Friday, August 17, 2018

Hofstatter, Davenport Elected to Billiard Congress of America Hall of Fame


Broomfield, Colo., August 3, 2018 - The Billiard Congress of America Hall of Fame welcomes two of the game's top players of the '90s to the class of 2018. The United States Billiard Media Association today announced that Austrian import Gerda Hofstatter Gregerson and "California Kim" Davenport have earned induction as the 71st and 72nd members of the sport's most prestigious club.

Hofstatter Gregerson, 47, will enter the Greatest Players wing of the BCA Hall of Fame, while Davenport, 62, will be honored in the Veteran Players category. Both will be formally inducted during ceremonies on Oct. 26, 2018, at the Norfolk Sheraton Waterside in Norfolk, Va.

A native of Friesach, Austria, Hofstatter Gregerson was an accomplished athlete, competing in tennis and skiing, and winning a national junior fencing title before committing herself to pool. Hofsttater Gregerson won her first European Championship (and the first ever for Austria) at 18, and has collected 10 European Championship gold medals. In 1993, she relocated to the U.S. to join the new Women's Professional Billiard Association Classic Tour and promptly won the very first event. Over the next seven years, Hofstatter Gregerson added seven more Classic Tour titles, as well as the 1995 WPA World 9-Ball Championship, the 1997 WPBA National Championship and the 2000 BCA Open 9-Ball Championship. She added her ninth Classic Tour title in 2010 at the San Diego Classic.

Hofstatter Gregerson currently resides Charlotte with her husband Dan and daughters Sophie and Madison. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Business from New York University, and has a pilot's license.

After finishing second in voting in each of the last three years, Hofstatter Gregerson was named on more than 70 percent of the ballots in 2018, far outpacing first-time nominees Niels Feijen and Corey Deuel, each of whom were named on 36 percent of the ballots. Shannon Daulton, Jeremy Jones, Stefano Pellinga, Vivian Villarreal and Charlie Williams received votes on fewer than 25 percent of the ballots.

"My first reaction is, 'What am I doing in there with all those great players?'," Hofstatter Gregerson. "Honestly, I never expected to get in. Everyone who has gotten in is so deserving, I was just honored to be on the ballot. But I am excited, humbled and honored to be in such great company.

"It's a great thing for my kids," she continued. "They'll be so proud. And it's nice to know that you will be remembered in the history books."

Born in Oklahoma, Davenport relocated to Modesto, Calif., in the early '80s. By mid-decade, Davenport was making a name for himself on the pro tour, winning events like the Bowling Green Open and Tar Heel Classic. He broke through in 1988, winning the highly regarded Japan Cup and Eastern States 9-Ball Championship. After adding three more titles in 1989, Davenport put in a Player of the Year performance in 1990, winning the Brunswick Challenge Cup in Sweden, the Sands Regency Open and the B.C. Open - all major tour titles.

Davenport added eight more pro tour titles, before an injury to his left eye for all practical purposes ended his pool-playing career. Davenport, who resides in Acworth, Ga., had been recommended for consideration by the Hall of Fame Veteran Players Committee after failing to garner enough votes for election on the general ballot prior to turning 60.

 "That's really good news," said Davenport upon being informed of his election. "I had started to wonder if it would ever happen, so it's hard to explain how I feel right now. To be honest, I thought my record was good enough to get in before now, but better late than never. "In the end, this is what 40 years of playing pool comes down to," he added. "And 100 years from now, people will see my name next to Mosconi's, which is not a bad thing."

 "My first reaction is, 'What am I doing in there with all those great players?'," Hofstatter Gregerson. "Honestly, I never expected to get in. Everyone who has gotten in is so deserving, I was just honored to be on the ballot. But I am excited, humbled and honored to be in such great company.

About United States Billiard Media Association
Founded in 2007, the United States Billiard Media Association is a non-profit association dedicated to elevating the visibility and status of billiards in the media at large. The USBMA consists of professional print, radio, TV, public relations and Internet media persons who cover cue sports. One of the association's main functions is electing of billiard media members to the Billiard Congress of America's Hall of Fame Board for the purpose of nominating and electing players and notable figures to the Billiard Congress of America Hall of Fame.

