Monday, September 27, 2010

The Mail Bag: Ames, Allingers & Mosconi

For my recent Pool Synergy contribution, I wrote about Willie Mosconi, The Hustler (for which Mosconi served as a technical advisor) and the contents of the billiard legend's pool case. One of the items that I described was a neatly folded piece of paper that contained a list of shots, apparently from Willie's trick shot routine. But reader Erling Hammarstrom, in a letter from Sept. 26,  said he had watched Mosconi in a number of exhibitions, and that the shots described in the note do not match those that he remembers.

Hammarstrom also has an interesting memory of the Ames' pool hall, in New York City. Here's what Hammarstrom has to say:

"I had the opportunity to see Onofrio Lauri and Mosconi play in a number of exhibition matches. In reviewing the list of trick shots it appears that they are not all the shots that Mosconi would use after an  exhibition. Shot number 15 with the three cues was Lauri's signature shot. Mosconi always completed his trick shots with the long masse. Mosconi would stroke down on the cue ball sending it three quarters of the length of the table before the english took and it spun back making a ball in the corner pocket. 

My favorite Mosconi shot was when he would roll a ball down the table and hit it with the cue ball making the object ball in the corner pocket. He would do this a couple of times and then said, lets make it a little more difficult. He would put two balls,one on either side of the corner pocket so that you could barely pass a ball in between them. He then rolled a ball down the table, hit it with the cue ball and knocked it cleanly in between the two balls guarding the pocket. He was incredibly accurate. 

Speaking of Mosconi I bumped into him at the entrance to Ames Billiard Academy. He told me that the place was closed because they were making a movie. I mentioned to him that I had seen him play Jackie Gleason on television recently and did he hold back so he wouldn't beat him too badly. He said no. Gleason was a real good pool player capable of running a hundred balls. The movie they were filming was the Hustler. Needless to say I tried to get in the movie as an extra to no avail."

And speaking of famous pool halls that begin with the letter "A,"  reader Michael McCafferty, author of the Diary of a Pool Shooter blog, sends in his recollections of the famous Allingers in Philadelphia. I had written about the pool hall in a Sept. 12 blog post, after a reader had sent me copies of some photos that had hung from its walls. Here's McCafferty's note:

"I remember Allingers! I played there a few time in the late '50s, early '60s, when I was still in school.

It was on the second floor, but since whatever was on the first floor had really high ceilings, the climb up the stairs to Allingers was long and narrow, and it wasn't unusual to pass a few bums hiding out from the weather.

Inside, right in front of the counter, was the main action table, with a prominent sign proclaiming 'NO GAMBLING', but of course that was just for show.

The floors were all bare wood planks, and I remember that the place wasn't a high example of cleanliness, but there seemed to be a high degree of orderliness.

The strongest memory I have of Allingers was the rack girls. You could rack your own, of course, but if you could also get help. Bang your stick on the floor a couple of times, yell 'RACK!' and a little black girl would scurry over and rack 'em for you, for tips. I remember the going rate was a dime a rack, pretty good money in those days.

Allingers was a Philly landmark, the high holy place of pool south of New York City.

When I graduated from college and started working for a living, pool left my life for 40 years, during which time Allingers quietly closed up forever."

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