This is the fourth in a series of Saturday stories profiling the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame’s Class of 2013.
By Aaron Mansfield
News sports Reporter
Art Jeziorski has seen a lot in 83 years. With age and experience, surprises seem less, well, surprising. But this even he couldn’t believe.
The Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame? Calling him?
“I was so surprised,” he said. “It was unbelievable ... I just couldn’t believe that they did it.”
Jeziorski has been one of the most accomplished bowlers in Western New York since the 1960s. His longtime pin-knocking success and aptitude for sniping spares culminated in a historic career, and his accomplishments have earned him a spot in the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame’s Class of 2013.
Jeziorski started taking bowling seriously after he got out of the Army in 1953. He served two years in the Korean War. While he was in the Army, he realized his potential on the alleys.
“I bowled in the fourth Army doubles tournament with a priest named Father Lebanski and won the doubles with him,” Jeziorski said. “That was my first trophy.”
The first of many.
Jeziorski gained vital skills from his years in the military – for one, he learned to cook as a mess hall sergeant in charge of feeding 80 men. Perhaps the most lasting impression, however, was the passion he gained for bowling.
“I love to bowl, and the people that you bowl with are all good people,” Jeziorski said. “I love the sport.”
He was at a turning point in 1962: He could either continue touring on the Professional Bowlers Association, which he had joined after leaving the Army, or he and his wife, Catherine, could settle down and start a family.
They chose the family, and Jeziorski returned full-time to his roots in Western New York after five years on the tour. He grew up near Broadway and Bailey Avenue and attended East High School, where he was on the swimming and baseball teams.
When his PBA career ended, his bowling career in Buffalo started to take shape – and what a career it was.
The 1970s were the Decade of Art Jeziorski.
He was on the team that claimed the Buffalo Bowling Association Championship in 1972; he won the ’72 Western-Central Tournament Scratch and Handicap Championship; he and Ron Chader won the Bowling Association Doubles Championships in ’75; that same year, Jeziorski won the Buffalo, Tonawanda and New York State Bowling Championships and the American Bowling Congress title; and he won the Dutchmaster Open Team Championship in 1977, ’79 and ’80.
It’s almost foolish trying to make note of all his victories from then on. The list seems endless.
He was dominant the decade before that, too, winning back-to-back-to-back New York State team titles from 1965-67 and becoming known for his appearances on local television – he went 10 straight weeks, a record, on the show “Beat the Champ.”
His dominance didn’t even end when he stopped playing tournaments in the early 2000s.
“I’m still bowling,” he said. “I bowl twice a week, averaging about 195.”
Jeziorski remembers fondly the days he started bowling.
“I was 13 or 14 years old,” he said. “My uncle owned a bowling alley ... and I used to pit-stick there. When the bowling alley wasn’t busy, the pit-stickers would take turns practicing bowling.”
Jeziorski and Catherine have two daughters, Susan (49) and Jill (47), both bowlers. Catherine was an accomplished bowler, too, and Jeziorski has three siblings, two brothers and a sister – also all bowlers.
Jeziorski’s late father-in-law, Tommy Paul, was a world featherweight boxing champion and was inducted into the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame in 2003.
Jeziorski still works as a plasterer in Buffalo. He’s been doing it for 60 years.
He had a few words of advice for the Buffalo bowling community.
“Learn to make your spares,” he said. “I was good at that. I very seldom missed spares.
“And enjoy the game. That’s what I did. I enjoyed it.”
The Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame’s 23rd induction dinner will be held Oct. 30 at the Hyatt Regency Ballroom. The cost is $85 per person or $750 for table of 10. For tickets, visit http://buffalosportshallfame.com/awards-dinner-tickets