Friday, January 29, 2010

MLK Shooting the 11-Ball from behind his back

This is a pretty awesome photo of Dr. Martin Luther King shooting from behind his back. A fan from the Pool & History page on Facebook brought it to my attention. I can't quite tell, however, if it's authentic. It looks slightly doctored. Perhaps someone else has seen this photo reproduced elsewhere -- and if so, where the photo was taken and the circumstances surrounding it. I found this picture and other photos of celebrities and historic figures playing pool at Ace's Web World. Check it out.

-- R.A. Dyer

Fast Eddy No. 5 Celebrates 101st

Pool Shark "Fast Eddy" Halliday celebrated his 101st birthday this week. "That's right (I was) a pool shark," Halliday told a newspaper reporter. "(And) I was pretty good. I took on all comers."

Halliday was featured on the occasion of his birthday in a recent article in the Longview (Texas) News-Journal. He has made Longview his home for the last quarter century.

To Halliday's credit, the old hustler never claims to have been THE Fast Eddy -- that is, he never claims that he was the template for the "Fast Eddy" Felson character from The Hustler & The Color of Money. Several others have made that claim or allowed it to be suggested of them.

Over the years I've come across any number of journalistic references to random Fast Eddies. I won't claim that all of these guys proclaimed they were the real Fast Eddy, although some of them did.

*There's Ronnie "Fast Eddy" Allen, the One-Pocket legend from California.

*There's Louisiana's Ed Taylor, the Bank-Pocket genius also known as the Knoxville Bear.

*There was Ed Parker from Texas.

*There's California's Ed Pelkey who died in 1983.

And of course Rudolf Wanderone made quite a career for himself claiming that he was the original Minnesota Fats. Walter Tevis, the author of The Hustler, said there's nothing to any of these claims. Speaking to columnist Ray McHugh of the Pittsburgh Press in 1983, Tevis said: "I'm weary of explaining this. Nobody believes you when you tell them you invent your own characters."

-- R.A. Dyer

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

R.I.P.: Houston's Cue & Cushion

Check out the Houston Chronicle blog post about the demise of that city's Cue & Cushion pool hall. It was a great room, having been a favored haunt of Jersey Red and others. It has been replaced by a tony restaurant -- an upscale joint greeted with great enthusiasm by food critics. There are some who seemed almost to have welcomed the demise of the Cue & Cushion, with one food critic going so far as to note "that the new restaurant sprang forth from the carcass of the old Cue and Cushion dive (which) makes the (dining) experience even more delicious."

In its prime the Cue & Cushion was a truly great room. The Houston Press recently had named it the best in the city.

Kudos to my old friend Mike Snyder for seeing fit to post a tribute to the room. (I helped!) Mike and I spent many hours there shooting nine-ball. You can find Mike's post here.

-- R.A. Dyer

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Best pool player ever: Mosconi or Greenleaf?

We ran a poll here not too long ago in which we asked who was the greatest player in history. As I might have expected, the top two finishers were Willie Mosconi and Ralph Greenleaf. Neither received a majority of votes. A runoff! So now the question becomes: which player really was better? Thoughts? I'm going to write a column about this at some point and I'm looking for comments. You can see the poll results in the column on the right. That's a picture of both players at the top of this post, with Mosconi on the left.

-- R.A. Dyer

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Historian Charlie Ursitti posts collection of historic "Billiards Magazine" editions online

I have some very cool news to report from Charles Ursitti, the charming pool promoter and historian. Ursitti has just purchased what must be one of this country's largest private collections of the historic publication Billiards Magazine. According to Charlie, the magazine started in April of 1913 and ran through September 1934 -- for a total of 276 issues. It then became Bowling and Billiards Magazine. Charlie says he has the first issue and about 230 more. "Even the Smithsonian doesn't have a complete set," reports Charlie.

OK, and now here's the really cool part: Charlie is uploading the entire collection onto the web. It's a work in progress, but already there are several years of the publication up for public viewing. "Billiards Magazine featured the best reporting ever done on the sport and I feel every billiard lover should be able to see it," says Charlie. He said he's scanning every page himself.

You can find the magazines at Charlie's website, or He plans to eventually divide the site into 16 to 20 sections, and it will include reproductions of his posters, program books, tobacco cards and photos. I've seen some of Charlie's collection firsthand during a visit to his previous residence in New York City and I have to say it is something to behold. That's a picture I took of him in his stacks, holding up an old edition of Billiards Magazine.

So go check out more of them at Charlie's site. It's great.

-- R.A. Dyer

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Pichitas: A Costa Rican Pool Documentary

Pichitas: A Costa Rican Pool Documentary from R A Dyer on Vimeo.

This is the third in a series of posts submitted in coordination with other online pool writers. It's part of the Pool Synergy project hosted this month by Look for more installments in the future.

As usual, I'm taking great liberties with my homework. Our PoolSynergy assignment this month was to write about "some activity, training, or experience outside of the world of billiards and how that could be applied to help a person's pool game." Well, first off--I'm not really going to write about anything. Instead I'm submitting a documentary, the one you see attached to the top of this post. It's called "Pichitas" and it's about Costa Rican pool players. And as for it describing an "activity, training, or experience that could help a person's game" -- well, you can be the judge.

The documentary is something I put together about 18 years ago. It ran briefly on cable access TV in Houston and then pretty much has been sitting in my closet ever since. I got my son to create an electronic file of the film that would be appropriate for use on my blog -- and viola -- here it is.

And so how, you may ask, does this film illustrate some activity outside the world of pool that can help a person's game? Well, the fact of the matter is that I came to pool largely because of my willingness to go exploring. I lived for several years in Costa Rica, spent much of that time wandering around the streets of San Jose, and finally ventured up the steps of "Center Pool," which is the pool hall featured in this film. There I met a wonderful cast of characters, some of whom were vaguely disreputable. I watched them play pool and I fell in love with the game.

So, that's it. Go exploring. Take risks. Learn about other people. That's the activity outside the pool world that led me to improve my game.

OK, I know it's a stretch -- but whatever. I was never much good at homework anyway.

-- R.A. Dyer