronson Lighters and the Faber Cement Block squad.

Andy Varipapa


Andy Varipapa (Bowling.  Born, Carfizzi, Italy, Mar. 13, 1891; died, Huntington, NY, Aug. 25, 1984.)  Perhaps the most famous bowling star of the early television era, Andrew Varipapa came to the United States in 1903 and began one of the most remarkable careers in the history of American sports.  He began bowling in 1905 in New York and bowled his first 300 game in 1931.  He was to bowl a total of 70 sanctioned 300s in his long career.  Varipapa first came to public notice on Jan. 17, 1932, when he was already 40.  He bowled a six-game series in Queens Village, with a total pinfall of 1,652, an average of over 275 pins per game.  In the 1930s, Varipapa became the first bowler to make his living by giving exhibitions.  He developed a group of trick shots that have not been consistently performed by anyone else to this day.  He starred in a series of motion picture short subjects on the sport, helping to popularize bowling across the U.S.  Before the formation of the present pro tour, the B.P.A.A. All-Star was the major tournament and Varipapa became the first bowler to win successive All-Star titles with back-to-back championships in 1946 and 1947.  He later became a star of televised bowling matches in the early days of television both as a competitor, with his repertoire of amazing trick shots and his personality.  Varipapa’s shock of white hair and brilliant smile helped make him a fan favorite.

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The Bill Shannon Biographical Dictionary of New York Sports is an open database of sports biographies maintained by Jordan Sprechman and Marty Appel. We welcome public and scholarly contributions and suggestions.

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