Andy Varipapa Stories from Bowlers Journal

Dr. Jake – aka J.R. Schmidt from Bowlers Journal – is the author of Dr. Jake’s Bowling History Blog, a searchable and comprehensive history of bowling’s stars and their accomplishments. You can link to the blog at the image above and also from the sidebar of this website under Bowling Links.

 

He recently sent me a copy of a great article he wrote in Bowlers Journal back in 2009 relating some anecdotes provided by some of the game’s stars on their interesting interactions with Andy over the years.  I have posted them here and you can have a laugh at “Andy being Andy”.

 

ANDY VARIPAPA STORIES (August 2009)

 

Twenty-five years ago this month, Andy Varipapa died.  He was ninety-three years old.  Whether he was the greatest bowler of his era is open to debate.  But nobody can deny he was the greatest showman.  Andy created memories—and not just among the fans.  Some years ago I had the pleasure of conducting oral history interviews with a dozen veteran stars.  Sooner or later, there would always be an Andy Varipapa story.

 

Shirley Garms described her first exhibition with Andy.  As part of the act, Shirley was supposed to stand out on the lane with her feet apart, and Andy would roll the ball between her legs.  Once she was set, Andy told her to move her feet closer together.  Shirley followed orders, but Andy wasn’t satisfied.

 

Andy had Shirley adjust her stance a few more times.  As the space between her feet narrowed, she began to wonder what would happen if Andy’s aim were off.  “Finally, he said ‘All right!’” Garms remembered.  “He threw the ball and I closed my eyes.  That ball just barely went between my legs.” 

 

           At the height of his fame, Andy was one of the best-known athletes in America.  That became apparent to Joe Norris when the two men made a European exhibition tour.  Andy did a lot of shopping and returned home with thousands of dollars in merchandise—and didn’t bother to keep any receipts.  For anyone else, that might have been a problem.

 

“We landed and we’re waiting for the customs inspection,” Norris said.  “This agent walks by, recognizes Andy, and takes him off to meet his supervisors.  Well, Andy’s gone about twenty-five minutes.  When he comes back, they pass us right through and don’t check anything.”

 

Ray Bluth recalled a Varipapa incident from a TV match at Faetz-Niesen Recreation in Chicago.  The two men were loosening up before going on.  “We’re in the process of practicing, and Andy took his bowling ball and sanded it,” Bluth said.  “That’s against ABC rules, so they took his ball away from him.”

 

Andy lost the match, but it didn’t faze him.  Afterward he told Bluth, “They wanted you to win the show.”

 

Before one of the BPAA Doubles events, Andy found himself without a partner.  He phoned his friend Buddy Bomar, and Bomar fixed him up with a very young Bill Lillard.  “It was in Buffalo during practice on Friday night,” Lillard said.  “Andy walked in and calls out ‘Hey kid, help me carry my bowling balls in.’  He had eight balls and we brought them all in, and I think he used all eight of them in the tournament.”

 

Varipapa and Lillard finished second.  For Andy, that was a disappointment.  “Andy didn’t bowl as well as I did,” Lillard recalled.  “So when we’re finished, he said to me, ‘Kid, here’s $50—buy [your wife] a new hat.’”

 

Carmen Salvino observed that “Andy had a way of talking arrogant, yet you loved him for it—he never sounded boastful.”  He often kidded Salvino that Carmen was “Number Two” after the Great Varipapa.

 

When Salvino was inducted into the Chicago Sports Hall of Fame, Andy was brought in to introduce him.  “They hand me the trophy and Andy grabs it out of my hand,” Salvino chuckled.  “I try to pull it back, and he grabs it again.  It looked like Abbott and Costello up there.  I say ‘Andy, it’s my day!’  But he says, ‘Number Two, settle down!’  So what can you do?”

 

The only time I met Andy Varipapa was in 1970, at the last All-Star Tournament.  He’d been having some wrist and arm problems, and had started bowling left-handed—and was doing pretty well, even at age seventy-nine.  When I complimented him on his switch, he looked annoyed.  “What am I supposed to do?” he snorted.  “Sit home and grow tomatoes?”

