Goal posts . . . bedposts . . . snake eyes . . . the killer shot. These are just some of the terms used to describe a 7/10 split (there are other terms, sure, but these are not fit for print). No matter what you call this pin pattern, the bowler is left with the leftmost and rightmost pins in the back row – a nearly impossible spare to pick up. In fact, professional bowlers, one statistic suggests, only pick it up once every 145 times (0.7% success rate!).
Enter John Vinelli. This longtime bowler is a New England native, who happened to be visiting Lorain, Ohio in April 2016 – more specifically, he was at Rebman Recreation’s bowling alley in the next to last pair of lanes. There, he threw what he thought was a decent ball, only to get the dreaded 7/10 split. Like anyone who bowls regularly, he’d gotten his share of these, but had previously only made that particular spare once before in his life.
In Rebman’s, on that day in April, though, he made his second 7/10 pickup – and, of course, he was bowling all by himself. Of course! John turned around in the hopes of having a witness, and there was Don Sagert, who not only verified the pickup, but also took his picture (see above!).
Bowling Secrets by John Vinelli . . .
So, Ole Roy’s asked John, does he have any secrets on how to pick up this split? And, he says he does! Hints that he gave include:
- It involves the last three quarters of the ball’s diameter
- You need to kick off from an angle
- Pure luck also helps
Oh, and remember the first time John picked up the 7/10? It was a “good ten years ago” when John was bowling in a scratch league. When he picked it up, “guys came running up to me and I just said ‘Didn’t you hear me call that shot?’” This moment in the sun didn’t last long, though, because a woman named Joanne “stole my thunder by picking up a 5/7/10 – not even turning around to watch the pins fall.”
John’s Early Days of Bowling
Young John lived in Massachusetts and, on Friday nights, he’d go candlepin bowling. “It’s much harder than tenpin bowling,” John explains, “and 100 is actually a good score.”
Candlepin bowling has its roots in Massachusetts, when Justin “Pop” White decided to leave his boot shop job to buy a pool and bowling business. This was in 1878, when bowling pins were not standardized, and White’s customers were bored with the wider tenpin pins. So, White used 10-inch broomsticks as pins, to be knocked down by three-inch balls. If his customers were bored with the tenpins, they were frustrated with the difficulty of White’s new setup, so in 1880 he switched to 12-inch pins that were two inches wide at the center and one inch wide at the ends – and stocked his alley with a slightly larger (four-inch) ball. His customers were thrilled.
In 1888, John J. “Jack” Monsey “with extremes in energy and vision, promoted this new game of Candlepins,” making significant strides in standardizing the game. Here are today’s rules.
“There are three balls per frame,” John shares, “and, when you knock down pins, they stay there. They aren’t removed until the frame is over, so you need to decide whether to play the pins or play the wood (downed pins). There is much more strategy involved and it’s a harder game. You have to play it more by instinct.”
John agrees that it’s somewhat reminiscent of a game of pool where a ball could be in the way of the ball you’d actually like to hit. “I started candlepin bowling when I was about seven or eight years old,” he says, “and I carried a 104 average, which was good. If you could bowl 115 to 120, you’d be on televised finals in Boston.”
Here’s more about the game of candlepin bowling:
John also enjoyed duckpin bowling and, as a teenager, added tenpin bowling to his repertoire.
John has been involved in bowling nearly all of his life, along with baseball, football and track. “Sports have been my life,” he says, “and my father used to have to get me off of the sandlots. I got a broken femur playing football in high school – I was wide receiver – against professional baseball players. The bone was broken right in half. Plus, I set the track record for the 440. I played left field on the Air Force softball team when I had a cannon for an arm, and I was on the Air Force tackle football team. When stationed in Tampa, Florida, I played amateur jai alai, and I’ve always dabbled in golf.”
He’s made “many trips” to bowling nationals (Amateur Bowlers Tour) in Las Vegas, qualifying for nationals seven times. “In 2003, when the prize was $50,000, I finished seventh and won $2,000.” He also bowled in the “ole time Billy Allen tournament at Showboat Lanes in Atlantic City.” He won the Bill Allen twice. “I also,” John adds, “bowled in the European Masters three separate years.”
Bump in the Road
In 2000, John experienced some disturbing physical symptoms. He first felt dizzy. Then, the next week, he couldn’t lift up his arm. The week after that? Tingling at the back of his legs. “I’m pretty stubborn,” John says, “but I finally went to see my doctor, and I was diagnosed with MS.”
A self-described “very competitive man,” John says this diagnosis was a “tough pill to swallow.” But after allowing himself to feel a full range of emotions, every emotion imaginable, John decided to stop feeling sorry for himself and to simply “try to stay ahead of the curve of what the Lord has blessed me with.” John says that he takes good care of himself and is still doing well, enjoying both bowling and golf.
John Vinelli and Ole Roy’s Bowling Ball Cleaner
“When I met Don at Rebman’s,” John says, “he gave me some samples of Ole Roy’s Bowling Ball Cleaner and some bowling towels. The first thing I noticed was that the Ole Roy’s logo looks a lot like my brother, Vinnie.” The second thing that he noticed? “My game has taken off. At the late age of 68, I shot three 700s in a row. When I shared the ball cleaner with my teammate, he threw two 800s in a row, something he’d never done before in his life. I thought I was going to get another 300 with Ole Roy’s – and I almost did. Instead, I got a 299 and a wiggle. But it was close – and I’m a real fan of the product.”