A Few Experiences with WILLIE MOSCONI

A Few Experiences with WILLIE MOSCONI

Post by dwhite » Thu, 27 Nov 1997 04:00:00

I came across a note my dad had written, and thought you history buffs
might enjoy it:

Part 1

   I first met Willie Mosconi when I was a Vice President of a major
conglomerate in New York.  This company owned radio and television stations
and had recording studios.  I got the idea that we should put out a series
of audio tapes called "An Hour with the Master."  I planned to set up
interviews with the leading person in a number of different sports, and
offer a 1 hour audio cassette (with appropriate packaging) to the public.
   I have a fair amount of experience playing pool [133 high run -
transcriber's note!], and decided to attempt to approach Willie Mosconi as
my first "Master."  (The second person I planned on talking to was Arnold
Palmer.)  I located Willie the week before he was to give an exhibition at
Princeton University.  We made arrangements for me to talk with him after
he completed the exhibition.
   On the night in question, I traveled to Princeton from my home in
Northern New Jersey.  The first part of his show was for him to play a game
of straight pool (150 points) with the Princeton university pocket
billiards champion.  As you might imagine, this was not much of a
contest...and, at one point after running about 7 racks, Willie appeared to
me to deliberately miss so the challenger could play a little.  After the
game was over, he put on a trick shot exhbition which ended in spectacular
fashion with Willie standing at the foot of the table and hitting the cue
ball down to the other end of the table with such force (and presumably
follow) that the ball bounced up in the air from the far end of the table
back toward Willie and into his jacket pocket without ever touching the
table again.
   We went downstairs to the coffee shop and I explained what I wanted to
do.  He was quite receptive to the idea.  We discussed money, and he wanted
only a small advance against royalties to cooperate.  Then came the good
part - I was able to ask him a few questions about the game and his general
approach.  For example, he told me that at one point in his life, he
practiced 8 hours a day for 31 YEARS, continually.  Another interesting
thing happened when we got on the subject of other players.  At the time, a
guy named Wanderone (or "Fats," or, as he preferred to call himself,
"Double Smart Fats") was reported to have said that Willie was afraid to
play him.  Willie told me that this was a lot of nonsense, and that he had
"wiped the floor" with Fats on several occatsions.  (Fats then started
calling himself Minnnesota Fats, but in reality, he was from Washington
Heights in New York City.)  The other thing that interested me was his
answer to my question, "Isn't it tough for you, traveling all around the
country, knowing that every place you go, the local champ is gunning to
beat you?"  He laughed, hard, and said, "You don't understand.  First off,
the guy can't beat me on his best day.  Second, it's not his best day,
because he realizes he's playing Willie Mosconi, and all his friends and
girlfriend are watching, and he's been thinking about the match for weeks
and so he doesn't even play up to his capability when the time comes.  So
he really has no chance."
   Unfortunately, I never did get to do the series because of various
budgetary red tape...but the visit with Willie certainly was memorable.

Part 2

Two additional instances involving Willie Mosconi come to mind.  One
evening, in Brooklyn, I observed him playing a top player from the Chicago
area named Cicero Murphy (recent hall of famer).  Cicero was the first to
get started and after running just a few balls (less than 10), he missed.
Willie promptly ran out the whole game.  The most significant observation
of that game was that Willie never had a single difficult shot during his
entire run.  It all looked so simple... the cue ball moved just a few
inches at a time and I got the feeling while watching this that I, too,
could do the same - which of course is a lot of nonsense.  The whole thing
was a display of absolute mastery of the game.

The other situation was when I was invited to be a guest at a place in NYC
called The Lamb's Club, an establishment something like the Friar's Club
where they do a "roasting."  Only at the Lamb's Club, they called it a
Lambasting - and Willie was the Lambastee.  It was a very nice evening,
good food and drinks followed by a marvelous Italian tenor who gave about a
20 minute recital of various operatic arias.  Then it was announced that
Willie would give an exhibition, which consisted primarily of various trick
shots, mixed with a kind of running anectdotal commentary by Willie,
recalling a number of incidents from his years of varied experiences in
tournament play and exhibitions.  About the only thing I can remember about
his performance that evening (after all, it was in the late '60s) was that,
in making trick shots, he missed only once.  But the significant thing was
that the miss occurred exactly the same way and on the same shot that I had
seen several times before in other exhibitions of his.  It was called "the
handkerchief shot" in which most of the balls are racked in the normal
manner; then the triangular rack was lifted by placing a ball under
it...and the whole thing was covered by a handkerchief.  He then shot a
ball in a pocket and the cue ball went all around the table (4 or 5
cushions) and rolled up under the handkerchief to knock away the ball
holding up the rack.  When done correctly, the cue ball winds up in the
rack after the ball is knocked away.  As I said, he missed the first time,
but then made it on the second try.  It was obvious to me that his level of
skill was such that it couldn't have been an accident, that the only time
he misses was on this one shot, and then he makes it on the second try.  I
guess we can forgive a little showmanship!

J. White

-just thought I'd share that with the group.

D. White


A Few Experiences with WILLIE MOSCONI

Post by Gordon Matheso » Thu, 27 Nov 1997 04:00:00

> I came across a note my dad had written, and thought you history buffs
> might enjoy it:

> Part 1 snip
> Part 2 snip
> -just thought I'd share that with the group.

> ---
> D. White>

 Wow. Thanks!  I hope no one avoided this because it was 100 lines.



A Few Experiences with WILLIE MOSCONI

Post by MARTYOSM » Thu, 27 Nov 1997 04:00:00

Fabulous story!  

Of course, according to the self proclaimed leader of RSB, Ray in P.R., you are
NOT ALLOWED to post this here.

So, even though these stories are probably the most interesting thing on this
NG, you'd better take it elsewhere.


A Few Experiences with WILLIE MOSCONI

Post by TRATU » Fri, 28 Nov 1997 04:00:00

Good post Gordon. I hope your post will influence others to share their
experiences or observations pertaining to Willie Mosconi.