One of the strongest and oldest leagues in the Schenectady Bowling Association is going through a major transition.
The Vitalo Classic, which began 63 years ago as the Schenectady Open Classic and was later renamed for former longtime secretary/treasurer Steve Vitalo, has a new look, with younger and fresher talent replacing some of the legends of the game.
Most of the greatest bowlers in SBA history spent part of their Saturday nights competing in the Vitalo Classic at Sportsman’s Bowl. They included Harry Polomaine, Bob and Rit Carney, Frank DePalma, Dick Peckham, Tom Donato, Mike Christie, Hugo McGroty, Ed Gumm, Marty Capullo, the late Jim Burch, John Musto Jr. and John Jablonski.
In an earlier era, SBA stalwarts like the legendary Joe Donato, George Sorella, John Famiano and Cuby Fiorillo were league members, and helped establish the Vitalo Classic as one of the top scratch leagues in the Capital Region. In fact, Vitalo bowlers have won several SBA and national scoring records over the years.
But replacing the old familiar faces are a bunch of new stars that include Seth Adams, J.P.Harrell, R.J. Martinez, Chris Fawcett, Joe O’Toole, Matt Roberts, Kevin Straut and Frank Nanci. Former Vitalo members like Jason Deitz, Dan Palmiotto and B.J. Smith have also returned after being absent for assorted reasons.
According to SBA Hall of Famer Dave Mennillo Jr., who has been the league secretary/treasurer ever since Vitalo passed him the baton, only Mennillo (40 years), Skip Vigars Jr. (31), Brian Brown (31), Greg Buczek (28) and Mark Ray (24) remain with at least 20 years of service in the star-studded league.
An excellent example of the changing times is the fact that perennial power Klonowski’s Pro Shop was forced to drop its franchise after team member Dan DeMyer was lost for the season with an arm injury.
Craig Berschwinger, an 11-time average champion who cranked out a league-best 251 average a year ago, has moved from the area, and Jamie Diamond, a four-time league average champion who holds seven all-time league records, has taken a leave of absence because of personal reasons.
“We are still very excited about this season,” said Mennillo. “It should be the most competitive in recent years. I feel that at least half the teams have a chance at the league championship. The addition of so many new, young bowlers should make this an interesting season, and it also makes the
future bright with many highlights for years to come.”
Mennillo’s attention to detail and extraordinary record keeping is well known in area bowling circles, and as a member of the SBA’s Hall of Fame committee, he has helped put the spotlight on many deserving keglers down through the years.
He provided a look at this year’s Vitalo rosters, which still feature many of the area’s top bowlers.
Boulevard Bowl replaces Klonowski’s and includes team captain Joe Paone, with Adams and Smith.
Martinez, a popular league substitute, joins 2010 league champion Deitz and league holdover Ryan Gahan on the Emilee’s Ice Cream team, while Uncle Paul’s Pizza has a new look, as newcomers O’Toole and Roberts join Zach Olsen. Josh Tomlin has left the team, and SBA Hall of Famer Len Kaisand moved to Arizona.
Palmiotto, Vince Silverio and Dean Halpin are all back on a team Mennillo calls the Silverio team, which is waiting a sponsor.
There will be plenty of powerful hooks being thrown on the X-Treme Shine Auto Salon team, as newcomers Harrell and Nanci join fellow cranker Chamar Goodwin. Harrell recently rolled an 879 triple that included a pair of 300 games.
Town ’N Country features Nick Stricos and Steve Hallenbeck, along with rookie Fawcett, who rolled 15 300 games last season alone.
The smooth-shooting Straut joins Buczek and Fred Marx on the Wiggily Worm Bait Shop team.
Despite all the changes, there are still five teams that return their rosters intact.
Two-time back-to-back league champions The Zoo have 2011 average champion Jay Diamond, John Mango and Mark Ray, a two-time average champion.
Bob’s Pro Shop, last year’s runner-up, includes Brian Brown, John Leone and steady Earl Lawrence Jr..
David Sader, Jeff Belli and Mike Giaquinto are back on the DavidSader.com team, and the all-SBA administrator team of Steve Renzi, Lloyd Denny and Bill Nolan also returns.
