July 5, 1927– April 4, 2013
Hall of Fame bowler Anthony J. “Nin” Angelo, whose exploits on television more than 50 years ago captured the imagination of many who were not devoted followers of the sport, died Thursday in Buffalo General Medical Center. A Lockport native who lived in Newfane, Mr. Angelo was 85.
Between Nin and his son Brad, the Angelos are one of Western New York’s more prominent bowling families. A standout Classic League bowler, Mr. Angelo gained much of his fame from a 19-game winning streak on Channel 4’s popular “Beat the Champ” weekly bowling show during the 1960-61 season. It helped make the show, hosted by the late Chuck Healy, become popular television fare here.
During his run, Mr. Angelo averaged 229.8 over the first eight weeks, remarkable for those times. The streak included a 299 game and a 760 series. He kept his streak alive by coming back from 78 pins behind to defeat M. Don Whelan by two pins. The following season he had another run of 12 weeks as the “Champ.” The opposition sometimes included the best bowlers from outside Buffalo, including Hall of Famers such as Ed Lubanski and Carmen Salvino.
The “Little Left-hander From Lockport,” as Mr. Angelo was known, is a member of the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame, the Greater Buffalo USBC Hall of Fame, the New York State Bowling Hall of Fame and the Lockport Bowling Association Hall of Fame. He won the Greater Buffalo USBC’s most prestigious tournament, the George A. Obenauer Masters, in 1973, defeating Joe Konar in the title match.
He led the ABC Bowling Congress Classic Division for 2½ months in 1966 before finishing fifth and bowled in major national tournaments such as the BPAA All-Star, which became the U.S. Open.
A friendly man away from the lanes, Mr. Angelo was a fierce competitor on the hardwood. His time as an elite bowler ended with a construction accident that nearly cost him his life May 19, 1978. He was nearly buried alive in a cave-in while installing a water line in Barker, suffering serious pelvic and knee injuries.
With his own dreams cut short, Mr. Angelo turned a lot of his bowling attention to coaching his son Brad, who earned a place on Team USA in the 1990s before turning pro. In 1992, they won the Lockport City Tournament Doubles, the first time they bowled together. Brad was PBA Rookie of the Year in 2003-04 and led the Tour in points in 2005.
“Growing up, I was known as Nin Angelo’s son. I could never understand the significance of what those words meant. He was just my dad, a wonderful man,” said Brad Angelo. Besides his bowling, Mr. Angelo, a Navy veteran, was known around Lockport as a baseball player. As a first baseman and pitcher, he drew the interest of the Cincinnati Reds before suffering a knee injury. After his Classic League bowling days ended, Mr. Angelo, who had studied photography, opened his own sports photography business in the Lockport area.
In addition to his son, he is survived by his wife, the former Nancy Hausman; two other sons, Mark and Paul; and a brother, John.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered at 11 a.m. Thursday in All Saints Parish Oratory, 391 Market St., Lockport.
– Milt Northrop