After ending the 1950s with a revolution on Buffalo radio with the switch of WKBW to rock ’n’ roll Top-40, former radio announcer and longtime KB manager Alfred Anscombe had another trick up his sleeve by the mid-60s.
He was the brains and muscle behind the then-controversial idea of bringing television into Western New York homes via cable instead of antenna.
Anscombe began construction on the infrastructure which would eventually bring cable to Buffalo’s northern suburbs through his Amherst Cablevision and Ken-Ton Cablevision. Both franchises were eventually sold to International Cable.
Nin Angelo spent 20 years as a professional bowler, but it was his 19-week run on Ch.4’s “Beat the Champ” which made him a Buffalo pop culture icon. He not only won 19 weeks in a row, but did it in style—with a 299 game and a 760 series mixed in. Nin Angelo, Allie Brandt, Vic Hermann—each multiple “Beat the Champ” champions, and host Chuck Healy.
This page is an excerpt from 100 Years of Buffalo Broadcasting by Steve Cichon
We Buffalonians don’t bowl anywhere near as much as we used to, but just like we still consider ourselves a blue-collar town (even though most of the blue-collar jobs have been gone for decades) we still sentimentally feel a link to the game our parents and grandparents enjoyed over pitchers of beer in leagues all across the city.
While for many bowling was a game that was as much about smoking and drinking and socializing as it was about rolling a ball down the lane, it was also serious business in Buffalo.
There was a time when Channels 2, 4, and 7 all aired local bowling shows– and Channel 4 had two shows– “Beat The Champ” with men bowlers and “Strikes, Spares, and Misses” with lady bowlers. WBEN-TV’s Chuck Healy was in homes six days a week for two decades as Buffalo’s bowling emcee as host of those programs. This 1971 ad describes “Strikes, Spares, and Misses,” which aired daily at 7:30pm, as “Buffalo’s most popular show.”
When local TV bowling was at its zenith in the 1950s, even radio stations promoted their coverage of the sport. Ed Little, who spent 62 years working in radio, most of them in his hometown of Buffalo, read the bowling scores on WEBR Radio before he took the drive down Main Street to host live broadcasts with the stars performing at the Town Casino.
Buffalo’s best bowlers became celebrities– well known from their exploits as televised. Nin Angelo, Allie Brandt, Phyllis Notaro, and scores of others became some of Buffalo’s best known athletes.
Sixty years later, families still beam with pride when relating the stories of their family’s greatest athletes, even when an elder has to explain most of the fuzzy details. All-American Bowler Vic Hermann’s family still proudly talks about the day Vic rolled the first 300 game in the history of “Beat the Champ.”
We live in an era where we’re watching the numbers of Western New York bowlers and bowling alleys dwindle rapidly. But five or six decades ago, it wasn’t just bowling alleys that were plentiful: The sports pages of The Buffalo Evening News and Courier-Express were regularly filled with ads for the all the accouterments of bowling.
Bowling was big, and judging by the pages of the city’s newspapers, there was big money to be made as well. The run up to league time in 1960 saw no fewer than five decent-sized ads for custom bowling shirts…. because it wasn’t just about your score, it was about looking good at the social event of the week at your neighborhood bowling alley.