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


Roy Zornow said...

Willie Hoppe didn't make the short list?

R.A. Dyer said...

Yeah, Willie Hoppe didn't make the short list -- but only because it's a list of best ever POCKET BILLIARD champions. Hoppe was a three-cushion player....

Roy Zornow said...

My bad.

Chris said...

Simply the Best:
Greenleaf and Willie Mosconi stand as the two greatest pool shooters in history. Like Rachmaninoff at the piano, Greenleaf used his massive hands with their long, tapering fingers to perform his calling marvelously.
Willie Mosconi, who dominated pool for decades, and publicly on television, is known by many Americans as the greatest, but he gave the nod to Greenleaf as his mentor and superior. When Mosconi was a boy, he toured with Greenleaf, who taught him exquisite positioning with the cue ball and built in him the competitive edge to win.

I don't think these two billiards masters can really be compared fairly. Much the same way Mosconi shouldn't be compared to the great players of recent decades. The sport of billiards is always progressing, most noticeably in the level of competition around (both skill-wise and sheer number of players) and equipment (tables, balls, & cues). The progression of the game in every player I come across, as well as how I progress myself is what keeps me so involved; that and having fun. Without the influence of players past, we wouldn't be as good as we are now. In that respect you could say Mosconi is a better pool player than Greenleaf. However, like the author above pointed out, how great would Mosconi be without Greenleaf?

In 1919, Willie Mosconi's father arranged a match between Willie and Ralph Greenleaf. Willie Mosconi was only 6 years old at that time, and although he lost, he played very well. This match was considered to be the match that launched Willie Mosconi's career. In fact, Willie's father frequently arranged billiard matches for Willie as a child as a way for Willie to help earn money for the growing family.