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‘Andy Varipapa 300’ may not be all that perfect but it’s still a tremendous feat

Mike Hahn bowled a 290 in which he finished with 11 straight strikes.
Mike Hahn bowled a 290 in which he finished with 11 straight strikes.
Fred Eisenhammer

This is one of my favorite stories and originally ran Dec. 25, 2011. A postscript has been added to the original version.

Virtually all bowlers dream of rolling a 300. It’s called a perfect game and it consists of 12 strikes, three of which take place in the 10th frame.

But what do you call 12 straight strikes over two games?

If you're a 200-plus average bowler with a knowledge of history, perhaps you know the answer.

What it’s called is the “Andy Varipapa 300” named after the eminently successful professional bowler known for his trick-shot expertise. For the record, this is not a perfect game, but at least if a bowler accomplishes the feat, he or she gets a measure of recognition.

As for Varipapa who died 29 years ago at age 93, he was a supremely confident bowler who performed many exhibitions during which he dazzled spectators with his exotic shots. It was during these exhibitions that the “Andy Varipapa 300” was coined after he threw 12 straight strikes spanning two games.

During these exhibitions, Varipapa would convert the 7-10 split by rolling two balls at the same time – one from each hand. He also wowed crowds with his famed “boomerang” ball in which he would roll the ball slowly down the lane. Then he would instruct the ball to return to him – which it did, backing up to the foul line because of the back spin he put on the ball.

Varipapa was considered “the greatest one-man bowling show on earth,” but he distinguished himself as more than just a trickster. He finished his career with more perfect games than anyone – 68.

Varipapa also became the first person to win the All-Star tournaments (the predecessor to the U.S. Open) two years in a row (1946 and 1947).

This was a person who was called the “Clown Prince of Bowling,” but he considered himself much more.

After he won the 1946 All-Star competition, he said: “It's about time that the world's greatest bowler was also the world champion.”

Postscript: One person who is still looking for a perfect game but has rolled an “Andy Varipapa 300” is Mike Hahn of Reseda. On Feb. 8, 2011 at AMF Woodlake Lanes in Woodland Hills, Hahn crushed a 290 in his first game, finishing with 11 strikes after posting a spare in the first frame.

Then in his second game, Hahn added three strikes on his first three shots en route a 190. That gave Hahn 14 strikes in a row over two games, or an “Andy Veripapa 300.”

Talking about that night, Hahn says now: “In my mind, I got a 300 – it was just in the wrong order. It was close.”

At the time, Hahn said he wasn’t aware that he achieved an “Andy Veripapa 300.” Now that he recognizes his feat, Hahn says: “That’ll make me sleep much better.”

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