There is no argument about it, no doubt about it, Willie was the greatest 14.1 (straight pool) player of all time. His 526 ball run though great isn't his biggest accomplishment.
Al Sunshine and his World's smartest dog 'King' booked Ralph Greenleaf for years and a young Willie Mosconi to play challenge exhibition matches for the last two years before Ralph retired. Al told me that the first year Mosconi only won a few games out of over 100 exhibition matches. Then in NY, Ralph had become involved with an oriental drug using woman.
The next 2 years Al told me Willie ran 150 and out on 5 X 10 pool tables over 100 times in the next 150 exhibitions. Years later in 1980, asking Willie about it, he said he wasn't sure but that Ralph Greenleaf met an oriental woman that he brought with them everywhere, they were inseparable. That woman and drugs ruined Ralph Greenleaf's life Willie said sadly.
1964 at the University Bowl in Boca Raton, Fl., this is the first time I had the opportunity to see this legend - Willie Mosconi play a 150 point exhibition against some local.
Willie racked em up, called the head ball 2 rails in the side, kicked into the end rail and rebounded into the end ball which banked the head ball 2 rails into the side pocket - amazing. My only opening break shot in straight pool and the only one I'd ever seen was banking the end ball on the back row 1 rail into the head string corner pocket.
Willie then proceeded to run 150 and out, the local player never got an inning, the crowd applauding and cheering convinced Willie to continue his run and Willie complied. He ran a total of 226 balls, the most amazing thing about this run was.
Willie never shot a ball in either one of the behind the headstring corner pockets, it was absolutely beautiful to watch. Willie ran 226 balls in 4 pockets, the way he kept weaving around the balls was really something to behold, it reminded me of a professional ice skater doing a beautiful, smooth figure 8, he was oh so smoooooth...
Willie missed the 227th ball which was just a little off angle to the side pocket, the ball hit the outside point and bounced back toward Willie.
This shot was in the direction of the spectators seated in bleachers that had been placed there especially for Willie's exhibition.
There was a brief moment of silence, then the crowd bagan to stand and cheer, but before most of the spectators had a chance to stand...
Willie, looking like he was fit to be tied, pointed his cue at a young boy in the stands and said something to this effect - If you can't make that little brat sit still, you ought to leave him at home. Immediately the crowd looked at the little boy, who by now had tears in his eyes.
Then they began to boo and jeer Willie, the owner of University Bowl tried in vain to appease the crowd, but they all left, including myself, disappointed, some were even taunting Willie, calling him names...
That's How Much Of A Perfectionist He Was, Perhaps The Greatest Perfectionist Of All Time, At Least In Pool. I Didn't Understand It. Then,...Willie had managed to ruin what otherwise would have been a great memorable experience for everyone. Willie was without a doubt a perfectionist, but he had a temper that he himself couldn't control - what a shame.
1968./ The next time I heard about Willie playing was at the last tournament of his career. Annie Satin himself told what happened while steering me to a few pool rooms in LA, CA..
1966, Charlie Milliken is holding a world-class straight pool tournament in Long Beach, CA.. Everyone you could think of was entered, including Willie who hadn't played in a tournament since 1954, but he still had the gift, man did he ever...
126 of the 128 man field had been eliminated, two players left in the finals. Game = Straight Pool 150 Points, Joe 'The Butcher' Balsis vs. Willie Mosconi. Referee = Arnie Satin
Play begins, Willie wins the lag - Balsis breaks, and does so perfectly. They each play a few super safeties jockeying back and forth trying to get a shot, they both take a couple of scratches during this opening rack, then Balsis is near the end rail and calls a ball behind the stack that he must cut backwards, makes it, and receives a thunderous ovation. Joe (the butcher) waits for the noise to stop, then proceeds to run rack after rack then finally misses a difficult break shot, this makes the score Balsis +138 to Mosconi -2. Joe had run 10 racks.
Jersey Red told me the exact same story that Arnie told me, this is my best recollection of what they said. All thought surely Willie would fold under pressure of not having competed since 1954 or get a bad break and lose. Joe 'The Butcher' Balsis looked confident in his chair.
Like Joe, Willie waits for the well deserved applause and cheering that Balsis had earned to cease. He then gets up out of his chair, comes to the table and begins to run balls as smoothly as Fred Astaire could dance.
Rack after rack he runs balls with a confidence, skill, and a knowledge of straight pool that only Willie possessed. His 11th break shot left Willie in a very difficult spot but almost every great straight pool player there had practiced this shot before including myself after Arnie showed it to me I made it, we all learned this shot in New England at a young age.
Now the score is Willie Mosconi 139, Joe Balsis 138, but lo and behold, the cue ball has frozen to the top of the stack, it looks to the public and average players like Willie doesn't have a shot, there are 3 balls all in line frozen together on the right side of the pack with the cueball frozen to the top ball and in the same line, counting the cueball this makes it 4 balls in a row all frozen together.
After studying the shot in depth, Willie announces to the referee (Arnie Satin), that he is going to play the middle ball in the corner pocket. The crowd is on their feet, he elevates his cue, hits the cue ball at 10:30 (high left english), and the middle ball splits the wicket.
The crowd goes crazy cheering and applauding then Arnie Satin yells foul, Mr. Mosconi has committed an illegal push. Willie cussed Arnie out saying he knew nothing about pool and why was anyone that stupid allowed to referee The World's Straight Pool Championship.
Owner Charlie Milliken comes over and quiets Willie down saying that the referee may have made a mistake but he's only human, blah,blah blah. Balsis then gets up runs 12 of the 13 balls left on the table and wins the match.
Arnie Satin also had the honor of calling out all those players names who had finished in the money, having them come forth and present them with their prise money envelope.
After completing that. He asked if Willie Mosconi and Joe Balsis would come up together, well the audience, which consisted of some of the biggest names in Hollywood, went wild displaying their appreciation of the quality of pool they had just witnessed. Willie's quality was so far above the rest.
Willie was standing on Arnie's right Balsis on Arnie's left...
Arnie waited until the applause stopped and smiling began by saying.
And now to Willie Mosconi who played valiantly - then bam - that's all Arnie got to say, Willie grabbed the 2nd place envelope with his left hand and hit Arnie with a right sucker punch uppercut, knocking him out cold! Willie - what a scene, what a temper.
That's How Much Of A Perfectionist He Was, Perhaps The Greatest Perfectionist Of All Time, At Least In Straight Pool. I Didn't Understand It then, I do now. It was a legal shot...