Town: Jersey City
Michael Limongello was born in 1945 in Jersey City. His brother, Peter, was born in 1949. The family later moved to North Babylon, Long Island. Several family members changed the spelling of their last name to “Lemongello.” The Limongello brothers were both extremely talented. Peter was a lounge singer who decided to bypass the recording industry and sell his album Love ’76 direct to consumers on TV—something that had never been done before. He sold more than a million albums.
Mike was a poised, focused athlete who excelled at bowling despite a wiry 150-pound frame. Their younger cousin, Mark, was a right-handed baseball pitcher who was signed by the Detroit Tigers out of Bridgewater Raritan High School.
Mike joined the pro bowling tour in the late-1960s and earned a reputation as one of the sport’s coolest customers. Nothing rattled him. He was not picky about his wardrobe, lane conditions or even the ball he used. He just got the job done. Mike was also an excellent gambler. On Las Vegas tour stops he often made more money playing cards and shooting dice than he did in the tournament.
Not surprisingly, Mike was known as a great action bowler—meaning he would take on hot shots and hustlers for big money, usually in the wee hours of the morning, with mobsters and bookies as their audience. There were times he bowled without enough money to cover the bet he had made. Needless to say, he was hailed throughout the sport as the consummate clutch performer.
By the late 1970s, the PBA purses had grown large enough so that talented bowlers could make a living on the tour, and the action bowling scene went into decline. Mike had actually retired by then. A back injury in 1972 forced him to take a year off and by 1976 he had quit competing.
Mike only won 6 PBA tour titles, but was one of the few bowlers to win two majors in one season. He won the very first U.S. Open in 1971 and also the 1971 PBA Nationals. That year he averaged 210.7 per game. Mike bowled 10 perfect games in PBA tour events during his short time on the tour. He was inducted into the Pro Bowling Hall of Fame in 1994.
In the early 1980s, Mike and his brother went into the real estate business together in Florida, building upscale subdivisions near St. Petersburg. In 1982, Mike and Peter were forced at gunpoint by their cousin Mark and Manny Seoane (a former baseball teammate) to go to a local bank and withdraw $50,000 that Mike had in a safety deposit box.
The brothers were then driven in a van to a remote wooded area and released. Mark and Manny were later apprehended and sentenced to 10 years probation.
Mike moved back to New Jersey and in the 1990s became a poker dealer in Atlantic City.