"I was told I was too small," said Cimino. "I was about five feet and weighed 84 pounds. I never bowled in a game and had no idea what bowling was until I got the job. The owner of the bowling alley said that if I could lift up the balls and put them on the rack, I could have a job. I was the smallest kid in Memorial High School."v But Cimino was never allowed to bowl in a game until he was 18 years old.
"Once I picked up a ball, I knew I was hooked," Cimino said. "I first bowled with a ladies' ball and I bowled a 69 in my first game. Six months later, no one could beat me. I learned a lot about the game and worked at it."
Cimino soon became one of the better bowlers in New Jersey. He has bowled 25 perfect games during his career, including three in a span of 11 months in 1996 at age 74.
"I bowled the last 300 game at Nungesser's [in North Bergen] before it closed," said Cimino.
Cimino became a member of the Hudson County Bowling Association Hall of Fame. Because of his three 300 games, Cimino was recognized in the Professional Bowlers' Hall of Fame in Milwaukee, in the hometown hero section.
Cimino turned 80 years old last Saturday and he's still an active bowler, bowling out of Bowling City in Hackensack. He still holds an average of better than 200 and regularly competes against some of the best bowlers in the state, regardless of their age.
"I never want to bowl in a seniors' championship," said Cimino. "I only want to bowl in the major leagues."
Cimino was scheduled to compete in the New Jersey State Association Open Championships last weekend at the Thunderbolt Lanes in Brick, but a knee injury forced him to withdraw from the tournament the day before it was scheduled to begin.
"I remember meeting Johnny Petraglia for the first time and we became good friends," said Cimino. "I bowled against Mark Roth in the Big Eastern Classic one year and I said that he wouldn't go anywhere. I guess I was wrong. Ernie Schlagel was the only guy who ever beat me on my home lanes [Columbia Park in North Bergen]. I learned a lot by watching the pros. I used to hope that I could get that good."
Cimino was a machinist for many years for the Hackensack Cable Company, then after suffering an eye injury, he went into the security field, working for Hartz Mountain and Panasonic.
A heart attack 10 years ago kept Cimino away from the lanes for a while, but when he came back, he came back with a vengeance, evidenced by the three perfect games in 1996, two at Roosevelt Lanes in Jersey City and the last one in Nungesser's.
Through it all, bowling was his first love, and he served as the girls' varsity bowling coach at North Bergen High School. He's also a tutor to two up and coming bowlers, working regularly with them at Bowl-Rite Lanes in Union City.
"When I bowl, it's still fun," Cimino said. "That's why I continue to do it. I like to beat the kids."
Cimino, who has been featured on WNBC-TV and News 12 New Jersey, said that if he were just starting out now, he would be a superstar.
"With the new high tech balls they have today, it's easy," said Cimino, who still remains active as a crossing guard in Cliffside Park. "There's nothing to it now. Everyone thinks they're a bowler."
However, Cimino has not subjected himself to the latest technology.
"I'm using the same ball I bowled the 300 games with," said Cimino. His purple beauty that he was shining up last week to take on Parker Bonn and Mark Roth in the state tournament will have to wait for another upcoming tournament.
"I don't intend to quit anytime soon," said Cimino.