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Bowling by Milt Northrop: Memorial service planned for bowling great Dick Ciprich

Dick Ciprich, 75, a major figure in Western New York bowling in the 1960s, died Tuesday in Colorado after a long battle with colon cancer.

In a decade when stars such as Jimmy Schroeder, Nin Angelo, Tom Harnisch and Joey Golebiewski – just to mention a few – dominated the local scene, Ciprich was as big as any.

He was elected to the Buffalo Bowling Association (now the Greater Buffalo USBC Association) Hall of Fame in 1996, and in 2007 he was enshrined in the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame for his achievements on the lanes.

Ciprich was born in Laceyville, Pa., and was a three-sport star at Watkins Glen High – an end in football, a forward in basketball and a shortstop and pitcher in baseball. He moved on to Rochester but soon arrived in Buffalo because of his bowling prowess.

In an era when team bowling was most popular on the Classic League level, he joined some of the most powerful pin lineups in the city. Ciprich was constantly in the sports news in those years when The Buffalo Evening News and the Courier-Express covered the sport on a nightly basis.

Ciprich once bowled an 811 with 27 strikes to spark his Big E team to a city-record 3,450 at the old Fairlanes in Depew. In 1967, he filled in for Sam Borrasca on the Big E team at Fairlanes and bowled a 300 game. In all, he had 29 perfect games in his career, not all sanctioned.

Ciprich was good enough to venture on to the national scene, appearing on the Professional Bowlers Association Tour and in the American Bowling Congress Masters.

During an interview in 2007, he said he considered his victory in the 1972 Bowlers Journal Championship in Long Beach, Calif., as his career highlight. He bowled a five-game 1,214 series, which at the time was a tournament record.

That same year in Long Beach he shot 779 in doubles, at the time the third-best series in the history of the ABC, which serves as the national championship of bowling for pros and amateurs.

He also had a fourth-place finish at the U.S. Open in St. Paul., Minn. Bowling as an amateur, he defeated Lee Schissler of Denver, 247-221, before losing to Hall of Famer Wayne Zahn, 203-194.

Locally, he won the 1967 George A Obenauer Masters, defeating Bud Schwabl in the final match. He was runner-up to Phil Dewey in the 1971 Obie.

Ciprich was involved in bowling in other ways, too. At one time he managed the old Parkside Lanes in Tonawanda. He organized the popular “Beat the Champ” show on WBEN-TV and along with Chuck Healy served as commentator.

He also competed in “Beat the Champ,” once winning six weeks in a row before losing to Golebiewski.

Away from the lanes here, Ciprich worked mainly as an auto salesman and bartender.

In 2002, he left Buffalo and moved to Parachute, Colo., to operate a bar/restaurant in a remote southwestern part of the state. A town of only 1,000, Parachute bills itself as “A good place to land.”

The attraction was the oil and gas exploration in the area and the town’s proximity to Interstate Route 70 and historic Battlement Mesa. Ciprich operated the White Buffalo West and pretty much gave up bowling, although a few locals challenged him from time to time. The restaurant’s landmark was a lifelike white buffalo Ciprich brought with him from Buffalo, like the several seen around Western New York.

Ciprich later got out of the restaurant business and occupied himself with a laptop computer repair business and dealing in sports memorabilia.

“Dick was a smart guy,” said John Pasco of the PBA. “He taught me how to use eBay in my business.”

When Ciprich left Buffalo to go west, he left behind many friends here, especially in the local bowling community.

Funeral arrangements have not been announced by the family, but a memorial service locally is planned.