Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Wimpy Lassiter's U.S. Coast Guard service

Check out the Wimpy Lassiter section for a timeline describing Luther "Wimpy" Lassiter's World War II Coast Guard service. The timeline has been constructed through a review of Lassiter's military records.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

American Pool Timeline

I'm beginning work on a timeline of American pool. Here's what I have so far. I'll update this soon. Feel free to send in suggested dates. Eventually I'll put this up more permanently on the regular website.

Michael Phelan, considered the father of American pool, is born in Castle Comer, County Kilkenny, Ireland.

Michael Phelan and family join father John Phelan in New York City.

Phelan’s book “Game of Billiards” is published; he opens a room at the corner of Broadway and 10th, New York. It was considered the finest and most luxurious pool room in the world. He also publishes the first edition of Billiard Cue, the first billiard periodical.

Jim Seereiter and Michael Phelan play in a four-day standing room only tournament in Detroit for an astronomical $15,000. Phelan won; in April Dudley Kavanaugh beats Michael Foley in another high-profile match, also in Detroit.

Phelan retires from active competition; Dudley Kavanagh wins in a pro championship in Irving Hall, New York, June 1-9. He becomes second U.S. pool champion.

Celluloid, the first industrial plastic, is discovered by New Yorker John Wesley Hyatt. Hyatt was attempting to come up with a substitute for ivory billiard balls, but his new substitutes sometimes exploded on impact.

Jerome Keogh, inventor of straight pool and five-times billiard champion, is born.

Keogh wins his first world championship.

Eight ball is invented. The first three-cushion championship is established.

The game of straight pool is invented by Jerome Keogh.

The very first World 14.1 Tournament was held in 1911 and won by Alfredo DeOro. 

Straight pool becomes the official tournament game of pocket billiards.

Rudolf Wanderone, AKA Minnesota Fats, is born in New York on Jan. 13. Willie Mosconi is born in Philadelphia on June 27. The industry reports one of its best years, ever, for table sales.

Dudley Kavanaugh dies in New York on March at age 80.

Ralph Greenleaf competes in his first national championship tournament, held in October at Doyle’s Academy in New York. The 16-year-old Greenleaf was described as a “Boy Wonder” by the New York Times.

Greenleaf wins the first of his 13 world titles.

Greenleaf, playing in Detroit, regains the title – his eighth. He defeats the scoreless Frank Taberski with a sensational 126-ball run.

Harold Worst, future three-cushion and pool champion, is born on Sept. 29 in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Willie Mosconi makes his national tournament debut.

Willie Mosconi
Willie Mosconi wins the first of 15 world titles.

Jerome Keogh, winner of five titles and the inventor of straight pool, dies at age 80 on January 12.

Harold Worst wins the world three-cushion title during an event held in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Willie Mosconi establishes the BCA-recognized straight-pool high-run record of 536 balls. He accomplished the startling feat in Ohio, on a 8 by 4 tables.

Willie Mosconi suffers a stroke.

George Jansco conducts the first of his famous hustler tournaments in Johnston City, Illinois. The tournaments, which lasted about a decade, would eventually attract nationwide attention. His brother Paulie Jansco also helped with the tournaments and later took over after George Jansco’s untimely death in 1969.

20th Century Fox releases “The Hustler.” The film, starring Jackie Gleason and Paul Newman, would reinvigorate the public’s interest in the sport.

Rudolf Wanderone begins making the fanciful claim that he was the real-life inspiration for the film’s Minnesota Fats character.

Three-cushion champ Harold Worst briefly conquers the world of pocket billiards with victories at the Las Vegas Stardust tournament in June, and in Johnston City in October and November.

The Bank Shot and Other Great Robberies, the fanciful memoirs written by Minnesota Fats and
Philadelphia newspaper writer Tom Fox, gets published.

Willie Mosconi and Minnesota Fats would play the first of several televised challenge matches. It was the most-viewed pool match in U.S. history, with almost unmatched ratings on ABC.

The Color of Money, a sequel to The Hustler, opens to favorable reviews. The new film stars Paul Newman and Tom Cruise.

Willie Mosconi dies in Haddon Heights, New Jersey on Sept. 16.

Minnesota Fats dies on Jan. 18.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

No-arm Billiardist

Willie Hoppe Exhibition for U.S. Armed Forces

The Hustler & The Champ

Sorry for the delay in posting. We've had some technical difficulities with blogger's switchover to new software. But for those interested in Minnesota Fats, Willie Mosconi or their televised pool match of 1978, look for my new book due out in October. It's called The Hustler & The Champ and is available at and your local bookseller.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Wimpy Lassiter

Wimpy Lassiter
Originally uploaded by jakedyer.

Here's a great vintage photo of Wimpy.

Johnston City Pool Hustling

Pool exhibition program

Pool exhibition program
Originally uploaded by jakedyer.

Here's a photo from Dale R. LeMieux of a flyer for an exhibition he saw with Minnesota Fats at the Pontiac Silverdome, then home of the Detroit Lions. The event was in the 1970s. Note: the top and side of the paper has Fats' autograph.