Also back intact is the Ace’s Coffee Shop team (Vigars, Sherm Bowman and Mennillo), which has won a league-record 10 championships. Vigars is a 14-time league average champion. He also has the most 900s and most 1,000 series in league history.
It’s definitely a new era for the Vitalo, but hopefully, there will be enough veterans who remain committed to keeping things together for this high-powered league.
The New Era Senior Tour opened the 2012-2013 season last weekend at Town ’N Country Lanes, and high scores were the norm, especially in the rolloffs, where left-hander Art Van Buren tossed a perfect game to defeat Eric Morrell, 300-269, in the championship game. Van Buren earned $400, while Morrell took home $200.
Craig Morrell (1,008 four-game series), Eric Morrell (942) and Chris Fedden (932) advanced to the rolloffs from the 50-59 division, while Van Buren (1,043) was the only one to advance in the 60-66 group. Jim Burton (1,015) and Pete Linck (952) moved on from the 67-plus division.
Eric Morrell defeated Fedden (278-235), Burton beat Linck (228-204), Eric Morrell def. Craig Morrell (236-214) and Van Buren stopped Burton, 266-242, in the other matches.
The next NEST event will be Oct. 6 at Sunset Recreation at 1 p.m.
STRIKES & SPARES
u Tom Donato has announced that the annual Joe Donato Scratch Singles Tournament will be held at Sportsman’s Bowl this year, with the finals set for March 17. More information about qualifiers throughout the Capital Region will be announced at a later date. The tournament was held at the now-defunct Redwood Lanes last year. It has been held previously at both Sportsman’s and Towne Bowling Academy.
u This year’s NBA Stockade Open, to be held Nov. 25 at 10 a.m. at Boulevard Bowl in Schenectady, will be held on behalf of the Joan Nicole Prince Home in Scotia. The facility, which uses Hospice staff, provides a safe, comfortable and caring residence for terminally ill patients in need of a home during their final days.
u Towne Bowling Academy’s Scratch Challenge will be held Oct. 7 at 9:30 a.m. Entry fee is $50, and it includes jackpots. First place will be $800, based on 60 entries. The format will be a five-game sweeper, changing lanes after each game. The PBA Shark oil pattern will be used. The field will be limited to the first 60 entries. Cash prizes will be awarded on a 1-in-5 ratio, based on total pins. For more information, call Towne Bowling Academy at 355-3939.
u The Huck Finn Northeast Bowling Proprietors of New York’s Capital Region Bowling schedule kicks off Oct. 13-14 with qualifiers at 3 p.m. on Oct. 13 at Alpha Lanes and two more Oct. 14 at 9:30 and 11:30 a.m. Uncle Sam Lanes. Call Jeff Segel at 439-7628 for reservations.
u The Daily Gazette league, which bowls Tuesdays at noon at Sportsman’s Bowl, needs several bowlers. Call Bob Weiner at 395-3147 or send him an email at email@example.com for more information.
u The New York State Women’s Bowling 700 Club Tournament will be held Oct. 13 at 2:30 p.m. at Boulevard Bowl. The tournament format will be doubles, and there is a $55 entry fee. One team partic-ipant must be a 700 Club member. The prize fund will be distributed by the teams based on the division in which they qualify: Division A (400 average or higher), Division B (370-398), Division C (368 and under) and Senior Division (60 years of age and older). The 700 Club members also will be competing in their appropriate qualifying divisions for prize money donated by the 700 Club. Entries and new members will be accepted up to the time of bowling. For more information, or an entry blank, contact Diane McGroty at 356-2282.
u The Menagerie league, which bowls at 6:15 p.m. on Fridays, has three openings. Call Boulevard Bowl for more information.
u Team USA members Chris Barnes, Tommy Jones and Kelly Kulick, along with former PBA Women’s Series competitor Shannon O’Keefe, are representing the United States in the inaugural World Tenpin Bowling Association World Singles Championships which got under way Thursday at Galactica Bowling Center in Limossol, Cyprus. The event concludes Wednesday. International PBA Tour competitors who are bowling for their home countries in the event include Canada’s Dan MacLelland, Colombia’s Andres Gomez, England’s Stuart Williams and Finland’s Osku Palermaa.