About Billiard Congress of America 
Founded in 1948, the Billiard Congress of America is a non-profit trade organization dedicated to growing a united, prosperous and highly regarded billiard industry through Billiard Congress of America leadership. The Billiard Congress of America seeks to enhance the success of its members and promote the game of billiards though educational, marketing and promotional efforts, annual industry trade shows and other programs designed to encourage billiards as a lifestyle and make pool

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

UK Website Devoted to Billiards, Snooker History

Interested in the the history of UK billiards and snooker? Check out the UK Billiard and Snooker Archive, which touts itself as the only website dedicated to to the history of snooker and english billiards.  The website charts the history of both games, and includes biographies of several key players like Joe Davis and Willie Smith.

Here's the link:  http://www.billiardsandsnookerarchive.co.uk/


Sunday, April 2, 2017

St. Elmo: Favorite Haunt of Wimpy Lassiter


This photo of the St. Elmo pool hall in Norfolk, Virginia. It was the favorite haunt of the world famous Wimpy Lassiter and also was featured in the book, Hustler Days, which is available from online retailers. It was taken by photographer Harry C. Mann and is available under common licensing from the Library of Virginia.

You also can learn more about the pool hall and Lassiter in the book, Hustler Days, which is available online.

Former sailor John Pizzuto was a St. Elmo's regular during the late 1960s. He sends us this brief recollection of his time there.

"Most of the players had a nickname, mine was Sailorboy. I kept Sam Bass in beer money Saturday afternoons, getting straight pool "lessons" from him. Carolina kept my cue behind the bar when we were out to sea. I played golf and straight pool with Old Red. He was pretty old and towards the end of my time there, he didn't come in very often. At the time he seemed like he was in his 70s. Some of the other regulars were Cab Driver, Onion Head Red and a pretty good player named Cash McCall. He ran a bartending school. 

One Saturday afternoon, I was practicing alone. One of the regulars egged me into asking "that old man in the chair" to play some nine ball. I walked over and asked, but he politely declined. I awkwardly offered him a spot. He shook his head. As I walked back to my table, the regulars all started laughing, asking me if I knew who that was. By then, I figured it must be Wimpy. I had heard he came in from time to time, but I had never seen him. I walked back over to where he was sitting and offered my hand in apology. He shook it with his left."

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Fox: Death by Fly or Shark?


This excerpt, below, from an old edition of the New York Times describes the discovery in 1866 of the body of pool player Louis Fox in a Rochester, New York river. But how did Fox's body get there? 


According to one very colorful (and perhaps apocryphal) story by sports historian Frank Menke, Fox, shortly before his death, had played a challenge match with John Deery to determine the 1865 world billiards champion. "Fox, far in the lead and on his way to winning, found himself bothered by a fly, which, despite 'shooing,' continued to light on the cue ball," wrote Menke in his 1939 Encyclopedia of Sport. "Fox, excitingly trying to chase the fly, miscued, and it was Deery's shot. Deery ran out the string to win the championship. The heart broken Fox rushed out of the hall to a river, leaped in, and was drowned."
Deery, left and Fox

In a slightly different account from the Semi-Centennial History of the City of Rochester (by William Farley Peck and published in 1884), Fox killed himself because he was distraught over the "loss of his championship cue." Meanwhile on page 103 of the 1898 edition of Championship Billiards, Old and New, the author claimed that  Fox, "some time after his defeat, was found dead in the river, and it has always been claimed that, crazed by grief, he committed suicide."


So, the question at hand -- as put forth by billiards writer J.D. Dolan -- is whether Fox was killed by a fly or a shark.

-- R.A. Dyer

Saturday, December 12, 2015

HOLIDAY GIFT GUIDE: Books & More


Does that special pool lover in your life already own 20 instructional books? How about going another direction this year and getting him or her the gift of pool history? As we like to say at poolhistory.com, a sport without history is a sport without consequence. But there's plenty of literature out there to help fill the gaps. I've included some of my favorite selections (including a couple of my own books) plus some video resources and other material.  You can find each of these potential stocking stuffers online. Keep reading for all the details.


