Willie Mosconi, aka "The Mosc"
Claim to Fame:
Willie Mosconi or "The Mosc", as a few fans affectionately called him, is to pocket billiards what Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer are to the world of golf together.
Whoever his adversary, the poor soul, would squirm in their seat waiting for Willie's inning at the table to end. Having the bad luck to play Willie, their custom cue might as well have been a broomstick.
The above broomstick story makes an apt analogy, since young Willie, barely a toddler, was several times apprehended "shooting" potatoes with a mop handle around a pool table long after Dad had locked away the real cuesticks
for the evening.
Mosconi's parents, who owned a poolroom, (Oh, the temptation!) punished him harshly for this behavior.
They forbade him to use their pool tables early in the last century, hoping that he would forsake his father's pool business. They wanted Willie to be a professional dancer and vaudevillian instead.
Bad for Pop, Good for Pool:
Inspired reluctantly by the sight of their four-year-old pushing crates after each "shot" so he could clamber to the table top, the senior Mosconis relented on their dreams. Luckily for the world of pool, they stopped Willie's dance lessons.
Mosconi went on the become King of the Felt, idolized as the greatest pool shooter in history. By his own admission, however, he would choose to share that regal laurel with his old rival and touring partner from years before, the late Ralph Greenleaf.
Greenleaf took a young Mosconi around the United States on a challenge match tour, teaching Mosconi the will to win.
Having given up pool for a regular day job, the pugnacious Mosconi punched a supervisor who would not let him off duty to catch a game at Yankee Stadium. Mosconi began to tour the country after some years away from the game on a second round of pool exhibitions.
Shooting Straight Pool on Depression Era tables in poor upkeep taught Mosconi to compensate for any conceivable playing condition. On tour, the locals knew these ramshackle tables well, and would try to upstage Mosconi and beat him.
Struggling to show skill and overcome poverty, Mosconi built a great fire of competition inside that made him a legend.
An Indomitable Record:
Pool legends try to usurp his throne, but the virtually unbeatable Willie's biography credits include winning the BCA's
World Championship at Straight Pool 15 times in 16 years, and a hi-run
exhibition of 526 balls in a row without a miss. These records, should stand forever since manufacturers have made scoring tougher on their tables in recent years.
Champion Across Endeavors:
Mosconi also ran as many as 13 points in a row in 3-Cushion Billiards (a first cousin of pool played without pockets), making him one of the rare top players of both sports.
Part of his greatness at the game stemmed from a longtime contract with Brunswick providing salaried sponsorship and first class equipment at home. It has been stated that Mosconi practiced pool six hours daily, seven days weekly, for a period of 30 years!
Crushing All Comers:
Most of the time when Mosconi sauntered to the table in his fluid style he relocated 50 or 60 balls without a miss to the pocket bottoms. The thing that crushed his opponents' will to live was the way he cleared the table nonchalantly, extending the visible effort someone else would to chew on a wad of bubble gum.
If there was a game at nearby Yankee Stadium, Mosconi would redouble his efforts and finish the kill twice as fast!
In his retirement, Mosconi gave exhibitions on TV, at trade shows and conventions. Everyone came running to watch, even pros who grabbed front seats to see The Mosc. Willie maintained uniquely never to have hustled
a game of pool in his entire life.
Mosconi's magic is available sometimes on video. He was a special consultant and "stunt man", preparing or shooting the more difficult shots, for The Hustler, prequel to The Color of Money.
What They'll Say 100 Years From Now:
Mosconi's many pool records are yet to be equaled.