The Hustler and The Champ

Willie Mosconi, Minnesota Fats
And The Rivalry That Defined Pool 

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Before TV cameras, Howard Cosell, and 20 million Americans, pool’s greatest champion would challenge its greatest hustler. The date: February 14, 1978. The stakes: honor, a legacy, the true meaning of a sport. R.A. Dyer, the award-winning author of Hustler Days, tells the improbable but true story of pool’s two most important players and of a single match that captured the public’s imagination like none other, before or since. Willie Mosconi stood for artistry, Minnesota Fats for show business; Mosconi brought dignity to pool, Fats made it fun. When they came together for the most watched pool match in American history, the results would be explosive.

The great shootout

Willie Mosconi was pool's greatest champion - the winner of 15 world titles, the holder of records that have remained undisturbed for generations. Minnesota Fats was pool's most important trickster, a man who built his fame and fortune upon deceipt and guile. In 1978, both men came together for what would become the most viewed pocket billiards match in American history. Before a breathless nation, pool’s two most important personalities set out to prove who really was best.
Mosconi may have been remembered as one of the most dominant sports figures of< all time, a man who had laid low some of the greatest players in history—but no one would pose a greater threat to his legacy than the man-child Minnesota Fats. So when the consummate perfectionist and the unapologetic gambler finally went head to head for what Howard Cosell described as one of the most fascinating televised segments he ever hosted, all of America would ask the same question: Who would win?

The Hustler & The Champ tells of both men’s hardscrabble march to greatness, of their bitter decades-long rivalry, and finally of the televised shoot-out that revealed pocket billiards to millions even as it exposed the deep contradictions within all of organized competition. Through the 1920s, the Great Depression, and the resurgent 1960s, R.A. Dyer follows the lives of both men and tells the story of America’s conflicted love affair with the sport of rogues.
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