Joseph Tavernese is candlepin royalty now, officially joining the pantheon of the greatest bowlers who ever participated in the sport.
Tavernese, whose sterling record as a professional bowler includes 50 appearances on television, has been elected to the International Candlepin Bowling Association Hall of Fame. He will be inducted at the Hall of Fame dinner in October.
It is the highest honor that can be achieved in the sport as only a few bowlers are chosen for induction every two years.
“I’m very honored to be selected,” said the 56-year-old Tavernese. “I remember when Tom Cennami and Jim Barber and Tony Leo were inducted a few years ago. Tommy and I were always doubles partners on the Channel 5 show, so it’s going to be an honor to join those guys and some of the other great names.”
In the case of Joseph Tavernese, the award represents the crowning achievement in a bowling career that he began at the age of 7 at Tony Leo’s Post Office Bowling Alleys on Western Avenue, not far from his family’s home in West Lynn. He made his first appearance on Don Gillis’ Candlepin Bowling on Channel 5 as a 20-year-old.
A superb bowler at every stage of his career, Tavernese put together an awesome year in 1989 when appeared on Channel 5 for five consecutive weeks and made it to the $10,000 True Value Championships live television show.
Tavernese had bowled a 445 triple to qualify for the True Value live show. On that memorable day before a packed house at Fairway Sports World in Natick and a live television audience, Tavernese defeated Paul Berger, Tom Olszsta, and Gary Carrington before falling just shy to No. 1 Gary Casey in the two-string final. Interestingly, Berger is joining Tavernese in this year’s Hall of Fame class.
In the Massachusetts State Championships that year, Tavernese won the title with a state-record score of 1,430 for 10 strings, an average of 143 per string.
As magnificent as the ‘89 season was for Tavernese, his 1987 campaign two years earlier was the stuff of legend. Tavernese won candlepin bowling’s version of the triple crown: the men’s singles state championship, the all-events state championship, and the men’s teams state championship. In addition he was second in the men’s doubles and third in the mixed teams, completing a top-3 finish in all five events, a feat that has never been duplicated.
There was also Tavernese’s incredible performance one morning in the Sunday pro league at Post Office Alleys when he rolled five strikes in a row on his way to a 207 single, his career best. He finished the day with a 484 triple and converted the near-impossible 5-7-10 split.
Tavernese said competing with and against other Lynn bowling superstars such as Tom Cennami, Tony Leo, Mike Morgan, Tom Morgan, Jim Barber, George Raymond, Al Lacey, Jim Mauro, Paul Doherty and Mike Shadoff helped bring out the best in his skills.
“They were all great bowlers and great people and we’ve been bowling together our whole lives and it was just like a fraternity, especially coming out of Lynn because some of the best bowlers are from this city,” said Tavernese. “Lynn was the city of bowling and it was a great run – everything about those days was just awesome.”
Tavernese began working at Post Office Bowling Alleys at the age of 14.
“I always went to school with Tony Leo and his father [Tony Leo] owned the bowling alleys,” recalled Tavernese. “When I started high school [St. Mary’s High School in Lynn], his father asked me if I wanted a job there. I started working part-time at Post Office Alleys and then when I got out of high school, I started full-time. And then when they bought Metro Bowl in Peabody, I used to go back and forth to the two establishments, so I’ve been with the Leo family for 42 years. I’m very grateful to them for all they’ve done for me.”
Tavernese said he couldn’t have reached the heights he has in bowling without the tremendous support of his family including his wife Sharon, an excellent bowler herself, their children Joseph Jr. and Joline, and his parents, Al and Shirley, she the helpful mom who used to take him bowling and offer some bowling tips.
“If it weren’t for my wife, I wouldn’t have been able to do all this – she backed me all the time; she’s my best mentor,” said Tavernese. “My wife and my kids were always there for me. My son’s a good bowler, too. He averaged in the 120s. My parents have been supportive through the years.”
Tavernese and his wife qualified together for the Candlepin Doubles show on Channel 5.
“Sharon and I won the rolloff at Sunnyside Bowladrome in Danvers and went on television and beat Don Richmond and Joanne Rosano,” said Tavernese. “They took the show off the air because of college football and it never returned. So we’re the reigning champions. That was the first time a husband and wife ever bowled on Channel 5.”
Tavernese will be honored in the “competitive ability” wing of the Candlepin Hall of Fame, though his role as a goodwill ambassador for the sport will also be recognized. Tavernese is a certified professional bowling instructor and has donated his time to helping young bowlers develop their abilities.
Russ French, secretary of the Lynn City League, said the Hall of Fame honor is much deserved and a tribute to Joseph Tavernese’s lifelong excellence in bowling and his contributions to the sport.
“I’ve bowled with Joe in summer leagues over the past 20 years,” said French. “I remember back when I was working at King’s Lynn Lanes and we had the Channel 5 finals right before we closed in 1987. When John Kibbey and I found out he had qualified, we both said that Joe would win the rolloff and he did.”
Tavernese said he still has the many trophies and plaques that he earned during his illustrious career at his home. But the most important one of all – the one that says you’re among the best there ever was – will be presented to him this October at the Hall of Fame dinner.