THE HUSTLER & THE CHAMP
R.A. Dyer’s book, The Hustler and the Champ, chronicles the long colorful rivalry between pool’s greatest tournament player and its most colorful hustler. Read more about The Hustler and the Champ at the poolhistory.com website. Purchase the book on Amazon.



This critically acclaimed book tells the story of pool in the 20th century and of the 1960s revival brought on by 20th Century Fox film, The Hustler. The book profiles some of the game’s greatest players, including Rags Fitzpatrick and Harold Worst.  Purchase the book on Amazon.







3 GREAT BOOKS BY THE LATE, GREAT FREDDY "THE BEARD"



Freddy "The Beard"  Bentivegna was an old-time pool hustler, a banking expert and one of our sport's great storytellers. I was sorry to hear of his passing in 2014. I've highlighted three of his books here. Each is well worth the investment. You can purchase them directly from his website, www.bankingwiththebeard.com.


THE “ENCYLOPEDIA”  OF POOL HUSTLERS
This reference work is not anything you’ll ever read from start to finish — at least, not in any disciplined way — but it’s a book you’ll want to have around your nightstand or in The Brown Study. It’s chock full of quick and quirky anecdotes about players both famous and obscure (mostly obscure), all seasoned with Bentivegna’s aromatic brand of BS.


BANKING WITH THE BEARD
Freddy's first book, "Banking With The Beard," includes a banking formula that incorporates the concepts of acquired english and cue ball english. It's 200 pages long.  The tips are invaluable.


GOSPOOL OF BANK POOL

Freddy's second book, "The GosPool of Bank Pool," also runs about 200 pages long -- but about half of it is devoted to colorful anecdotes. I found myself laughing out loud as I read about Minnesota Fats, Eddie "The Knoxville Bear" Taylor, Cornbread Red and Harold Worst. 



AND MORE BOOKS...


This is the first instructional book that I ever purchased. Who knew that a collection of table drawings and shot descriptions could be so funny?  A friend of mine had lent me a copy many many years ago. After reading only about 10 pages of it, I marched out and bought my own. You should too. (And while you’re at it, pick up Bryne’s second instructional book Advanced Technique in Pool & Billiards.)


Ever wonder how many possible ball arrangements there are in a straight-pool rack? Wonder no more. Mike Shamos, in this wonderful collection of the trivial and the historic, tells us. Here, you can learn about Kelly Pool, the Lambert Trophy, and the origin of the slang "weight." There’s plenty of pictures. As a hardback, it makes a perfect addition to any coffee table.



There is no more important novel related to American pool as The Hustler, by Walter  Tevis. Although not based on the life of Rudolf Wanderone, it nonetheless launched his media career. The book also led to the 20th Century Fox movie and the great renaissance for our sport during the 1960s. You also can read all about The Hustler, Minnesota Fats, the 1960s renaissance -- and the interrelation between the the three -- in my own book Hustler Days (referenced above).


MCGOORTY, A POOL ROOM HUSTLER
Danny McGoorty was a poolroom hustler, ladies’ man, and drunk. Robert Bryne recorded McGoorty’s life's story, and then used it to craft one of the most delightful and hilarious biographies ever written about an American cueist. This book also includes fun anecdotes about some of the most important players of the last century, including Mosconi, Fats, Welker Cochran and even Alfredo De Oro.


Willie Mosconi in his biography Willie’s Game co-authored with Stanley Cohen, speaks of Fats, Wimpy Lassiter, Irving Crane and several others. Speaking about Onofrio Lauri, Mosconi said: "You wouldn’t want him to be the guy standing between you and a championship. He was a sensational shot maker. If he got on a roll he could run out on you quicker than you could count the balls." Find the Kindle edition here.

THE BANK SHOT AND OTHER GREAT ROBBERIES

This is the autobiography of Minnesota Fats, co-written by Tom Fox and with an introduction by R. A. Dyer. It tells Fats' story is his own colorful words. A great fun read. Find it online here.

