Setting The Record, Straight
One way I prefer to sift between the greats is to compare record achievements at Straight Pool. Straight Pool allows for more and more balls to be sunk with a pool stick, the pressure increasing and increasing as the run increases. There are players who can run 100 balls without a miss in one turn at Straight Pool almost daily, but few have surpassed the 200 mark and fewer still, 300.
Shooting in 14 balls and then using the 15th of the rack for the next break and run means that it took 31-plus racks without missing to tally 300 points.
Mike "Captain Hook" Sigel has enjoyed a hi-run of 339. As he put it, "I set my favorite practice break shot at home and kind of fell into the zone...". The always-courteous and gentlemanly Nick "The Kentucky Colonel" Varner has also run over 330 balls. And I'm sure how you can guess John "Mr. 400" Schmidt earned his nickname... he's run more than 400 on two separate occasions. Steve Mizerak, aka "The Machine", topped all the above before he passed with a 421 high mark.
And yes, Willie "The Mosc" Mosconi's exhibition of 526 balls in a row without a miss may never be equaled, although he ran on the smaller 4 x 8 table, as manufacturers have tightened the pockets against scoring in recent years. If you are agape at the thought of Willie running more than 37½ racks while you watch, consider the rumors (as documented in R.A. Dyer's marvelous volume, The Hustler & The Champ: Willie Mosconi, Minnesota Fats, and the Rivalry that Defined Pool that at home, Willie had scored runs in the 600's, even the 700's and beyond!
"Be Like Mike [Jordan]?" Be Like Willie, If You Can!
Think you can break Willie's banked record? Mosconi's contract with giant manufacturer Brunswick allowed him to practice for a stretch of 30 years for 7 hours daily, after he was the best player on Earth.
All settled, then, Willie's the best ever with a pool stick in hand, until you learn that he singled out his former touring partner Ralph "The Aristocrat" Greenleaf (whom you've likely never even heard of as he reigned as pool champ through the 1920's and 30's) as the best!
Tournament pool, if not pool hustling, is closely monitored today by Accu-Stats and other less formal organizations, to compile an awesome array of statistics defining pool's best. Many would push aside Greenleaf and Mosconi for modern players including Efren Reyes (though I would not-not that I'd play "The Magician" straight up for cash tonight-but Greenleaf and Mosconi could do things no one can duplicate today).
Who would you choose as the all-time-high with a pool stick? We'd love to know.