Peter, a frequent About.com reader, has a few choice stories for us today that are amazing. I never tire of hearing stories about the old time and all-time greats like Ralph Greenleaf and Willie Mosconi.
Just yesterday I watched both of these American masters on YouTube videos. Their like will never be seen again, and I've learned several fascinating shot and stroke techniques just watching a few minutes of their videos.
If you went to see either of these fellows live, you were all but guaranteed 100 shots in a row without a miss. And Mosconi, Greenleaf and Irving Crane were also highly skilled at Three Cushion Billiards."It's a nice game," said Mosconi, "but the balls just roll around all day as if they had no place to go."
His hi-run was 13!
I was a guest at Arthur "Babe" Cranfield's home a few years before he died in 2004. The Babe told me Mosconi was the only player in his opinion you could dare mention in the same breath with Greenleaf.
An old timer I knew said at an exhibition Greenleaf was putting on a fine local player ran about 70 balls on Ralph before missing. Ralph, who was known as a mega-stylish and mega-theatrical personality, roared, "What is this, Amateur Night?" and slammed the butt of his cue down on the rail so hard he busted it. The rail was replaced and repaired but when the local shot again he was so shaken he couldn't do anything. "Babe" also told me about the days when people would line up to pay a hefty $0.50 U.S. each to watch a pool exhibition but that they'd gladly then pay $1.00 to watch Greenleaf.
A couple of exciting things I picked up along the way talking to older players. Irving Crane was always my favorite to watch and I had the privilege to talk with him too. Crane told me a few things. One nugget of wisdom was his "all the shots should be easy" and the other was that his "action was of the best in the world".
I sat ringside for the World Championship 14.1 Continuous Pool Tournaments in 1967 and '68 at the Statler-Hilton in New York, when I was 17 and 18. In '67 "Babe" Cranfield missed a shot, raised his arm high over his head, then slammed his fist down on the table and cursed aloud. I remember thinking "Great, another nut from my area in upstate New York!"
Years later I was chatting with "Machine Gun Lou" Butera and he remembered the incident and said Babe might have broken his hand. Luther "Wimpy" Lassiter won the big show in 1967. At the next world championship in '68 nobody had beaten Lassiter until the finals and Irving "The Deacon" Crane had to win twice to take away the tournament and did. I'd gotten autographs at the event and I'd planned to meet Lassiter after he beat Crane but I lacked the nerve to ask him after his heartbreaking loss. I could have bought a Frank Paradise cue with two shafts for only $125 at that event!
Once Lou Butera was in Japan and flying back with a stopover in San Francisco, he wanted to visit the famous Palace Billiards location he'd heard so much about. Well, he got into a Nine Ball match with Paul Silvers, the Palace manager who made 9-Ball look so easy. Back then, nobody knew who Butera was but me and a friend of mine, who told another fellow who told Paul. Paul went "straight to the rack" and quit the match. I'd talked to Lou about this afterward, how his action got queered in San Francisco.
Turns out that one time I matched up against the jerk who told Paul about Lou, and in a regular game of Straight Pool to 50 points for five bucks, all I had in my pocket. I was calm because this guy had never beaten me before. Well, he had me down 49 to 18 then had a very easy shot on his game ball that he shot into the rail and said to me, "Now what are you going to do, Peter?" I got up from my chair, ran 32-and-out in his face. He couldn't believe it.
One time, some guys from San Francisco were down in Texas staking "San Francisco Deny" Searcy and they were running short on money. They did the old hustler's dodge of faking a huge bankroll by wrapping fifty-dollar bill around a thick wad of ones and putting a large rubber band around it.
They walked into a poolroom and were talking up a game with a local there. The Texan pulled out his cash, and while thumbing through his bankroll, told them he'd gladly play Deny for any or all of it. But when they pulled out their "bankroll" to reply they'd play for any or all of their own fat cash wad, they threw their roll onto the table and the rubber band broke and the ones scattered for all to see. How's that for a billiards story?!