POOL WARS
Jay Helfert's great book Pool Wars is subtitled "On the Road to Hell and Back with the World's Greatest Money Players." That's particularly apt, given that Helfert here has collected stories about Charlie the Ape, Ronnie Allen, Cuban Joe, and of course Minnesota Fats. Helfert writes about brawls and sleeping in pool rooms. He has some wonderful old pictures of a crazy skinny Earl Strickland and Buddy "Rifleman" Hall. A great read.



OTHER STUFF ...

If that special someone doesn't feel like reading over the holidays, here are a few non-book recommendations:



PHOTOS BY HELAINE GARREN
In 1970 Helaine Garren shot a series of images at Bensinger’s Pool Hall while she was a student at the Art Institute of Chicago. Garren's astounding photos have won rave reviews from Slate, the Chicago Reader and every pool publication you can think of. Buy prints directly from Ms. Garren at her website, www.helainegarren.com.

Call Pat Flemming over at Accu-Stats HQ and he'll recommend a good DVD. He's never steered me wrong once. Here's his number:  1-800-828-0397. You can also check out the website at accu-stats.com. 



The Hustler is the single-most important film ever made about our sport. For that reason alone, it deserves a revered sport in the DVD library of any lover of pool history.  The scenes between Paul Newman, as Fast Eddy, and Jackie Gleason, as Fats, are inspirational. The two-disk collector's edition also includes several extra documentaries, including one entitled “Swimming with Sharks” with commentary from Max Eberle and myself. So there’s that.


-- R.A. Dyer

Saturday, September 19, 2015

VIDEO: Ko bests SVB in World 9-ball Final


By Ted Lerner 
WPA Press Officer
Doha, QATAR -- Showing why he is not only one of  pool’s most talented performers, but perhaps its most hardcore player as well, Taiwan’s Ko Pin Yi captured his first World 9-ball Championship tonight in Doha, trading blows with the USA’s Shane Van Boening for two and a half hours before pulling away in crunch time to win 13-11.

