HomeSportsVestavia resident inducted into Italian-American Sports Hall of Fame

Vestavia resident inducted into Italian-American Sports Hall of Fame


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Lou Scripa, a Vestavia Hills resident for close to 30 years, recently was inducted into the National Italian-American Sports Hall of Fame.

He joins people like Vince Lombardi, Joe DiMaggio and Mario Andretti in that hall of fame, but many people in Vestavia Hills may not be familiar with Scripa because most of his famous accomplishments took place when he lived in California.

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Scripa achieved notoriety for setting an array of world records related to fitness and endurance, earning him the nickname “Crunch Monster.” 

His records include performing 104,568 jumping jacks in 24 hours non-stop in 1986, 110,015 abdominal crunches in 17 hours in 1988, 160,974 sit-ups over 82 hours (with a 5-minute break every hour) in 1990, and his final record of 70,715 sit-ups in 24 hours in 1992, at the age of 58. These accomplishments helped raise millions of dollars for various charities. 

Scripa, who once was a martial arts instructor for the military and now is 89 and battling Parkinson’s disease, said the stamina needed to complete these events came natural to him. “I’ve always had a lot of endurance,” he said. “Even now, I only need four hours of sleep a night.”

Scripa was the youngest of 12 children to Italian immigrant parents and joined the U.S. Air Force after graduating from high school in Schenectady, New York. During his 23-year Air Force career, Scripa served in Korea and Vietnam, earning the Silver Star for gallantry, a Bronze Star for valor, an Airman’s Medal for heroism and a Purple Heart. 

Following his retirement from the military, Scripa settled in Sacramento, where he joined Jack Lalanne’s Health Spa and an Italian-American service organization called Unico. Unico asked Scripa to join a committee to raise funds for patients with Cooley’s anemia, a rare and life-threatening blood disorder. Not sure what to do, Scripa took the advice of the nutritionist at the health spa, who had taken notice of his stamina.

“He said, ‘I’ve been watching you now for a long time, and I’ve never seen anyone do sit-ups and crunches like you can. You can seem to go on and on and on,’” Scripa said.

The nutritionist encouraged him to try to break a world record, and Scripa did, completing a little more than 6,000 sit-ups. However, Scripa was just getting started. Not long after setting his first record, Dan Sullivan, a friend and colleague at the Aerojet Liquid Rocket Co., asked him to help raise enough money for a trip to Europe for his terminally ill son, Bruce.

Sullivan challenged Scripa to do 16,000 situps. Bruce died the week before the event, but Scripa completed the 16,000 situps and gave the money to the children’s hospital in San Francisco. 

Over the next 12 years, from 1980 until 1992, Scripa broke multiple records, getting his name in multiple issues of the “Guinness Book of World Records.” In the mid-90s, Scripa moved to Vestavia Hills with new wife, Rose, a professor of materials science and engineering at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. 

Despite his unique accomplishments, Scripa kept his notoriety to himself until Rose and a friend, Linda Lucas, the former provost of the UAB School of Engineering, and her husband, Dick, decided Scripa’s story should be told. They began having regular “lunches” but were secretly compiling research and making plans to nominate Scripa for the National Italian-American Sports Hall of Fame.

“For two years, they did this behind my back,” Scripa said. “I knew nothing about it.”

Not only were they successful, Scripa was voted into the hall of fame unanimously. Scripa was unable to travel to Chicago for the inauguration ceremony, so his son, Tony, accepted the award in his father’s honor during the induction ceremony in December. The hall of fame also sent a representative to Birmingham, who presented the award to Scripa during a dinner at Fleming’s Steakhouse.

Forty-four years since first accepting the challenge to set a world record, Scripa is now enshrined as one of the great Italian-American athletes in history. Scripa himself is still humble despite the accolades, but his wife is more than happy to share his accomplishments with the world. 

“Lou’s story deserves to be told,” she said. “He’s an amazing man.”

The National Italian-American Sports Hall of Fame is a nonprofit educational institution dedicated to preserving and promoting the history and heritage of Italian-Americans in sports.

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