by Fred Eisenhammer
WINNETKA – What does it take to elevate one’s league average from 227 to 236?
How about crushing a stratospheric 886 series?
That’s exactly what Frank Chiodo did Oct. 16 with one of the most brilliant performances in Los Angeles-area history.
Bowling in Wednesday’s star-studded Mixed Classic Handicap league at Winnetka Bowl, Chiodo ripped off games of 288, 300 and 298.
Chiodo’s masterpiece ranks as the second-highest series in L.A. history. Anthony Sharpsteen is No. 1, having blasted an 888 (289, 299, 300) in the Men’s Classic League on Jan. 25, 2011 at now-defunct Mission Hills Bowl.
Chiodo revealed that Sharpsteen “chased me down the next day to tell me congratulations and said he had wanted me to beat his score. He was very gracious.” Chiodo actually had a shot at tying Sharpsteen’s score on his last shot of his third game but left the 4-7. “It was my only ball out of the pocket,” Chiodo said.
Still, Chiodo’s score was good enough to claim the Winnetka Bowl house record, surpassing the 869 rolled on July 18, 2011 by California United States Bowling Congress Hall-of-Famer and Valley icon Johnnie Englehart. It also exceeded an 876 series (300-277-299) by powerful Charles Kenny, another California USBC Hall-of-Famer, at Jewel City Bowl in Glendale in 2016. For Chiodo, a 71-year-old Granada Hills resident, it marked his second 800 series. His first came in 2015 at Winnetka Bowl when he rolled an 801 – one year after he ended a 20-year break from the game.
So Chiodo improved his previous best series by a whopping 85 pins. “Shock,” responded Chiodo with a wide smile when asked his reaction to his 886. “Did I really make 33 strikes out of 35 shots?”
Weeks after his gem, Chiodo was still brimming with good cheer about his sensational night.
He mentioned how bowlers have asked him whether he’s “come down” from his high. Said Chiodo: “I say ‘I’m still moonwalking, tripping on clouds.’ ”
Chiodo, who now has four perfect games, is known as a prodigious practice bowler – typically working on his game four days a week at Winnetka Bowl with his employer of 30 years, Darlene Somers. Asked why he loves the game, Chiodo laughs and says: “I think I’m good at it . . . and it’s the only sport that allows me to go [to Winnetka Bowl] and then go back to work.”
The right-handed Chiodo is a self-described “stroker,” meaning he has a very smooth delivery with a precise shot that doesn’t rely on a 100-mile-an-hour fastball.
The result on that special October night was that Chiodo nailed strikes on his first 10 shots before leaving a solid 10 pin. He then collected 23 straight strikes before he knocked down eight pins on his last shot.
“He was definitely in a zone,” teammate Ed Chow said. “He was hitting his mark, stroking it and relaxed. He was so confident. Every ball looked the same.”
Bob Adams observed Chiodo from a nearby lane and marveled at what he saw. “It was unbelievable,” Adams said. “Right in the pocket. Boom. Boom. Boom.”
It may seem that Chiodo’s effort was shocking, but in reality, it wasn’t. Somers says that Chiodo rolls countless perfect games in a row when he’s practicing with her during the week.
Very humble, Chiodo insisted that credit must be given for his 886. His list included Somers; Winnetka Bowl pro shop operators Rusty Bryant and Karl Kuntz; Corbin Bowl pro-shop owner Brandon McGinnes; and bowling coach Mark Baker for his video and book.
Chiodo now rates as a strong candidate to become the first L.A. area bowler to roll a 900, but he realizes the difficulty of reaching that number.
At last count, only 35 bowlers have rolled a total of 36 certified 900 series.
“You can have all the skill in the world,” Chiodo said, “but if the pins don’t fall, it’s tough to bowl a 900.”
But as Frank Chiodo showed a month ago, it can certainly be within reach.