Both players put in gritty, high-quality performances, with brilliant shot making under pressure, coupled with just a handful of errors from both superstars. The outcome was in doubt right down to the dramatic end, but it was Ko who seemed to will himself over the finish line for the historic win.
The win is the 26 year old Ko’s second world championship this year, after capturing the 10-ball world title in the Philippines back in February. That victory seven months ago served to fulfill the former teen prodigy’s long cherished dream of winning his first world title. Tonight’s win puts Ko in the pantheon of all time pool greats.
Shane Van Boening
Shane Van Boening,  photo courtesy Richard Walker
For Van Boening the loss in his first ever World 9-ball final has to be a massive disappointment, especially considering that he had literally lapped the field in his prior matches, playing some of the most scintillating 9-ball seen in many years. But the American’s mastery of the break shot came to end against Ko, and he was forced to duke it out with the Taiwanese. Van Boening had more than enough chances to pull out the match, but with the pressure mounting late and the wear and tear taking its toll on both players, Ko had just that little bit extra to get the job done.
Ko Pin Yi wins the World 9-ball Championship
Taiwan's Ko Pin Yi wins big in Qutar. Photo by Richard Walker
Under normal circumstances a match up in the world finals between greats like Ko and Van Boening would be expected to be a tight slugfest from beginning to end. But prior to the final almost nobody in the Al Arabi Sports Club, and the tens of thousands tuning in around the world on the live stream, was giving Ko a chance. That’s because up until that point the American had been in a rarefied zone that few pool fans had ever seen, winning his five previous race to 11 matches by the almost preposterous total score of 55-14. Having figured out the break shot, Van Boening simply couldn’t be stopped and he carried an air of confident invincibility that made him appear untouchable.
The day began with the two semi-finals and the contrast couldn’t have been more different. Playing on the TV table against Pin Yi’s younger brother Ko Ping Chung, Van Boening again hit every break shot perfectly—wing ball down and open shot on the one. He quickly jumped out to a 5-0 lead before the 20 year old Ko got one on the board. But then it was straight back to the race track and before anyone knew it the American had won the match 11-1. Van Boening was making 9-ball look like child’s play.
On the adjacent table Ko Pin Yi and former World 9-ball Champion Wu Jia Qing, as expected, put on a show for the ages.  Wu had Ko pinned down at 6-2, but Ko clawed his way back to 6-5. Leading 7-6 Wu played an errant safety and Ko got his first tie, and a shot of confidence to boot and he soon went ahead 8-7.The pair then took their games to the next level, trading pressure packed break and runs, safeties and clutch pots. Wu would never lead again as the two Taiwanese were tied at 8, 9 and then 10. Having won the lag, Ko had the last break and broke and ran for a well deserved spot in the finals.
An hour later the race to 13 final began and, based upon thumping Van Boening had given to Ko’s younger brother, and everyone else he had faced this week, almost nobody had picked the Taiwanese to pull off the win. Ko, however, is clearly not ‘everyone else.’
The Taiwanese won the lag and after a safety battle, grabbed the first rack to go up 1-0. Van Boening notched the next rack, and the pair traded frames with each holding serve until the score reached 4-4. But one thing was vastly different for the American in this match compared to all his previous matches. Although he was having some success on the break, he wasn’t nearly as flawless on that break as he had been throughout the week.
Then in rack 9 Ko was the recipient of several lucky rolls that would be the first of nearly a handful that would help propel him forward throughout the match. Ko scratched shooting at the 7-ball but was fortunate that the same ball ended up married to the 8-ball, leaving Van Boening only a difficult bank, which he missed. Ko then missed the subsequent shot, but this time the 7-ball got snookered. Ko eventually took a rack that he had no business winning to move up 5-4.
Ko Pin Yi
Ko Pi Yin, photo courtesy Richard Walker
Shane found his break and ran the next rack to tie it at 5-5. Then in the next frame Ko got lucky again. He went for a 2-9 pot, missed, only to see the 9-ball drop in the side for a fluke win and a 6-5 lead.
To his credit Van Boening kept his composure and it served him well. Two break and runs sandwiched around a Ko scratch brought the American his first lead of the match and an 8-6 advantage.
Just as he did against Wu earlier, however, Ko used the deficit as his motivation to stage a fight back. At the same time Van Boening lost his momentum and several mistakes cost him plenty. Ko won two straight to tie the match at 8-8.
Ko looked to be going up 9-8 before a shocking scratch while shooting an easy 8 gifted Van Boening the rack and a 9-8 lead. But then the American gifted one back in the next frame, losing position on the 7 and leaving a jump shot in the jaws. The match was now tied at 9-9 and the world title looked like it was going to come down to a flip of the coin.
With the pressure palpable Ko took back the lead in the next frame. Van Boening pounced on an errant 4-ball and tied it again at 10-10. Ko responded with a break and run. And then Van Boening did the same to tie it at 11-11. Showing incredible moxy, Ko then fired back with yet another break and run. The Taiwanese was one away from the crown.
The final frame served as a metaphor for Van Boening’s one and only match in the tournament where he experienced breaking struggles. With no open shot after the break, the American had to push out. Ko declined the shot and Van Boening’s  attempt at the two-ball went astray, leaving an open table for Ko. A battled hardened Ko took his time and picked off the remaining colors and claimed his very first World 9-ball Championship.
Ko Pi Yin takes the gold. Photo by Richard Walker
After soaking up the accolades and posing with his winner’s trophy and $30,000 check, Ko basked in the quiet satisfaction of a job well done. Yes he had made a few mistakes. Yes he had gotten some lucky rolls. But he had persevered. And that, above all, made this win that much more special.
“When I won the World 10-ball in the Philippines, that was great,” Ko said. “But winning the World 9-ball Championship, this is unbelievable. I’m really happy because before I came to Doha I wasn’t playing that good. But I worked really hard on my game, especially my break shot.
“I definitely didn’t play per perfect in the final. But I played really good in the semi-final and of course that is more important because that got me to the final. I was 7-6 behind when Wu made one safety mistake, and after that everything changed.
“In the previous matches I was playing perfect, just like Shane, who is such a great player, a real gentleman. But it’s the final of the World 9-ball championship and you know so many things can happen. I think we both played good and both made some mistakes. I feel that I got a few lucky rolls to help me win the match. There was a lot of pressure especially from 8-8 on. But at the end of the match I played good and I am happy I was able to stay patient. You just never know in 9-ball. The ball is round and you have to wait until the last 9-ball drops.”
An obviously gutted Van Boening knew he hadn’t played in the same swashbuckling style that had brought him to the finals, especially with the break shot. The American, however, still played a brilliant match. He also took the loss like a man, gave credit where it was due, and promised his fans he’d snap a world title off soon enough.
“He got a lot of fortunate rolls and he got lucky to hook me a couple of times after misses,” Van Boening said. "But I also made a couple of mistakes that I should have never have made. He played great and really didn’t make that many mistakes. I think I made more mistakes than he did and that is what cost me.
“He was breaking good and I was breaking bad. There were more people in here(the Al Arabi Sports Club) which changed the temperature and the break a little bit. I really think that was the difference. My break wasn’t working for me. I was having trouble getting a clear shot to run out. That’s the way the game plays.
“There’s nothing I can do. I’m not that disappointed. It’s an honor to play in the world championship finals. I know I can’t win every tournament. Either way if I win or lose it was fun to play in the finals. I’ll be back.”
**The 2015 WPA World 9-ball Championship was sanctioned by the World Pool-Billiard Association (WPA), the governing body of pool, and promoted and hosted by the Qatar Billiard and Snooker Federation (QBSF).
The winner of the 2015 World 9-ball Championship received $30,000. The runner received $15,000. The total prize fund was $200,000.
RESULTS FINAL
Ko Pin Yi (TPE) 13 – 11 Shane Van Boening (USA)
RESULTS SEMI-FINALS
Shane Van Boening (USA) 11 -1 Ko Pin Chung (TPE) 
Ko Pin Yi (TPE) 11 -10 Wu Jia Qing (CHN)

