Archive for the ‘FAMOUS BOWLERS’ Category

Wrong Foot Louie

March 27, 2015

Watching Lou Campi bowl was fun.  Especially the first time you saw him.

He was a little guy with glasses and a soft smile who looked like a sawed-off Clark Kent.  As he shuffled into his approach, your immediate impression was that he was crowding the foul line.  No room for him to slide.  Then he was suddenly spinning the ball out onto the lane.  With the crash of the pins, your brain finally caught up with the visual images of Lou’s style, and you realized what had happened.  Campi had finished his delivery on the wrong foot.

To summarize—Lou Campi was a right-handed bowler who slid to the line with his right foot.  If you think that’s easy, try it some time.

Many noted bowlers have had offbeat styles, and all of them have claimed their way was really an advantage.  But not Wrong Foot Louie.  The way he told it, he had played a lot of Italian bocce as a kid, got used to delivering the ball off his right foot, and it was too much trouble to change.

Campi Campi was born in Verona, Italy, in 1905.  The family moved to New Jersey when Lou was fourteen.  Papa Campi was a stone mason, and his son followed in the trade.

Though he didn’t get around to tenpins until he was well past thirty, the bocce master swiftly made the transition, averaging over 200 by his second year.  With his crazy style, he won quite a few money matches before the other bowlers wised up.

By 1947 Campi was a big name around North Jersey and New York City.  Andy Varipapa had competed against Campi in several leagues, and chose him as a partner in a challenge-match for the BPAA Doubles title. The pair won the match, then successfully defended their title in the tournament the following year.

During the 1950s Campi bowled with the Faber Cement Blocks, the finest team in the East—and a fitting sponsor for a stone mason.  In 1957 he teamed with Lindy Faragalli to again capture the BPAA Doubles. Besides the doubles title, Campi won several individual events that season, and was named a first team All-American.  He was also a finalist at the All-Star Tournament four times, finishing as high as third place.

His wrong-foot finish aside, Campi did not hesitate to restructure his game.  Long after he’d become famous, Campi switched from pin-bowling to spot-bowling.  He also developed the unique “Campi Twin Grip,” a four-hole drilling in a rectangular pattern that allowed him to vary his grip as the night wore on.

Campi was also one of the early stars of TV bowling.  On one show he won two automobiles.  His greatest performance, though, was on the East vs. West Bowling Sweepstakes program.

For fourteen straight weeks Campi defeated the Who’s Who of bowling—Carter, Weber, Nagy, Lillard, Lubanski, and so on. The station even extended the show to see if someone could beat him.  By then they’d run out of challengers.  Bill Lillard was brought back for a second try, and Campi was finally beaten . . . by three pins.

That incredible television streak may have been the peak of Campi’s career.  He continued to bowl with the Fabers and give exhibitions for AMF into the 1960s, gradually winding down from big-time competition.  When he was elected to the ABC Hall of Fame in 1968, he was managing a bowling center.

Yet for all his accomplishments, Campi may be best known today as a bit of historical trivia.

Question:  Who won the first PBA tournament?

Answer:  Lou Campi at Albany, New York, in 1959.

If you’re doing the math, you’ll note that Campi was already 54 years old when he captured that inaugural PBA event.  Thus, pro bowling had a senior champion before it had a regular one.

Lou Campi died in 1989.

—30—

First published in Bowlers Journal in February 1993.

Johnny Small (1949)

March 23, 2015

Small, Johnny (1949)

(1905-1993)

Match Game Doubles champion, 1946

2 ABC championships (1942-T, 1949-AE)

 

Jim Chalmers (1905)

March 20, 2015

Chalmers, James

(1877-1947)

2 ABC championships (1905-T, 1908-D)

Ebonite Advisory Staff (1966)

March 16, 2015
FRONT--Harry Smith, Don Carter, George Twickler (District Manager), Carmen Salvino  REAR--Billy Hardwick, Ray Bluth, Bill Allen

FRONT–Harry Smith, Don Carter, George Twickler (District Manager), Carmen Salvino REAR–Billy Hardwick, Ray Bluth, Bill Allen

Earl Anthony (1971)

March 9, 2015

Anthony, Earl (1971)

(1938-2001)

ABC Hall of Fame, 1986

#3 Bowler of the 20th Century

Bowlers Journal Bowler of the Decade, 1970s

Bowler of the Year, 1973-74, 1974-75, 1975-76, 1980-81, 1981-82, 1982-83

All-American, 1971-72, 1972-73, 1973-74, 1974-75, 1975-76, 1976-77, 1977-78, 1978-79, 1979-80, 1980-81, 1981-82, 1982-83

Masters champion, 1977, 1984

PBA National champion, 1973, 1974, 1975, 1981, 1982, 1983

Tournament of Champions winner, 1974, 1978

1 ABC championship (1968-TAE)

43 PBA titles

Fred Riccilli (1959)

