Thursday, January 23, 2014

A Website for My Pool League

I thought it was a good idea – to provide pool league operators web pages where they could provide players with online access to schedules, standings, stats, rules and other pertinent data – but I haven’t had a single taker in all the time I’ve been offering this service to pool leagues. Not that I haven’t tried to promote the idea – I have. But, if there are pool league operators out there who would be receptive to the idea, I haven’t been able to reach them. Still, I haven’t given up on the idea. I’m going to keep plugging until somebody signs on. I think it would be a good deal for me and for them.

For more details, go to Ace’s Pool League HQ.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Charley Kutz - A New Guy in Town Replacing Cue Tips

For years, whenever anyone asked me who I'd recommend to replace their cue tip, I'd suggest they travel north to Capone's in Spring Hill and ask for Roger. But, now, for those who live in Pasco County and think Capone's is too far away, there's a new guy in town and his name is Charley Kutz. Charley's been working on cues for years for himself and friends, but he's only just now making his skills available to the public. Charley's a friend of mine and I'd trust him with my most precious stick. You should, too.

CK-CUE SERVICE (New Port Richey, FL) - Replace Cue Tips; Clean and Seal Shafts; Remove Dings; Straighten Warped Shafts. Call Charley Kutz between 12PM and 6PM

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

John Bender Cues: Having a Little Fun with Boxes

Checking in with my friend, John Bender of, he sent along some pics of his latest creations. You won't be too surprised by the beauty and quality of John's work when you remember that prior to striking out on his own he had worked with Hall of Fame cuemaker Richard Black.

 In regards to his current work he says "Just having a little fun with boxes that go around corners. Black buffalo horn joint and cap. .015 nickel silver rings at the handle, cap, and joint." I like those boxes a lot.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Sneaky Pete Cues: A Matter of Taste

Though I had shot a little pool at the YMCA, where the walls were too close to the table on all four sides, and at a social club for kids that met afterschool downstairs at the First Memorial Presbyterian Church in Dover, New Jersey, I didn't really get into the game until I started going to Teasdale's Billiard Academy.

Typically, upon arrival, I'd search through the cue racks until I found my favorite cue. Since I wasn't an accomplished player - I was only 12 when I started going to the poolroom on a regular basis - I'm guessing my primary criteria were straightness and feel. Yes, I was one of those morons who rolled his cue on the table to see if it was straight, not realizing that any irregularity on the butt end would cause the cue to wobble, even if it was straight. And, I've always liked a smooth slick feel.

Since I was outside, waiting, every day when Teasdale arrived, he asked if I might want the job of helping him remove the covers from the tables on a daily basis. It wasn't a paying job, but he did offer to give me a half-hour free practice time in exchange for my assistance and that seemed like a pretty good deal to me.

It wasn't too long after that that he presented me with my own cue, an 18 ounce house cue that he had sanded down and given a new tip. It wasn't mine to keep, but it was mine to use whenever I wanted. He had written "Ace" on the butt and kept it on a special rack behind the counter.

Soon after that, he began selling "Willie Mosconi On Pocket Billiards." Following his suggestion, I bought a copy. I almost immediately began improving at an amazing rate. That book became my bible. By the time I was 15 I was running 50 balls in straight pool as easy as rolling off a log and making a pretty good allowance spotting older guys who were already out in the working world 15 or 20 balls in games to fifty points.

And through all that time I had that trusty house cue that Tizzy had customized for me. That's the feel I grew up with and most likely that's why I prefer that same feel today. In my Sunday-Goin'-To-Meetin' 3x6 Instroke cue case, I carry three cues. My regular playing cue is a Josey purple heart sneaky pete. I've used it a few years, now, and it has become as much a part of me as my first cue did 50 odd years ago.

I also carry a 90's vintage Meucci cue which has a wrap but since it's all varnished over it has a nice smooth feel. I remember an old friend of mine, Tennessee Joe, had a collection of Meucci cues. Whenever he played with one you would see him regularly applying powder to the shaft and the butt, just to maintain that smooth slick feel.

The third cue in my case, my break-jump cue, also is without a wrap. That's how I roll.

Now, I've been known to play in bars from time to time in leagues and in tournaments. I would never... NEVER bring my prime equipment into a bar. Not only because it's kind of dorky to beat up on bar players using a custom made stick, but because with all the metal on the tables and drunks wandering back and forth it's too easy to damage your equipment.

My favorite bar cue is a Falcon Sneaky-Pete I picked up back in 2006. It still looks and plays well. Before that I was using an Elite EP01 stick. It had a wood to wood joing and played pretty well but a piece of the cherrywood at the butt end broke off and, even though I reglued it with super glue, that bothered me and I wound up selling it to a guy one night for $20.

For several years I was content to use a basic $50 Players stick, but years of sanding reduced the shaft to the dimensions of a snooker cue and I started havin trouble controling old whitey, drawing it much farther than I intended.

For those thinking about buying a Sneaky Pete Cue, here are my thoughts. If you want a better stick, most of the custom cue-makers offer sneaky-petes. Go to their sites. Ask them. Like I said, I'm happy with my Josey and wouldn't trade it for anything.

As far as manufactured cues go, Predator, Meucci, Mezz and Joss each offer sneakies that look and play extremely well.

Joss JOSSP Sneaky Pete Cue Joss JOSSP Sneaky Pete Cue
For details about this cue, the current up-to-the-minute price, and magnified views, click the button.

