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Recently, I was at Legends Lounge at River City Recreation throwing down A&W Diet Root Beers with Corey Edwards and Dave Kuhn. I should mention that they were drinking Iron City Lite Beers, just for the record. Corey asked me if I had seen the trick shots last Sunday on the PBA show. I said, “No, but I was sure they had some nice little trick shots.” I then proceeded to tell them about Andy Varipapa, “The Master of the Trick Shot.”
Andy was born in Italy in 1891. As a youngster his family moved to the US, and he quickly realized there was much to learn. Varipapa put his highest priority on education. No matter the activity, Andy wanted to be the best.
His first love was baseball and had it not been for a broken leg, Andy might be known as a great major leaguer. Varipapa was also a good golfer, pool player, and boxer. Andy was an all-round athlete, with an intelligent and quick-witted personality.
By the 1920’s, he was beginning to build a reputation as a quality bowler, but in one match he announced his arrival. Bowling in Philadelphia, in 1930, with world champion Joe Falcaro as his partner, Andy started the match with a split, and then ran off 17 straight strikes, en route to averaging 260 for the seven games, including three consecutive games of 279.
Varipapa realized there was not much money to be made in bowling matches or tournaments, so he honed his skills developing trick shots. Andy did not like the term “trick shot.” He referred to them as, “Highly skilled, precision shots, developed by manipulation.” Andy worked just as hard on his presentation. Driving 40,000 miles a year putting on exhibitions, he would practice speaking and work on his showmanship as he drove.
Bud Mueth remembers one of Andy’s exhibitions in Evansville. “It was at Colonial Lanes’ grand opening, Bud said, “Andy lined up several young ladies on the lane and rolled the ball between their legs, for a strike.”
Some of Andy’s other trick shots included: bowling on two lanes at the same time, he would roll his ball down the lane, have it stop and come back to him, he would make the 2, 7, 8, 9 , and 10 pins with one ball, his drop kick shot, where Andy would kick the ball to the right hand gutter and have the ball roll back across the lane to make the 7 pin, Andy would make the 4, 6, 7, & 10 by rolling two balls, the ball in his right hand making the 4-7 and the ball in his left hand making the 6-10, and his Sunday driver shot, which he would make the 7-10 by rolling one ball slowly down the lane, then, Andy would walk back, take his approach, and roll his second ball at regular speed. The two balls would cross, with the faster ball making the 7 pin and the slower ball making the 10 pin.
It was during his exhibitions that the term “Andy Varipapa 300” originated. Andy would start each game with a strike. If he bowled six strikes in a row and then left a pin in the seventh frame, he would start a new game with his next strike. Andy would bowl until he bowled a 300 game. Today, anytime a bowler gets 12 strikes in a row in two games, it is called an “Andy Varipapa 300.”
Andy was more comfortable rolling two balls at once then most people are rolling one. Varipapa said, “I can make a bowling ball do anything, but talk.” In 1934 he made “Strikes and Spares” the first of his 26 movie shorts and in 1981, at the age of 89 Andy appeared on the TV show “That’s Incredible” demonstrating his trick shots.
People forget, amid his trick shots, that Andy was an outstanding bowler. In 1946 & 1947 he won the All-Star tournaments at the age of 55, he was the first bowler to defend his All-Star championship. In 1947 he teamed up fellow Hall of Famer Lou Campi to win the Bowling Proprietors Association of America Doubles Tournament and they defended their title in 1948.
Varipapa was the master of short sayings, call Varipapaisms. After winning the 1946 All-Star, Andy said, “It is about time that the world’s greatest bowler was also the world champion.” “Newspapers made me. They called me unassuming, and then I became a walking, talking machine.” “I am the best bowler I ever saw.” “I never wanted all of the money that was available to be made. I was always willing to settle for half.”
The winner from two weeks ago is Martha Phillips. She knew that the “King Pin” is the five pin. Years ago, Kings would go into battle with their troops. They did not stay at the back, nor were they at the front; they were always surrounded by their troops. The five pin is the only pin surrounded by all the other pins. Martha wins three free games from Diamond Lanes.
This week’s question: What was the original name of River City Recreation? The winner will receive three free games from RCR.
Until next week, may the high scores be yours!