Wednesday, November 8, 2017

UK Website Devoted to Billiards, Snooker History

Interested in the the history of UK billiards and snooker? Check out the UK Billiard and Snooker Archive, which touts itself as the only website dedicated to to the history of snooker and english billiards.  The website charts the history of both games, and includes biographies of several key players like Joe Davis and Willie Smith.

Here's the link:

Sunday, April 2, 2017

St. Elmo: Favorite Haunt of Wimpy Lassiter

This photo of the St. Elmo pool hall in Norfolk, Virginia. It was the favorite haunt of the world famous Wimpy Lassiter and also was featured in the book, Hustler Days, which is available from online retailers. It was taken by photographer Harry C. Mann and is available under common licensing from the Library of Virginia.

You also can learn more about the pool hall and Lassiter in the book, Hustler Days, which is available online.

Former sailor John Pizzuto was a St. Elmo's regular during the late 1960s. He sends us this brief recollection of his time there.

"Most of the players had a nickname, mine was Sailorboy. I kept Sam Bass in beer money Saturday afternoons, getting straight pool "lessons" from him. Carolina kept my cue behind the bar when we were out to sea. I played golf and straight pool with Old Red. He was pretty old and towards the end of my time there, he didn't come in very often. At the time he seemed like he was in his 70s. Some of the other regulars were Cab Driver, Onion Head Red and a pretty good player named Cash McCall. He ran a bartending school. 

One Saturday afternoon, I was practicing alone. One of the regulars egged me into asking "that old man in the chair" to play some nine ball. I walked over and asked, but he politely declined. I awkwardly offered him a spot. He shook his head. As I walked back to my table, the regulars all started laughing, asking me if I knew who that was. By then, I figured it must be Wimpy. I had heard he came in from time to time, but I had never seen him. I walked back over to where he was sitting and offered my hand in apology. He shook it with his left."

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Fox: Death by Fly or Shark?

This excerpt, below, from an old edition of the New York Times describes the discovery in 1866 of the body of pool player Louis Fox in a Rochester, New York river. But how did Fox's body get there? 

According to one very colorful (and perhaps apocryphal) story by sports historian Frank Menke, Fox, shortly before his death, had played a challenge match with John Deery to determine the 1865 world billiards champion. "Fox, far in the lead and on his way to winning, found himself bothered by a fly, which, despite 'shooing,' continued to light on the cue ball," wrote Menke in his 1939 Encyclopedia of Sport. "Fox, excitingly trying to chase the fly, miscued, and it was Deery's shot. Deery ran out the string to win the championship. The heart broken Fox rushed out of the hall to a river, leaped in, and was drowned."
Deery, left and Fox

In a slightly different account from the Semi-Centennial History of the City of Rochester (by William Farley Peck and published in 1884), Fox killed himself because he was distraught over the "loss of his championship cue." Meanwhile on page 103 of the 1898 edition of Championship Billiards, Old and New, the author claimed that  Fox, "some time after his defeat, was found dead in the river, and it has always been claimed that, crazed by grief, he committed suicide."

So, the question at hand -- as put forth by billiards writer J.D. Dolan -- is whether Fox was killed by a fly or a shark.

-- R.A. Dyer