This kind of double duty never fails to bowl Lisa Wagner over

April 23, 1991|By Dave Glassman | Dave Glassman,Special to The Evening Sun

Jim Palmer has never done it. Neither has Len Elmore. Nor Terry Bradshaw. Nor Merlin Olsen. But Leila Wagner has.

In October of 1988 the Annapolis resident slipped out of the television broadcast booth and won a professional championship. The fact she was five months pregnant only adds to the accomplishment.

Wagner, a 13-year regular on the Ladies Professional Bowling Tour and analyst on ESPN's championship broadcasts, won the Metroplex Open while carrying her son, Ryan, now 13 months old.

And while Palmer -- athlete, broadcaster and model -- no longer competes or works for ESPN, Wagner -- athlete, broadcaster, former model and beauty queen (Miss Washington USA, 1981) -- still does.

If things break right for Wagner this week in the $45,000 Lady Fair Lanes Open in Adelphi, she'll abandon the booth again to bowl in Thursday night's championship finals.

It has happened "a number of times," said Wagner, who has continued to bowl on the LPBT since landing the analyst job with ESPN in 1986. "If it looks like I'm going to be close, they call in a backup."

Wagner, 30, was born in California and raised in Seattle. She has lived with her husband, Marty Fischbach, an airline pilot and Glen Burnie native, in Annapolis for four years. Luckily, BWI Airport is convenient because, although she only bowled in 10 tournaments last year and plans to compete in 14 of the 22 this year, she still shows up to broadcast the remainder.

"I usually try to fly in the night before the championship finals to get an idea of how they're bowling and how the lanes are playing," said Wagner, in 23rd place last night after 12 games with 2,286 pins.

Usually she travels by herself.

"The tour is pretty young in age," she said. "I was one of the first to have a baby in a lot of years . . . I usually try to take Ryan to places I have family or my mother can get to . . . He's starting to be my good luck charm. Every time I take him with me I've made the finals."

If that travel wasn't enough for Wagner, also a former flight attendant still on extended leave from American Airlines, she's on staff for AMF, a giant equipment manufacturer and bowling center proprietor. She goes to about 15 promotions per year for AMF and charities.

"I really enjoy doing promotion for the sport and charities -- Leukemia Society and Big Brothers and Big Sisters," she said. "That's where I want to keep my foot in the door."

Even when she's not on tour, Wagner keeps busy. "Prior to the winter and spring tours I do aerobics four to five times a week," she said. This summer she'll have nearly three months off. "I'm going back to school this summer to take some courses. I'd like to go into broadcast journalism, but that's going to take me away, too."

At least this week, she's practically working at home -- be it on the lanes or behind the microphone.

* Tournament notes: After the second round, Aleta Sill, of Dearborn, Mich., led with 2,733 pins. . . . Amateur Ada Bylsma, of Odenton (16th, 2,318), was the only other local bowler to join Wagner in the top 25.

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