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Bowling: Nin Angelo was more than a kegler

By Milt Northrop


For many, that 19-week run of victories on Channel 4 more than 50 years ago defined the life of Nin Angelo, who died at age 85 last week.

Like many things, it may have been both a blessing and a curse. That feat on “Beat the Champ” made him famous in the minds in many. It also may have obscured other facets of a well-rounded life – outside of bowling.

Oh, Nin was able to deal with the fame that streak brought him and people coming up to him and asking millions of questions about it. He was an affable and agreeable man.

Aside from being an elite level bowler, who passed his passion and knowledge for the game on to his son, Brad, Nin was an accomplished athlete in basketball and as a left-handed pitcher and first baseman in baseball, an honest laborer and businessman and a devoted and proud family man.

One look around the funeral parlor during visitation hours in Lockport on Wednesday told a lot about Nin. Most of the photos and items in the room did not deal with bowling.

Yes, there was a very large framed photo of “Beat the Champ” host Chuck Healy and Nin, but most of the rest were family photos of Nin in the gray road jersey of his beloved Yankees at a game in Toronto, a team picture of the 1945 Lockport High basketball team and several with Nin and some lunkers he hooked in Lake Ontario near his home in Newfane.

Nin’s days as a Classic League-level bowler ended with a 1978 construction cave-in that nearly cost him his life. Actually, once whatever recovery from severe pelvic, leg and other injuries took place, it sent him off on another path in life. He was 51 at the time with a wife and family to support and lots of life to live.

He opened a commercial photography business and supported his family for 15 years or so. He had studied photography after getting out of the Navy in the 1950s, so he would have another career to fall back on if he needed it.

There weren’t many Little Leaguers or other youth and scholastic athletes in the 1980s and '90s in the Lockport area who were not photographed by Nin Angelo.

“I’ve had so many people come up to me or call me this week remembering my dad first as the man who took their team pictures when they were kids,” Brad Angelo said. “And a lot of them mentioned how honest he was, how he never would gouge them with his prices.”

Brad Angelo was only 8 when his dad was injured in the accident, but he remembers what Nin’s daily routine was like before the injuries.

“His day would start at something like 4:30 in the morning because construction work is early work,” Brad recalled. “He would labor all day, come home, make sure he had dinner with the family every night and then take a short nap and get ready to go out and bowl. There were a lot of second-shift Classic bowling leagues back then and he would be off to bowl four or five nights a week.”

Bowling was a night-owl sport then, and a socializing sport, so league nights meant late nights before an early rise the next day.

Locally, his crowning achievement was winning the George A. Obenauer Masters in 1973, a tournament his son has won four times, most recently in 2012.

Perhaps Nin’s proudest moment was teaming with Brad to win the 1992 Lockport Bowling Association city doubles tournament, both scratch and handicap.

“Dad put away his bowling ball after that and never bowled again,” Brad said.

You might say that was the first time Nin Angelo went out on top as a champion.

Jurek, Szczerbinski winners

In case you missed the taped finals show on ESPN last Sunday, the New York City WTT KingPins, with local pros Jack Jurek of Lackawanna and John Szczerbinski of North Tonawanda in the lineup, defeated the Motown Muscle, 440-407, to claim the Elias Cup championship of the inaugural Professional Bowlers Association League.

Consecutive strikes by Tommy Jones, Jurek, Szczerbinski, Scott Norton and team captain Pete Weber locked up the title after the lane changeover in Game Two. The KingPins excelled on the left lane.

After throwing the decisive strike in the 10th frame, Weber benched himself and brought in the KingPins’ supplemental draft pick, Kelly Kulick, to finish off the match. The only woman in the PBA League field threw two more strikes to conclude things.

Women’s tourney in Reno

After nearly eight weeks of construction at the Reno-Sparks Convention Center in Nevada, the United States Bowling Congress Women’s Championships opened its run on Friday.

The tournament will go on through July 1. The USBC Open Championship is already running across town at the National Bowling Stadium in Reno.