I Remember an Old Pool Hustler

By Guest Contributor May 25, 2017 15:09

I Remember an Old Pool Hustler

By Bill Edwards

In the early seventies I managed a retail store in Castro Valley which was divided into two equal sections. One side sold swimming pool supplies and accessories, the other side features pool tables, games and accessories. We purchased pool tables from a wholesaler in San Jose. I became adept at installing and leveling tables as well as re-covering slates and cushions with felt.

I received a call from the wholesaler inquiring would I like to supervise the installation of a pool table and a billiards table in the San Francisco Press Club. These were furnished for a nationwide tour of two billiard experts, Willie Mosconi and Rex Williams, for a purse of $20,000, paid for by a liquor supplier called Black Velvet rye whiskey.

Mosconi was a fast-talking national pool champion who talked incessantly, asking inane questions and grumbling, trying to portray himself as a pool-hall hustler to keep his opponent off balance. Rex Williams was the billiards champion of Great Britain, a tall, quiet, soft-spoken English gentleman.

One table was a standard four- by eight-foot pool table with six pockets. The other table was a five- by ten-foot billiards table without pockets.

Carom billiards was very popular in Great Britain and Europe, and was played with three balls: a plain white cue ball, a white cue ball with a dot on it and a third ball which was a red object ball. Each player “owned” one of the cue balls and would try to “carom” your cue ball off of three cushions before contacting the opponent’s cue ball and the colored object ball. There are many varieties of this game with a popular billiards game called “snooker.”

The tables were installed in the dining area by men called “mechanics” and bleachers set up for the viewers, mostly members of the press, including Wells Twombly of the San Francisco Examiner. The players were dressed in tuxedos and white ruffled shirts with black velvet ties. I was required to wear black trousers, a white shirt and a black velvet tie furnished by the sponsor.

I had been checking the level of the tables when Mosconi walked up and asked me to snip off a small tuft of felt which I was certain could not interfere with a pool shot but I snipped it off. Mosconi circled the tables like an angry bear saying, “If I knew the rules, I think I could play this game.” When he missed a shot he loudly complained that the table was not level.

At the end of the match he walked over and slapped me on the back and said, “The tables were just fine; I just say that to keep the other guy off balance.”

Both Willie and Williams autographed the back of my business card. I later heard that Mosconi “pocketed” the 20 grand!

Bill Edwards, 86, is a Sonora resident and pilot who has walked away from two airplane crashes, earning him the nickname “Crash”.

By Guest Contributor May 25, 2017 15:09
Write a comment

No Comments

No Comments Yet

Let me tell you a sad story. There are no comments yet, but yours can be the first!

Write a comment
View comments

Write a comment

Your e-mail address will not be published.
Required fields are marked*