Sunday, August 30, 2015

Man of Many Talents: Hall of Fame Inductee Charles Ursitti Known for Marksmanship

Did you know that Charles Ursitti, recent Hall of Fame inductee and a key figure in the book The Hustler & The Champ, was also a highly competitive sharpshooter? He learned about guns from his father, and then went on to shoot both in public exhibitions and in tournaments.

Charlie was the driving force behind the Great Shoot-Out, the famous 1978 televised match between Minnesota Fats and Willie Mosconi. You can read more about that in The Hustler & The Champ, published by Lyons Press. Charlie also has amassed one of the greatest repositories of historical pool and billiard statistics in America.  You can see those stats online, for free, at

The New York Newsday article shown above describes Ursitti's victory in the individual shooting competition at the Charlton Heston Celebrity Shoot in California, back in July 1993. That's Heston himself in the photo, in the middle, and the actor Paul
Sorvino on the left. Charlie is pictured at right.

According to the article: "Ursitti's dead-eye shooting stole a large part of the show. 'It was
unbelievable,' said Brendan Banahan, Ursitti's teammate and publisher of Field and Stream magazine. 'I'd never seen anyone shoot as confidently and accurately.' Ursitti earned a perfect score in all four events of the handgun competition and recorded the highest score of 100 participants."

Ursitti is to be officially enshrined into the Billiard Congress Hall of Fame during a ceremony in October. Wimpy Lassiter, the late hustler and fellow Hall of Famer who figured prominently in Hustler Days, also was an expert marksman.

-- R.A. Dyer

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Ortmann, Ursitti Enshrined in Hall of Fame

Olivoer Ortmann, left,
 and Johnny Archer.
Courtesy Billiards Digest.
BROOMFIELD, COLO., Aug. 18, 2015 — (BCA Press Release) Two trailblazers in the pool world have earned election into the Billiard Congress of America Hall of Fame in 2015. Former world champion Oliver Ortmann of Germany and pool promoter/historian Charles Ursitti will be inducted as the 65th and 66th members of the sport's hall of fame, the United States Billiard Media Association announced today.

Ortmann, 48, of Hamburg, will enter the Greatest Players wing of the BCA Hall of Fame, while Ursitti, 68, who was born in New York City and now resides in Florida, will be honored for Meritorious Service. Both will be formally inducted during ceremonies on Oct. 29, 2015, at the Sheraton Norfolk Waterside in Norfolk, Va.

One of the most decorated players in Europe, Ortmann led the way for European players in the United States by scoring a shocking win over pool legend Steve Mizerak in the final of the 1989 BCA U.S. Open 14.1 Championship in Chicago. Ortmann went on to win the 1993 BCA U.S. Open, as well as three World Pool-Billiard Association world titles — the 1993 WPA World 9-Ball Championship and the WPA World 14.1 Championship in 2007 and 2010. The fiery Ortmann twice won the International Challenge of Champions (1997 and 2000), and captained Team Europe's winning Mosconi Cup squad in 2002. He also holds 14 European Pool Championship gold medals, 13 Euro Tour titles and was three-time European Player of the Year.

"This is a great surprise to me," Ortmann said, after being notified of his election. "It's great news. To be honest, I had stopped thinking about the hall of fame. Many years ago I thought it was possible, but after years went by, I thought my time had passed."
Charles Ursitti

Ursitti's career in billiard promotions began when he teamed with boxing promoter Big Fights, Inc., to produce the first-ever meeting of pool legends Willie Mosconi and "Minnesota Fats" in the "Great Pool Shootout." The 1978 ABC-TV Wide World of Sports production drew more than 10 million television viewers, and remains the most watched pool match ever aired in the U.S..

Ursitti went on to promote televised matches between Fats and Mosconi, eventually introducing modern day players like Allen Hopkins and Steve Mizerak into the productions. A seven-year run with CBS Sports Spectacular created opportunities to add more pro players, as well as female stars Jean Balukas and Loree Jon Ogonowski (Hasson).

Ursitti was responsible for pool's initial forays onto cable giant ESPN, where he promoted the "King of the Hill" series and the "Legends of Pocket Billiards" series.

In addition to being a promoter, Ursitti researched and created a database documenting the history of competitive pool and three-cushion billiards in the U.S., chronicling the sport from 1878 to present day. The database is available online for free at

"Needless to say, I'm thrilled to be elected into the BCA Hall of Fame," Ursitti said. "When I was first introduced to pocket billiards in 1976, I never dreamed of someday joining the greatest of the great. I consider myself really lucky with all of my promotions, and was honored to work with the legends of the sport, from Willie and Fats, Irving Crane and Jimmy Caras, to Mizerak, Hopkins, Mike Sigel, Jimmy Rempe and the rest. It has been a great trip, and I will cherish that forever."

Voting for the 2015 BCA Hall of Fame was conducted by the USBMA Hall of Fame Board, which consists of USBMA members, elected At-Large members and living members of the BCA Hall of Fame. Induction into the Greatest Players category is awarded to the player named on the most ballots. To be eligible for consideration in the Greatest Players category, a player a) must be 40 years old by Jan. 1 of the year of their induction; b) must have a professional playing career of at least 10 years; and c) must have recorded significant achievements in U.S.-based events.

A special Meritorious Service Committee recommends a person for consideration by the Hall of Fame Board. Induction into the Meritorious Service category is achieved if more than 50 percent of the Hall of Fame Board votes in favor of the candidate.

Ortmann, in his eighth year of eligibility, was named on 60 percent of the ballots, edging out fellow pros Gerda Hofstatter (44 percent) and Kim Davenport (37 percent). Belinda Calhoun, Shannon Daulton, Mary Kenniston, Rodney Morris and Vivian Villarreal each received votes on fewer than 25 percent of the ballots.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Pool Historian William Hendricks Dies

Here’s a bit of sad news for pool history fans: William Hendricks, author of the very good but somewhat obscure Official Standard History of Pool, Billiards and Snooker, has died.

The World War II veteran was 90 years old. He passed away on May 15th in an Illinois nursing home.
The Official Standard History of Pool, Billiards & Snooker is a hard-to-find gem, one that includes fascinating tidbits about the early history of billiards equipment and the game. A timeline in the book goes all the way back to 1164, and cites the earliest documented use of the word “bille” to refer to certain medieval ball games. 
According to an online obituary, Hendricks was born on Sept. 16, 1923 in Alton, Illinois. He served in Europe during World War II and later became a professor at Southwestern Illinois University-Edwardsville and Belleville Area College. He also was an avid pool player.
Although never in wide circulation, Hendricks' book has been cited in many other works, including those by billiards historian Mike Shamos (The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Billiards) and John Grissim (Billiards). I also cite Hendricks in The Hustler & The Champ.

-- R.A. Dyer