Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Looking for Mosconi Video

Reader Brad Bowlin from Nashville, Tennessee has put out an all points bulletin for old Willie Mosconi videos. The 29 year old says he's been playing pool for the last seven years "and from Day 1 Willie Mosconi has been my idol." Brad notes that he himself has taken a very Mosconi-like dim view of hustlers ("most are thugs or thug wanna-a-bes") and admires Mosconi for the speed in which he played.

"My Question for you is: 'Do you know if there are ANY old video footage of young Willie Mosconi shooting in his prime in an entire match of Straight?" Or even video footage of an exhibition match from the 60s? I'm just looking for something when he still shot particularly fast. I've read his Willie's Game at least three times and maybe even four, and when reading that book (and now your book) the scenes just play out in my head. I can see it all happening and I'd love to be able to have those matches on video to show some friends."

Brad says he has the Willie V Caras Dinner Match video from Accu-Stats. But that was taped around 1999, well past Mosconi's prime. He also has seen the footage of Mosconi's Great Shootout with Fats, which was the subject of my book The Hustler & The Champ. What Brad wants is something earlier, an entire straight pool match, say, where "Mosconi Would almost be running around the table while he was shooting!"

To answer Brad's question: I have come across some old newsreel footage of Mosconi, which I've added above. You can also find more material at the separate Willie Mosconi blog. But I'm always looking for more so I'll join Brad in his call. Anybody with any old footage of Mosconi or any of the other greats -- please send them in (or at least post them on Youtube so they get preserved on the Internet). More Mosconi video would be great, but I'd love to also see more footage of Jersey Red or Boston Shorty or any of the pre-70s lions. And what about an interview with Ralph Greenleaf?

Friday, June 12, 2009

Ralph Greenleaf is a Camel Man

Here's a cool image of Ralph Greenleaf from a 1938 print advertisement for Camel cigarettes. You can find similar images of billiards related advertising at the 3cushion.com website. This site also has plenty of information for collectors and three-cushion enthusiasts. You can also read more about Greenleaf at the separate Untold Stories: Ralph Greenleaf blog.

Archer and Fisher go to the Hall of Fame

The newest Hall of Fame inductees have been named -- and they can't go to more deserving players. Allison Fisher and Johnny Archer, two of the most dominating players of the last decade, got the nod last week. Archer, 40, and Fisher, 41, will be honored at the BCA trade show in Las Vegas on June 23. The formal induction comes Oct. 22 during ceremonies at the U.S. Open in Chesapeake, Va.
In case you've been living under a rock during the last few years, Fisher is arguably the most dominating woman player in the history of the sport. She is the winner of over 50 Women Professional Billiard Association titles. Archer is four time world nine-ball champion and the winner of 25 pro tour titles.
The full BCA press release can be found at the Untold Stories: Pool and Pool Players blog.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Houston, circa 1968-69-70

The great Grady "The Professor" Mathews has a wonderful story about Jersey Red, Big Train Stevens and Houston's famous Le Cue pool hall from the 1960s. "It really was “Big Train’s” establishment," writes Grady. "I mean, he held court. When he would first get out of bed, he wouldn’t play anybody for two days, then all bets would be off. He’d match up and he had a ton of gamble laced with much heart. If you wanted to beat him, you had to pack your lunch. By the way, he was a renowned fast eater. I spotted him one hot dog in a race to ten for $1,000 and I won handily. People used to buy us dinner just to watch us eat."

You can read more about Big Train and Le Cue at the Professor's blog, Grady's Place. You can also find more about Jersey Red at the separate Untold Stories Jersey Red blog linked to this page.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Fats, Du Quoin and the G-Men

John Croessman, the publisher of The Du Quoin Evening Call, wrote to me a few years back about Minnesota Fats. Du Quoin, as you may recall, was where Fats and his first wife Evelyn called home for many years. This is a small anecdote, but it's colorful and so I figured I'd post it up. Fats had some trouble with the IRS during his later years in Du Quoin -- but he always kept his sense of humor about it.

Here's what Mr. Croessman wrote:

I was a close friend of Minnesota Fats for many years. When he wasn't playing pool he would collect meat scraps from local butchers and feed dogs all over Du Quoin and Dowell. One of his favorite haunts was a place called Perfection Restaurant and the local KFC. I ran into him in the Kroger store one day and he told me, "You see that man following me? He's IRS. I've got so much money he's following me to make sure that nothing happens to me!"

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Pool as Folklore

Here's a site worth noting: The Folklore of Pool & Billiards. An undergraduate student named "Wayne" (I wish he would have posted his contact info) has been working on a project for his University of Wyoming American Folklore course. As part of that project, Wayne has created the site and posted some of his work on it.

For his project, Wayne observes that:

the dynamic world of billiards is just a densely saturated ground for studying folklore, for numerous reasons. For one, the pool ritual just easily meets all the main criteria necessary in order for it to be considered as folklore. In other words, pool is communal, creative, and relatively subversive (also, it is often deviant and non-institutional in origin). What is more, these universal folkloric characteristics (that one must find to study a folkloric material) are so vividly obvious in pool that they are just very easy to withdraw from this lore.

I see no mention of Hustlers, Beats and Others on the site, which also might be useful. Another good source is Charles Lemert, author of Muhammad Ali, Trickster in the Cultural of Irony. I interviewed Lemert for The Hustler and the Champ, and his observations about pool (and Minnesota Fats particularly) definitely would be relevant to Wayne's research project.