 

Then he laughed.  And I had to laugh, too.

 

Bowling Hall of Fame and Museum Honors Andy Varipapa in Special Exhibit

The international Bowling Hall of Fame and Museum in Dallas created a special exhibit celebrating the life and career of Andy Varipapa. As part of the exhibit they produced a short video film covering his life and achievements.

 

You can click the video below.  The exhibit room was very well done and you can view a short “walk-around” in the second video.

 

 

Championship Bowling – Steve Nagy vs Andy Varipapa 3 Game Set (1956)

Before the creation of the PBA and the popular Pro Bowlers Tour show, bowling was televised weekly on Championship Bowling. The show ran from 1954-1960 and featured two current stars facing off in a 3-game match.

 

Many of the shows can be found on YouTube and this one features Andy Varipapa and Steve Nagy, circa 1956. An interesting historical fact comes out in the opening introductions. During the practice session Andy rolled the 78th and final 300 game of his career;  and we know it was a true 300 because Steve Nagy was keeping score!

 

Click image below for video

 

 

 

Carmen Salvino to Make History in Indianapolis

 

When timeless Professional Bowler Association star Carmen Salvino, a long-time very close friend of Andy, laces up his bowling shoes and throws his first ball in competition in the Go Bowling! PBA 60th Anniversary Classic on Tuesday, Feb. 13, at Woodland Bowl, he’ll set a record that will never be matched.

 

At age 84, PBA’s most famous showman will become the only player to bowl in the first PBA tournament ever held – the 1959 Empire State Open at Schade’s Academy in Albany, N.Y. – and the 2018 tournament at Woodland Bowl that will celebrate the PBA’s 60th year of continuous competition.

 

He’ll break his own record which he set when he bowled in the PBA’s 50th anniversary gala in Las Vegas at the age of 74. And he’ll improve upon his own record as the oldest player ever to bowl in a PBA Tour event.

 

For more details, click press release here.

Meeting Andy at the Great & Greatest Tournament in 1979

From: Jim Goodwin

 

I met your grandfather in 1979 when he came to the Great & Greatest Tournament in Irving, Texas. The owner of Golden Triangle Lanes, Jeanie Hulsey hired him to come to the event simply to be an ambassador for bowling. Hulsey was an incredible promoter who hosted the 1974 Women’s U.S. Open in Irving, and the 1975 and 1976 Men’s U.S. Opens and 20 PBA Quaker State Opens from 1977-96 at her other center Forum Bowl in nearby Grand Prairie.

 

Hulsey had tremendous respect for your grandfather and bowling history. She hired professional photographers for all of her events to record that history, and her family has thousands of 8×10 color photos of every great bowler from that era including your grandfather from the 1979 event. Hulsey gave me a copy of a group photo with Andy right in the front row center where he belonged. She said it was one of the smartest things she ever did hiring him to represent the event. He spent the whole week telling stories and entertaining everyone, resulting in a ton of publicity for the event. The TV Finals was 90 minutes as a special featured event on the CBS Sports Spectacular series.

Bowling’s “Italian Connection” Competition

You never know what you’re going to find as you go through the family archives. Who needs the Nathan’s hot dog contest? From the early 1940’s here’s bowling’s “Italian Connection” of Andy Varipapa, Hank Marino, and Joe Falcaro vying for their own spaghetti championship in a New York restaurant.

 

Somewhat reminds me of one of the dinner scenes in “The Godfather”. Hmm….

Meeting Andy in the early 1960’s at Lewis and Clark bowling lanes in Seattle

From: Bob Dennis

 

I met Andy Varipapa in the early 1960’s at Lewis and Clark bowling lanes in Seattle, Washington. I happened to be the highest average bowler at L & C lanes and I was selected to bowl a three game exhibition against Andy in the evening. I do not remember the exact date, but the place was packed. I lost to Andy that night, but we both shot over 650. I was looking at all the stuff that I had accumulated and found a picture of Andy that he autographed and gave to me.

"The Man Bowling Refuses to Forget" – Bowler's Journal, July 2015