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Life and career
Varipapa was born Andrea Varipapa in Carfizzi, a small Arbëreshë comune in Calabria, the son of Francesco and Concetta (née Fuoco) Varipapa. After his father's death, he and his family moved to the United States, where they settled in Brooklyn, New York City.
Before becoming a professional bowler, he also played baseball, golf and had a try at a boxing career. He started his bowling career in the 1920s and soon made a reputation for himself in this sport, becoming one of the first pro bowlers in the country.
Varipapa was considered to be "the greatest one-man bowling show on Earth" because of his array of exhibition rolls, such as a "boomerang ball" that Varipapa would slowly roll down the lane, only to have it return. He was famous for his ability to convert splits and, astoundingly, could regularly convert the 7-10 split by rolling one ball from each hand, simultaneously. A film shows the balls crossing paths before meeting the pins. He made many demonstration short films over his career, including 1934's Strikes and Spares with Sally McKee and Buster Brodie.
Beyond his trick shot exhibitions, Varipapa was a solid professional bowler. In 1947, at the age of 56, he won the prestigious BPAA All-Star competition (predecessor to the U.S. Open) in a gruelling 100 game format, making him the oldest winner ever. He became the first to win two years in a row when he repeated in 1948 in spite of a dramatic comeback by Joe Wilman, who had won the All-Star in 1946. In 1949 Varipapa came close to a three peat, finishing second to winner Connie Schwoegler of Madison, Wisconsin.
Varipapa lived to be 93 years old and was an active bowler well into old age. At the age of 78, he taught himself to bowl left-handed, as his right hand was giving him difficulties. Within two years he averaged 180, a testament to his skills and longevity.
The "Andy Varipapa 300" game was so-named after Andy joked that a string of 12 consecutive strikes spanning two games should count as a 300.
In 1950, he published the pamphlet Better Bowling, which was expanded two years later into Andy Varipapa's Quick Way to Better Bowling (Garden City Books).
- Bowlers Journal 2011 Year Review
- PBA 1997 Press Guide
- Weiskopf, Herman (1978). The Perfect Game. Time, Inc. p. 64. ISBN 0-13-657015-1.
- Weiskopf, Herman (1978). The Perfect Game. Time, Inc. p. 78. ISBN 0-13-657015-1.
- Arbëreshë people were often nicknamed "Greeks" in Italy, since a lot of them originally came from Greece and not only from Albania.