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Man of Many Talents: Hall of Fame Inductee Charles Ursitti Known for Marksmanship

Did you know that Charles Ursitti, recent Hall of Fame inductee and a key figure in the book The Hustler & The Champ, was also a highly competitive sharpshooter? He learned about guns from his father, and then went on to shoot both in public exhibitions and in tournaments.

Charlie was the driving force behind the Great Shoot-Out, the famous 1978 televised match between Minnesota Fats and Willie Mosconi. You can read more about that in The Hustler & The Champ, published by Lyons Press. Charlie also has amassed one of the greatest repositories of historical pool and billiard statistics in America.  You can see those stats online, for free, at charlesursitti.com.

The New York Newsday article shown above describes Ursitti's victory in the individual shooting competition at the Charlton Heston Celebrity Shoot in California, back in July 1993. That's Heston himself in the photo, in the middle, and the actor Paul
Sorvino on the left. Charlie is pictured at right.

According to the article: "Ursitti's dead-eye shooting stole a large part of the show. 'It was
unbelievable,' said Brendan Banahan, Ursitti's teammate and publisher of Field and Stream magazine. 'I'd never seen anyone shoot as confidently and accurately.' Ursitti earned a perfect score in all four events of the handgun competition and recorded the highest score of 100 participants."

Ursitti is to be officially enshrined into the Billiard Congress Hall of Fame during a ceremony in October. Wimpy Lassiter, the late hustler and fellow Hall of Famer who figured prominently in Hustler Days, also was an expert marksman.

-- R.A. Dyer

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Ortmann, Ursitti Enshrined in Hall of Fame

Olivoer Ortmann, left,
 and Johnny Archer.
Courtesy Billiards Digest.
BROOMFIELD, COLO., Aug. 18, 2015 — (BCA Press Release) Two trailblazers in the pool world have earned election into the Billiard Congress of America Hall of Fame in 2015. Former world champion Oliver Ortmann of Germany and pool promoter/historian Charles Ursitti will be inducted as the 65th and 66th members of the sport's hall of fame, the United States Billiard Media Association announced today.