Dale writes: "The event was called The Billiard Bash and it was a benefit of the TRI-COUNTY EASTER SEAL SOCIETIES. This event featured Minnesota Fats as the one to beat. For a contribution of fifty dollars you were able to play him. I took my father there just to see Minnesota Fats ... (and) we were sitting in the audience watching, (and) I told my father that I was going to go down and talk to Fats. My father encouraged me to do so and said I probably would never get another chance.

As he was still standing there alone I went up to him and asked him about the movie THE HUSTLER. (Fats) talked to anyone who would listen. He talked for a while just like he had known me forever and I really enjoyed it because I had always really liked him (one of the few that liked him more than Mosconi). Then as another person started he continued to talk to me as the person ran some balls in their game of eightball.

Now it was Fats turn to shoot and when he got to the eightball a heckler starts in on Fats telling him he was no good at playing pool and that anyone can beat him. Fats says to the man "I'll tell you what I'll dooo. I'll bet you a thousand dollars that I will bank the eight three in the side." The man said no more. With no hesitation Fats banked the eight three rails into the side pocket. I think he said: "I'll just send old Elsie home anyway" and then he shot it in.

After the exhibition we were still sitting in our seats when Fats and a few big guys he had around him came back (to where we were) and ... as he was walking by he reached down and tapped me on the shoulder and said to me: "I will see you later Dale." That was the last time I saw Rudolph Wanderone in person.

Personal note... I have always disliked the way people (pool players) at least in this area after Fats got older and sicker tell of how they beat him. It also happened in this area with a great player I knew Cornbread Red ( Billy Burge). Now that he is gone it seems that everyone beat him. I know that I never beat him and he was one of the greats, He was colorful and liked to talk as well. I for one will miss both players."

A video of Mosconi and Jimmy Caras

Willie Mosconi

Jimmy Caras goes up against Mosconi in Straight pool.

Norfolk memories

Ken McCarthy writes:

"When I was in the navy (1961-1965) I was stationed in Norfolk ,VA and played pool every minute I had at St. Elmos pool hall (2nd floor, a few buildings up from the YMCA). As you know this is where Wimpy played when in town, and it is where I saw him ( I still have a perfect vision of that white head standing out in the dimness along the left wall watching the goings-on). I was just starting to play pool and my friend pointed him out to me as a great player, although at the time I really didn't realize HOW great a player.

" In 1963 or 64 I bought a Willie Hoppe special (Brunswick) cue through the owner (a kindly, short, bald-headed man). I then sanded off a section on the top of the butt, bought a Parker ink pen and asked Mr. Lassiter to sign it. He did, and I still have the cue and the pen. I have recently picked up the game again and I now know that he was actually at the top of his game when he signed my cue!"

Later, I asked Ken if he had any photos of the St. Elmos to post up here on the Untold Stories website. This is his response:

"Mr. Dyer,

" I do not have any pictured of St. Elmo's even though at the time I was an amateur photographer and my ships official photographer. In 1963 there was no such thing as a family billiard parlor. This was an old time pool hall where you keep your mouth shut and pay up when you lose. I think you can imagine that taking pictures in an establishment like that may have made one "un-popular" with some of the notoriety. But now I sure wished I had.

No, I never run into Fats or Willie. I did meet Art Cranfield once simply because he was from Syracuse, my home town.

So I'm sorry to say that the only thing I can give you are my memories of St. Elmo's and a vivid picture of that white mane sitting along the side wall watching the players.

My good friend at the time, and the guy who started me in pool played Luther once for five bucks a lot of money for a sailor in 1963. Fred broke and nothing went. The one ball lay down by the corner pocket and the nine up by the side. Luther stepped up, pocketed the one, came back up the table with the cue ball and knocked the nine in the side pocket. He turns to Fred and says "My gosh, what luck. Let's play another"Fred declined.

If there is anything else please let me know. I would be delighted to see any pictures of that venerable palace of pool if you run across any in your research.


Jack "Jersey Red" Breit

Jack "Jersey Red" Breit
Originally uploaded by jakedyer.

Mike Haines took this photo of the Red Raider during a tournament in Houston during the 1980s. To see more of his great pool photos (including more during that Houston tournament) go to

Willie Mosconi

Originally uploaded by jakedyer.

Mike Haines sent in this photo of Mosconi in San Antonio some years ago.
For more of his great photos, go to

Willie Mosconi with Norman "Jockey" Howard

Originally uploaded by jakedyer.

That's Willie on the left, and Norman "Jockey" Howard, at the right. The Jockey's son, Charles, sent in the photo. He said his dad was a full-time pool hustler.

"He never entered tournaments that generated national attention," said Charles, "(But) he was best man at Cornbread Red's wedding and has played with some of the greats such as Mosconi and Fats."

Johnston City


Originally uploaded by jakedyer.

This was sent in by the son of Norman "Jockey" Howard. That's Jockey on the far right. Although it's labeled "1961, first tournament held in Johnston City", I don't believe that can be right. Although Paulie and George Jansco are clearly there seated in the middle, there's also Luther Lassiter and Cisero Murphy in attendance. They were not at the first Johnston City meet. Charles said his dad went to Johnston City in '62 and '63.