Bowling: Third time's the charm for former Willmar man
Mark London was recently inducted into the International Bowling Media Association Hall of Fame
This time, Mark London wasn't expecting it.
The previous two times he was up for the International Bowling Media Association Hall of Fame, he didn't get it. There was no point in getting his hopes up.
"The third time's the charm, I guess," London said by phone from Dubuque, Iowa. "It's not as elaborate as getting into Cooperstown, but I'm pleased."
The IBMA recognizes outstanding contributions to bowling. For London, a former Willmar resident, bowling has been a lifetime passion.
He'll be inducted in late April in Las Vegas, Nevada. He'll receive the BWAA Mort Luby Sr. Award for Distinguished Service. The first one was awarded in 1952. Inductees are a who's who of bowling celebrities from magazine publishers and television play-by-play announcers and commentators to London, who has covered the sport as a reporter, columnist and broadcaster while also competing for 40 years.
For London, 60, it all started as a 3-year-old in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, when his parents Paul and Virginia got him a plastic bowling pin set. The family had a fireplace that became his bowling lane. He was transfixed. He spent hours and hours trying to perfect his game. By the age of 8, he played in a Saturday morning youth league in Rochester, Pa. He's basically never stopped.
The Londons moved around quite a bit. His father, Paul London, was in the newspaper business and served as publisher of the West Central Tribune from 1979-97. He passed away at the age of 88 in 2020. Virginia London died in 2014.
Mark London, who graduated from high school in Illinois, wound up taking a class at Ridgewater College and working for KWLM-AM Radio from 1980-85, getting his bachelor's degree in mass communciations at St. Cloud State. His brother Scott, class of 1982, and sister Cindy, class of '87, are Willmar graduates.
While in Willmar, Mark London worked and practiced at the Kandi Bowl and Entertainment Center. He worked out a deal with the owner where he could practice there for $5 an hour. It became his home away from home.
"No one ever bugged me about it," he said.
He worked in radio in St. Cloud, wound up in Texas for a long time and became a consistent part of the bowling world. His column, 'Just Paying Attention,' has been a fixture at the monthly Bowling News magazine (BowlingNews.net) and was a weekly presence in several publications, beginning in 1998 at the now-defunct Will County Sportsman, which ceased publication in 2009. He started writing for the Bowling News in 2012.
He has written numerous compelling feature pieces, including such gems as a story about the Jack Biondolillo family. Biondolillo died in 2021. Biondolillo shook the bowling world when he rolled a perfect game on national television in the PBA Tour's Tournament of Champions on April 1, 1967. London's story marked the 50-year anniversary of that 300 game, then chronicled his death as his health declined in '21.
"It turned into a 'Tuesdays with Morrie' (a best-selling book by Mitch Albom) kind of thing," London said.
He and his wife Michelle moved to Iowa from Texas five years ago. She's a features reporter for the Dubuque Telegraph Herald. London is district sales manager for the six-days-a-week newspaper, waking up each day at 3:45 a.m.
And, he's still bowling.
He took four years off mostly because of bad knees. He competed in a tournament near Chicago, Illinois, March 24-25 and is set to play April 22-23 in Clinton, Iowa. It's one reason he won't be going to his own induction in Las Vegas.
"It's been fun," he said.