Ortmann, 48, of Hamburg, will enter the Greatest Players wing of the BCA Hall of Fame, while Ursitti, 68, who was born in New York City and now resides in Florida, will be honored for Meritorious Service. Both will be formally inducted during ceremonies on Oct. 29, 2015, at the Sheraton Norfolk Waterside in Norfolk, Va.

One of the most decorated players in Europe, Ortmann led the way for European players in the United States by scoring a shocking win over pool legend Steve Mizerak in the final of the 1989 BCA U.S. Open 14.1 Championship in Chicago. Ortmann went on to win the 1993 BCA U.S. Open, as well as three World Pool-Billiard Association world titles — the 1993 WPA World 9-Ball Championship and the WPA World 14.1 Championship in 2007 and 2010. The fiery Ortmann twice won the International Challenge of Champions (1997 and 2000), and captained Team Europe's winning Mosconi Cup squad in 2002. He also holds 14 European Pool Championship gold medals, 13 Euro Tour titles and was three-time European Player of the Year.

"This is a great surprise to me," Ortmann said, after being notified of his election. "It's great news. To be honest, I had stopped thinking about the hall of fame. Many years ago I thought it was possible, but after years went by, I thought my time had passed."
Charles Ursitti


Ursitti's career in billiard promotions began when he teamed with boxing promoter Big Fights, Inc., to produce the first-ever meeting of pool legends Willie Mosconi and "Minnesota Fats" in the "Great Pool Shootout." The 1978 ABC-TV Wide World of Sports production drew more than 10 million television viewers, and remains the most watched pool match ever aired in the U.S..

Ursitti went on to promote televised matches between Fats and Mosconi, eventually introducing modern day players like Allen Hopkins and Steve Mizerak into the productions. A seven-year run with CBS Sports Spectacular created opportunities to add more pro players, as well as female stars Jean Balukas and Loree Jon Ogonowski (Hasson).

Ursitti was responsible for pool's initial forays onto cable giant ESPN, where he promoted the "King of the Hill" series and the "Legends of Pocket Billiards" series.

In addition to being a promoter, Ursitti researched and created a database documenting the history of competitive pool and three-cushion billiards in the U.S., chronicling the sport from 1878 to present day. The database is available online for free at CharlesUrsitti.com.

"Needless to say, I'm thrilled to be elected into the BCA Hall of Fame," Ursitti said. "When I was first introduced to pocket billiards in 1976, I never dreamed of someday joining the greatest of the great. I consider myself really lucky with all of my promotions, and was honored to work with the legends of the sport, from Willie and Fats, Irving Crane and Jimmy Caras, to Mizerak, Hopkins, Mike Sigel, Jimmy Rempe and the rest. It has been a great trip, and I will cherish that forever."

Voting for the 2015 BCA Hall of Fame was conducted by the USBMA Hall of Fame Board, which consists of USBMA members, elected At-Large members and living members of the BCA Hall of Fame. Induction into the Greatest Players category is awarded to the player named on the most ballots. To be eligible for consideration in the Greatest Players category, a player a) must be 40 years old by Jan. 1 of the year of their induction; b) must have a professional playing career of at least 10 years; and c) must have recorded significant achievements in U.S.-based events.

A special Meritorious Service Committee recommends a person for consideration by the Hall of Fame Board. Induction into the Meritorious Service category is achieved if more than 50 percent of the Hall of Fame Board votes in favor of the candidate.

Ortmann, in his eighth year of eligibility, was named on 60 percent of the ballots, edging out fellow pros Gerda Hofstatter (44 percent) and Kim Davenport (37 percent). Belinda Calhoun, Shannon Daulton, Mary Kenniston, Rodney Morris and Vivian Villarreal each received votes on fewer than 25 percent of the ballots.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Pool Historian William Hendricks Dies

Here’s a bit of sad news for pool history fans: William Hendricks, author of the very good but somewhat obscure Official Standard History of Pool, Billiards and Snooker, has died.

