Ted Gallo of Sarasota hasn’t rolled a bowling ball for nearly three decades, and his scoring accomplishments pale in comparison to the numbers posted by modern-day bowlers, but his accomplishments will always be a major part of Sarasota-Manatee County USBC Bowling Association history.
As a 16-year-old Sarasota High School junior, Gallo became an area honor-score icon when he became the first SMCBA member to roll a perfect game, only months after being the first to connect for a 299.
Despite those milestone feats — virtually unheard of at the time — Gallo, now age 73, has never been honored with induction into the Sarasota-Manatee Men’s Bowling Hall of Fame. But that snub doesn’t concern him in the least. and in fact, until last year, he wasn’t even aware that there was a local bowling Hall of Fame.
“I had no idea that there was a local Hall of Fame until about a year ago, when I stopped by a Sarasota Lanes booth at the county fair,” Gallo said, “but I can’t believe that if they include proprietors in the Hall that (former Sarasota Lanes owner) Bernie Levkoff isn’t in it.”
How noteworthy were scores of 299 and 300 by a bowler within a three-month span in the late ’50s? Extremely impressive and uncommon, to say the least.
Sarasota Lanes opened its doors on Aug. 1, 1958, and by the end of the year — Dec. 18, to be exact — Gallo made news with his 299 game. And exactly three months later, on March 18, 1959, in the Inter-City League, he rolled a perfect game, which was a rare feat in a much-lower-scoring era.
Putting those numbers in perspective, after Bob Kubes fired the second perfect game at Sarasota Lanes on Nov. 20, 1961, it would be 19 years later until the third perfect game in that center was rolled by John Snyder in 1980. And after Paul Carson (at Rip Van Winkle Lanes in 1963) and Bill DuBois (at South Gate Lanes in 1965), there were eight years before Jerry Klawitter became the next SMCBA member to roll 300 when he turned the trick at Rip Van Winkle in 1973.
As for scores of 299, after Andy Rapone matched Gallo’s feat at Rip Van Winkle later in the 1958-59 season, no SMCBA bowler had a 299 until Joe Schwartzkopf did it at Cortez Lanes in 1977.
“My parents got me interested in bowling, and I began junior league competition at age 12 when we still lived in St. Petersburg,” said Gallo, who moved to Sarasota at age 14. “Youth league competition and the fact that I began working as a pinsetter got me hooked on the game. One day, as a pinboy, I handled 106 lines, and at a dime a line, I made $10.60, which wasn’t bad money at the time.
“I never really had any formal instruction, except for a little help from my dad, who probably never averaged higher than the 150s. But I enjoyed the guys I bowled with (in league), and I liked things like beer frames — after I became old enough to drink, of course.”
Gallo admits to getting a few lucky breaks when posting his historical honor scores. “In the 299, the final ball was a Brooklyn in which the 5-pin fell in front of the 9-pin, which remained standings,” he said, “but I had one or two other Brooklyn strikes that helped get me to that point.”
In his perfect game, Gallo admits that the final strike went Brooklyn, and according to a Sarasota Journal article, he had four Brooklyn hits overall. [To read that newspaper article, click here.]
His game-by-game scores of 215, 300 and 225 gave him a 740 series, which tied with John Peebles — who rolled his big set at Rip Van Winkle Lanes — for a pinfall that tied an SMCBA series record that lasted for seven years.
“During my career, there were a number of other games where I rolled something like 268 that I rolled the ball far better than I did in the 299 and 300, but I just didn’t get as lucky,” said Gallo.
As for awards, things were a lot different in 1959 and 1960 than during the modern-day situation in which honor-score awards have been greatly reduced or even eliminated.
“After the 300, I got a $1,000 savings bond from the (Florida West Coast) Bowling Proprietors (Association), an Omega watch from AMF and a diamond ring from ABC,” Gallo said.
He quit the game for good after averaging 179 in a mixed league at Sarasota Lanes during the 1987-88 season, and his highest average was 190 in a mixed league in 1983-4 when scoring conditions were far more difficult than they are today.
So why did he walk away from the game, never to return? “I enjoyed bowling, but I never really took it seriously, and perhaps I peaked too early,” he said.
“Then, too, priorities changed. I bowled two or three leagues early-on, but I went into the Navy right out of high school (December 1960 to December 1964), and right after I got out, I got married and started a family, and I never rekindled the same interest in the game.”
Comparing then and now, Gallo said, “Modern-day scores are obviously far inflated because proprietors would rather have customers rolling high scores. There were some great area bowlers years ago — Harmon Brown, Walt Schmidt, Andy Rapone, Herky Lafley and many others — but scores like today just weren’t possible back then.
“I never, ever used more than one bowling ball, and my high scores were rolled with a Manhattan Rubber ball drilled by Rapone that cost about $25.
“Recently, I found the old ball in the garage, and I went down to Sarasota Lanes to see if they might like to display a high-scoring ball that was more than 50 years old, so people could see what old-time balls looked like, but nobody there had any knowledge or record of my high scores, and they didn’t seem interested in displaying the ball.”
And that’s sad, because scores such as 299 and 300 were few and far between in the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s, and Ted Gallo receives an enormous amount of credit for having achieved those scores in the time frame that he did.
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