March 5, 2015

Riccilli, Fred (1959)

(1921-2015)

Petersen Classic winner, 1952

First player to sign with National Bowling League, 1960

Bill Shaul (1939)

March 2, 2015

Shaul

(1883-1955)

Bowling’s First Professional Instructor

Buddy Bomar (1947)

February 27, 2015

Bomar, Buddy (1947)

(1916-1989)

ABC Hall of Fame, 1966

#18 Bowler of the 20th Century

Bowlers Journal Bowler of the Decade, 1940s

Bowler of the Year, 1944-45, 1946-47

All-American, 1942-43, 1943-44, 1944-45, 1948-49, 1949-50

All Star champion, 1944-45

Match Game Doubles champion, 1944, 1950

2 ABC championships (1956-T, 1956-TAE)

Petersen Classic winner, 1947 (spring), 1947 (fall)

 

Phil Wolf (1908)

February 16, 2015

Wolf, Phil

(1873-1936)

ABC Hall of Fame, 1961

#65 Bowler of the 20th Century

3 ABC championsips (1909-T, 1920-T, 1928-AE)

Remembering Dick Weber

February 13, 2015

Dick Weber died on February 13, 2005–ten years ago today.  The following story appeared in the April 2005 issue of Bowlers Journal.

They told me that Dick Weber has died.  But I don’t have to believe it if I don’t want to.

Too soon, too soon.  He was only 75.  He should have gone on for another 15 or 20 years, celebrated like Joe Norris as a Grand Old Man, until all of us could get used to the idea that there would one day be a world without Dick Weber.

He had been such a monumental part of our sport for so long that we tend to forget Weber first came to big-time bowling as an outsider, little known beyond the Indianapolis borders.  In 1955 he moved to St. Louis and the Budweisers.  He had already been scouted and rejected by Buddy Bomar, who said that Weber “didn’t have a big enough ass for the ball he throws.”  Not signing Weber, Bomar later admitted, was the stupidest thing he’d ever done.

On the Buds, Weber was immediately installed in the anchor spot.  Topflight bowlers liked to track the lanes by watching each other’s shot, and the rest of the team couldn’t learn much from following Weber’s wide looping curve, so why not put him on the bottom?  Anyway, the Buds were so far above the rest of the competition, it didn’t matter that they had a rookie rolling in the position of honor.Weber, Dick (1981)

But funny things happen.  A few weeks into the season, Weber teamed with Ray Bluth to set a new ABC record in a doubles league.  By the end of that first year, it seemed the most natural thing in the world to have the little man with the big bender anchoring bowling’s super-team.

The irony is that Weber soon had to overhaul his game and develop a straighter shot.  Lane conditions were changing, and he made the adjustment best of anyone.  A whole generation of bowlers who came of age then–my generation–remember the Dick Weber Strike.  This was not the vicious ripper, slashing the 5-pin into the 7, the characteristic of a Junie McMahon.  Now we had the “wall shot,” with the headpin going to the left sideboard, then rebounding to take of the 2-4-5, with the 5-pin falling to the right, or even forward.  It looked messy, but it worked.

Big-time team bowling was on the way out, and Weber made that transition, too.  He didn’t win the first PBA tournament, but he did take the next two, and that was symbolic of what was to come.  The statistics are there: the four All-Star championships, the many PBA titles, the Bowler of the Year awards, and all the rest.  By 1970 he had ascended into legend.

For its 75th anniversary that year, ABC polled writers to name the greatest bowler in history.  The only unanimous selections were Don Carter–and Dick Weber.  From that time on, any list of all-time greats has Weber among the top three or four.  Often he is ranked the best ever.

I once referred to Don Carter as bowling’s Joe DiMaggio.  Sticking to the baseball analogy, the player Weber calls to mind is Stan Musial.  Both arrived at St. Louis from the hinterlands, made it big there, and came to symbolize the city in their given sport.  Both were known for their friendliness and cheerful manner.  Baseball’s Perfect Knight and Bowling’s Greatest Ambassador.

And yet . . . look into the eyes of the two men at their respective peaks in the old black-and-white photos.  You can glimpse the fire that makes a champion.  You don’t accomplish as much as these two competitors did without kicking some butt.

Over the years I had occasion to contact Weber perhaps a half-dozen times.  He always returned my phone calls promptly, and answered my questions in detail, as if he had all the time in the world, and talking to me was the most important thing in his life.  He was everything that I had hoped Dick Weber would be.

The one time I met him in person was in 1999, at Mort Luby’s home.  As everyone had told me, Weber had a mischievous, irreverent sense of humor.  After about an hour, I remarked to him with a laugh, “You’re not totally like your public image, are you?”  And he chuckled and said, “You don’t know the half of it.”

Dick Weber dead?  I don’t have to believe it if I don’t want to.

—30—


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