The World War II veteran was 90 years old. He passed away on May 15th in an Illinois nursing home.
  
The Official Standard History of Pool, Billiards & Snooker is a hard-to-find gem, one that includes fascinating tidbits about the early history of billiards equipment and the game. A timeline in the book goes all the way back to 1164, and cites the earliest documented use of the word “bille” to refer to certain medieval ball games. 
  
According to an online obituary, Hendricks was born on Sept. 16, 1923 in Alton, Illinois. He served in Europe during World War II and later became a professor at Southwestern Illinois University-Edwardsville and Belleville Area College. He also was an avid pool player.
  
Although never in wide circulation, Hendricks' book has been cited in many other works, including those by billiards historian Mike Shamos (The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Billiards) and John Grissim (Billiards). I also cite Hendricks in The Hustler & The Champ.

-- R.A. Dyer

Thursday, June 18, 2015

One-Pocket Mystery: Who Invented the Game?

Fats identifies "Jack Hill"
 as the inventor
 of one-pocket.
Here's a one-pocket mystery.

Jack Hill, apparently from Oklahoma, is referenced in Hustler Days as the inventor of one-pocket. But the original source for that information was The Bank Shot and Other Great Robberies, the book by Minnesota Fats. Fats offers only a few details about Hill, and we have never seen Hill's name referenced elsewhere.

According to Fats, a man by the name of Babe Emmett owned a great room in downtown Oklahoma City, on Main Street. Fats first went there, looking for Hill, but to no avail. The locals told him that instead, Hill would be playing in a room at the Huckin's Hotel, down the street.

 "I must have stayed at the Huckin's Hotel for six months, watching old man Hill playing one-pocket," Fats states in the Bank Shot. "He told me if I could play three cushion and banks and straight pool, I would have a tremendous advantage at one-pocket so we played some three cushion and banks and once he saw the way I could bank a shot he said I wouldn't have any trouble at all."

So who was Jack Hill? And was he really the father of the most cerebral of hustlers' games?

A difficulty here is that a separate man,  a hustler named Hayden Lingo, also has been credited with inventing one-pocket. Lingo is also from Oklahoma.

There's a bit more known about Lingo. For instance, he played Johnston City, during the Jansco Brothers tournaments. Two sources told Steve Booth at OnePocket.org that it was Lingo's rules that the Janscos used at their one-pocket events.

"Although he was from Oklahoma City, Lingo spent long stretches on the road, at least as far from home as Boston," wrote Booth. "Old-timers from Oklahoma City describe him as a well-dressed and soft-spoken man, while those who ran into him on the road often describe him as a secretive hustler. From Eddie Taylor to Squirrel, to Freddie the Beard, all who knew him agree that he was an unusually smart player, who approached One Pocket like a studious chess master would approach chess."

But Lingo passed away several years ago and no one knows for certain what role he played in the creation of one-pocket. Booth himself expresses skepticism.

So that brings us back to Jack Hill, who is referenced in the Bank Shot. That book was actually written by Philadelphia journalist Tom Fox, and it was based on his conversations with Fats and his then-wife Evelyn. But there wasn't a lot of fact-checking going on when Fox wrote the book, and Fats was known for playing extremely fast and loose with the truth.

Could it be that Fats simply forgot Lingo's name and so made up that of "Hill" instead? That is, could it be that Lingo and Hill are the same person? After all, they're both from Oklahoma City. Or could it be that Hayden Lingo learned the game from Jack Hill?

I tend to think the second supposition is the more likely. That's because Fats, in his book, described Hill as "an old man." Given the timeline from the Bank Shot, that means that Lingo would have been either dead or positively ancient by the time of the Johnston City tournaments. That doesn't quite square with the description of Hayden Lingo that we've seen.

But Fats, Tom Fox and Hayden Lingo and are all dead. And so too, presumably, is Jack Hill. So it seems impossible to do more than speculate.


-- R.A. Dyer