Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Samm Diep on Efren Reyes

Here's a video from Samm Diep, a reporter for InsidePool magazine and the woman behind The Tip Jar pool blog. She's also a contributor to the new PoolSynergy project, in which various pool writers contribute an article each month about a common theme. In Samm's contribution, she discussed when to play position in the side pocket versus playing position for the corner pocket.

I know the video isn't technically about pool history, which is what I focus on here. However, it's about Efren Reyes, a Hall of Famer who's played plenty of historic matches. The video caught my attention, in that Efren is so infrequently interviewed — at least by the English-speaking press. Efren carries around arthritis cream. Who knew?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Mika Immonen Wins 2009 U.S. Open

Here's video of Mika Immonen's final 9-ball shot in the 2009 U.S. Open. It was a tricky carom, and it was unclear at first whether the Finnish player would take it. My wife took this video from the stands. You can see Immonen fall to the ground after he pockets the ball. Then it looks like there's an earthquake, there's so much camera shaking. That's because folks started standing up and streaming down to the arena to congratulate Immonen, which jostled the camera. Immonen agonized through most of the final match. Ralf Souquet, true to form, belied the drama of the moment by displaying very little emotion at all. His disappointment was palpable afterward.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Lassiter & Shorty in Johnston City

Here's another great video of Wimpy Lassiter and Boston Shorty playing one-pocket in Johnston City, Illinois. It's from ABC's Wide World of Sports. Lassiter won everything there was to win at Johnston City. You can read more about the famous tournaments an the newly renamed Johnston City Hustler Tournament blog. (It was formerly the George Jansco blog. Same content. Just more stuff.) That's a picture of Shorty, on the right, with fan Ross Parker Simons in 1965. You can read more about Shorty at, which has inducted him into its Hall of Fame. Shorty also won big in Johnston City.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Johnston City & The Jansco Brothers

Here's another Johnston City video, this one featuring trick shots by Ronnie Allen, Champagne Eddy Kelly, Weenie Beenie and others. Jim McKay from Wide World of Sports hosts. The Johnston City jamborees began with the release of The Hustler, and lasted until 1972. They were organized by George and Paulie Jansco, who also created the Stardust Events in Las Vegas. The Johnston City events were clearly the most colorful pool tournaments of the 1960s, as they brought road players from all over. The closest thing to Johnston City these days are the annual Derby City events, which features plenty of action -- but on a much grander scale. You can read all about the Johnston City events in Hustler Days.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The 1960s Hustlers' Jamboree and George Jansco's Minor League Baseball Stats

The internet is amazing. Here's a site that references George Jansco's minor league baseball stats back in the 1930s. Notice that the site references George's nickname as "Wimpy" -- which was the same handle used by Luther Lassiter. Odd. Also looks like George had a career batting average of .291. Not too shabby.

For those who don't know, George Jansco was the promoter (along with his brother Paulie) behind the Johnston City hustler jamborees during the 1960s. Lassiter dominated the colorful events, which also featured Jersey Red, Boston Shorty, Ronnie Allen, Harold Worst, Handsome Dan and of course Minnesota Fats. I've attached a YouTube video at the top of this post that features an interview with Fats at one of the southern Illinois tournaments. That's a picture of George Jansco at the upper right. You can find more historic pool videos here. (Freddy "The Beard' Bentivegna also has amassed a cool collection of online videos.) You can read more about George Jansco and his jamborees in Hustler Days.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Videos of Pool Champ Harold Worst in 1965

Check out the cool videos of Harold Worst playing in Johnston City, circa 1965, which was about a year before Worst died of cancer. You can find the video on a blog maintained by Freddy "The Beard" Bentivegna. Just click here. Worst is playing Larry "Boston" Shorty in the footage. The Beard also has posted a Jim McKay interview with Worst.

A bit of quick biographical information: Worst was born on Sept. 29, 1929, in Grand Rapids, Michigan. In 1949, according to The Grand Rapids Press, "Worst had followed in Hoppe's steps as a 'boy wonder,' having set a record for youth when at the age of 21 he became the youngest player in history to qualify for world championship play." He placed second in that year's national tournament and then fourth in the world meet. In 1954 he won the world three-cushion title during a tournament in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He then went on to amass a great winning record through the first half of the 1960s and might have surpassed Luther Lassiter as that decade's dominant player had Worst not died of cancer in 1966 at the age of 37. Worst was at the top of this game when he got sick. He remained unconquered as the world's three-cushion champion.

You can read more about Worst in a column I wrote earlier for Billiards Digest. The coding is a bit messed up, but it's still available online here. On the top of this post I've inserted an image of the front page of the Grand Rapids Press that features coverage of Worst. Forgive the dark stains. I think I spilled some wine on my hard copy. You can find the home page of the great Freddy the Beard here.

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Jersey Red Shot

The famous Jersey Red shot -- Eddie Robin describes it in his excellent book, Winning One-Pocket. Red first shot this cool kick back in 1957, in a one-pocket match against James Evans. It was at the famous 7-11 pool room in New York City. Robin said it brought the house down. Red shot it for the last time on Nov. 3, 1997 -- 40 years later --- during a benefit event for Red shortly before his death. You can see it more clearly by clicking here. I've added a clip I found on youtube showing someone making the shot. It's ingenious -- the way it makes use of the kiss to knock the ball back into your pocket.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Child Prodigy Jean Balukas

If there was any female player in history considered the possible equal to Allison Fisher, that player would be Jean Balukas. The Brooklyn-native was a child prodigy, as can be seen in this amazing footage of her pocketing balls. (You have to wait a few minutes to see it.) Balukas competed in her first U.S. Open at age 9, and at age 12 she won her first BCA title. She abruptly left competitive pool in 1988 at the height of her career. Balukas was the second woman ever to be inducted into the BCA Hall of Fame. Fisher, the sixth, was inducted this year.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Frank Taberski Plays "Chinese Pool"

Here's some footage of Frank Taberski playing "Chinese Pool," which was a popular variation of the game during the early 20th Century. Mike Shamos, in his excellent New Illustrated Encyclopedia of Billiards, described Chinese Pool as a game "in which the cue ball is not stroked but is instead rolled down the groove formed by two cue sticks held parallel to one another."

The origin of the game's rather un-PC name remains unclear. Shamos notes that Americans at the turn of the century commonly applied the adjective "Chinese" to anything done in an unusual fashion. He also speculates that it "may relate to the chopstick-like appearance of two cues held together."

Taberski (the nation's dominant player shortly before the reign of Ralph Greenleaf) could easily run a rack or more playing this odd variety of the game.

Friday, August 7, 2009

America's Best Ever Pool Player? You Decide

Who is America's best ever pool player? The poll on the top right of the pool history blog lists some all-time favorites, including recent Hall of Fame inductee Johnny Archer. I've left Willie Hoppe off the list because he was known as one of the best-ever billiards players, as opposed to one of the best-ever pool players. Neither have I included one of my personal favorites, Efren "Bata" Reyes. As he's from the Philippines, I figured I'd save him for a future poll of the greatest international players. I've also tried to get a good mix of players from different eras. (Van Boening vs. Greenleaf?!) Vote early. Vote often. I'll leave the poll up for awhile. Also, if you have a write-in candidate, feel free to comment at the bottom of this post. I'll tally up the write-ins later, along with those listed on the ballot.