Sunday, March 12, 2017

Fox: Death by Fly or Shark?



Deery, left and Fox
This excerpt, above, 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."

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

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