Friday, February 19, 2010

Willie Mosconi: Sometimes your idols disappoint

BCA Instructor Roy Pastor sends in this picture (at right) of himself, circa 1969, standing next to his then-idol, Willie Mosconi. I say "next to" and not "with" because the boy had to resort to subterfuge to have the picture taken with the great champion. Mosconi was a great player, but he could also be a tough and difficult man -- as Pastor's somewhat sad story about this photograph attests.

I've also attached a photograph below of Roy standing with Cueball Kelly and Onofrio Lauri. That picture also figures into Roy's story, which you can read in his note that I've attached below.

I grappled a little bit about posting this story -- after all Mosconi was one of the great icons of our game. But it's also an indisputable fact that there was a darker side to the man -- that much became clear to me as I wrote
The Hustler & The Champ. It also seems clear to me that for our history to be legitimate, we must endeavor to capture and convey the full story of its icons, both the good and the bad.

Here's Roy's letter:

"When I was 12 years old, back in 1969, my father took me to see an exhibition match between my idol Willie Mosconi and the house pro at Golden Q billiards in Queens New York. I was very excited as I watched Mosconi run 60-plus balls to win the match.

We did not realize that Mosconi was selling copies of his book. When my dad asked him if he could take a picture of Mosconi with me, Mosconi replied that he would on the condition that my dad would purchase one of his books. Unfortunately, my father did not have enough money to buy a book. As a result, Mosconi refused to shake my hand or pose for a photograph with me. My disappointment must have been obvious because “Cue Ball” Kelly and “Kid” Laurie came right over, introduced themselves, posed for photos and were very kind. I think that it was Kelly who told me to go over and stand next to Mosconi while he was giving an interview. That way, even though he would not look at the camera, I had a picture with him.

I have kept the photos from that day as a reminder of my interactions with these legends of the sport. I always wondered how Mosconi could have so easily disappointed a 12-year-old star struck fan."

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

I have heard Dale Earnhardt and Dan Marino were the same way. If you know of World of Outlaw racer Steve Kinser he is exactly the same way. I was going out with a girl and we had went to a race. Her 5 yr old asked him for an autograph. She was being shy and her mom tells her to give him the picture. She is looking at him. He just turns his back to her and moves on to the next person. Come on the kid was 5. But then people were trying to chat with him about the race and he wouldn't talk to no one. Hardly a way to treat a fan. Especially one that had to pay $20 a person just to get in.

Jim Felter said...

Well I played Mosconi in an exibition in 1966 or 67 in New London Connecticut and he was nothing but a gentlemen. There were about 200 people in attendance and he did not ask anyone to buy a book and he happily signed autographs. I and my entire family had dinner with him at the Lighthouse Inn and he was very gracious. He even spoke frankly about the movie the Hustler and spoke highly of Gleason and of Newman. He said that he instructed Newman who was not a player and he said that Newman was quick to pick it up and was a decent player in the end. He also said that Gleason did all of his own shots, in the movie, and was an excellent player. Of course we all know that he was not in Mosconi's class and there were not many who could compete with him in straight pool. I think he was a class act based on what I saw of him for one day, and 2 matches and dinner in Connecticut. So I do not think he should be judged for one day back in 1969, or even for a few minutes. Maybe he was just having a bad day. Happens to the best of us. By the way I was just 25 years old when I played him and my high run at the time was just 60 balls, so you can imagine how badly he beat me, but I learned so much from that day which later helped me defeat a couple of known players.
Best wishes,
Jim Felter, Frederick, Md.

Jim Felter said...

Well I played Mosconi in an exibition in 1966 or 67 in New London Connecticut and he was nothing but a gentlemen. There were about 200 people in attendance and he did not ask anyone to buy a book and he happily signed autographs. I and my entire family had dinner with him at the Lighthouse Inn and he was very gracious. He even spoke frankly about the movie the Hustler and spoke highly of Gleason and of Newman. He said that he instructed Newman who was not a player and he said that Newman was quick to pick it up and was a decent player in the end. He also said that Gleason did all of his own shots, in the movie, and was an excellent player. Of course we all know that he was not in Mosconi's class and there were not many who could compete with him in straight pool. I think he was a class act based on what I saw of him for one day, and 2 matches and dinner in Connecticut. So I do not think he should be judged for one day back in 1969, or even for a few minutes. Maybe he was just having a bad day. Happens to the best of us. By the way I was just 25 years old when I played him and my high run at the time was just 60 balls, so you can imagine how badly he beat me, but I learned so much from that day which later helped me defeat a couple of known players.
Best wishes,
Jim Felter, Frederick, Md.

Jim Felter said...

Well I played Mosconi in an exibition in 1966 or 67 in New London Connecticut and he was nothing but a gentlemen. There were about 200 people in attendance and he did not ask anyone to buy a book and he happily signed autographs. I and my entire family had dinner with him at the Lighthouse Inn and he was very gracious. He even spoke frankly about the movie the Hustler and spoke highly of Gleason and of Newman. He said that he instructed Newman who was not a player and he said that Newman was quick to pick it up and was a decent player in the end. He also said that Gleason did all of his own shots, in the movie, and was an excellent player. Of course we all know that he was not in Mosconi's class and there were not many who could compete with him in straight pool. I think he was a class act based on what I saw of him for one day, and 2 matches and dinner in Connecticut. So I do not think he should be judged for one day back in 1969, or even for a few minutes. Maybe he was just having a bad day. Happens to the best of us. By the way I was just 25 years old when I played him and my high run at the time was just 60 balls, so you can imagine how badly he beat me, but I learned so much from that day which later helped me defeat a couple of known players.
Best wishes,
Jim Felter, Frederick, Md.