Meucci 9701 Sneaky Pete Cue Meucci 9701 Sneaky Pete Cue
For details about this cue, the current up-to-the-minute price, and magnified views, click the button.

Predator Roadline SP6GN Sneaky Pete Cue Predator Roadline SP6GN Sneaky Pete Cue
For details about this cue, the current up-to-the-minute price, and magnified views, click the button.

Predator Roadline SP6ON Sneaky Pete Cue Predator Roadline SP6ON Sneaky Pete Cue
For details about this cue, the current up-to-the-minute price, and magnified views, click the button.

Mezz ZZSP Sneaky Pete Pool Cue Stick Mezz ZZSP Sneaky Pete Pool Cue Stick
For details about this cue, the current up-to-the-minute price, and magnified views, click the button.

I sell quite a few sneakies on my website. Most popular with players who shop there are the Action ACT39 Sneaky Pete Cue, the Action ERA01 Rosewood Sneaky Pete, and the 5280 MHSP Birdseye Sneaky Pete.

Action ACT39 - Sneaky Pete Pool Cue Stick Action ACT39 - Sneaky Pete Pool Cue Stick
For details about this cue, the current up-to-the-minute price, and magnified views, click the button.

Action ERA01 - Rosewood Sneaky Pete Pool Cue Stick Action ERA01 - Rosewood Sneaky Pete Pool Cue Stick
For details about this cue, the current up-to-the-minute price, and magnified views, click the button.

5280 MHSP - Birdseye Sneaky Pete Pool Cue Stick 5280 MHSP - Birdseye Sneaky Pete Pool Cue Stick
For details about this cue, the current up-to-the-minute price, and magnified views, click the button.

Admittedly, pool cues are a personal thing. Some prefer sticks that look like they belong in a woodworkers museum. Others, like me, just want one that feels right and does the job. If you've never owned a cue before, buy a cheap one in the $50 to $100 dollar range and see how you like it. Maybe it'll be all you need.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Willie Mosconi: The Greatest Ever

Willie Mosconi What was Willie Mosconi to the game of pocket billiards? What was Babe Ruth to baseball, Michael Jordan to basketball, Jim Brown to football, or Jack Nicklaus to golf? Willie Mosconi was all that to the game of pocket billiards, and then some. He enjoyed that exalted distinction fifty years ago, when I was a lad first getting into the game, and in all the intervening years, no one has come close to supplanting him.
His achievements are legend:
  • From 1941 through 1956, a period of 15 years, he won the world championship 13 times.
  • In 1954, in an exhibition on a 4 ft x 8 ft table, he ran an unprecedented 526 balls.
  • In 1956, he disposed of opponent Cowboy Jimmy Moore in a single inning, by running 150 balls on a 4 1/2 x 9 table.
  • And to verify that Willie excelled on all tables, he also holds the record for high tournament run on a 5 ft x 10 ft table at 127. That distinction he shares with Jimmy Caras.
Willie Mosconi was born in Philadelphia in 1913 in the second-floor apartment in a house at Eighth and Wharton Streets. He appeared destined for a stage career as a member of the Dancing Mosconis, a troupe that included several family members and began dancing lessons at his uncle's studio at Fourth and Arch Streets.

When he was 6, he discovered the pool table in the corner of his uncle's studio and, almost immediately, he displayed an affinity for the game.

(Click on thumbnail to see larger images)
Willie Mosconi   Willie Mosconi: Boy Wonder   Fats & Fast Eddie with Willie in the background left   Willie coaches Paul Newman  
Willie on Pocket Billiards: Frontispiece   A young Willie   Willie's classic form   Willie with Erwin Rudolph, Ralph Greenleaf, Jimmy Caras, Andrew Ponzi and others at the 1933 World Championships.

In fact, he showed so much promise that his uncle took him to a club in New York to show off his skills. A poster dating from this period touted Willie as an 11-year-old ''Boy Wonder."

His father, Joseph, however, was not impressed by his son's proficiency. The elder Mosconi, a former boxer, ran a gymnasium on the first floor of the family home. In the back were four or five pool tables. But, the only chance young Willie got at the tables was when his father, a Phillies fanatic, locked up on Fridays and dashed off to the Baker Bowl to watch a game.

"I'd sneak down and play pool and eat up his pies and candy," Willie said in a 1979 interview. "One day I ripped the cloth on a table, and boy, did he give me a licking that night. After that he locked up the balls when he went out. So I'd get bags of potatoes and take them down and use them as balls (and sink them with a broomstick). When he'd find the tables all dirty I'd get more spankings. But I got pretty good."
He later recalled that he gave the game up for a few years but after he dropped out of school to help support his parents he heard of a pool tournament offering a $75 1st prize and entered it. He won. "My parents and I lived for a month on that money," he remembered.

He rapidly outgrew the local tournament scene and started playing against world class opponents. He came to the attention of Brunswick Corporation, and was asked to join the staff and travel around the country to promote Brunswick's products.

In 1941, he won the first of his fourteen world championships. Yet, though well known among pool aficionados, he was hardly a household name. He suffered a stroke in 1956 and, thereafter, competed less in world class events. Then, in 1960, he was hired as a consultant for the movie "The Hustler." It was actually Willie who suggested Jackie Gleason play the roll of Minnesota Fats. Gleason was known as a fair pool player in his own right. Paul Newman, who played Fast Eddie Felson, had never played before, so Willie coached him. It was largely through his association with this movie that Willie gained widespread recognition as the all-time greatest pool player.

The Hustler: Gleason, Newman, Willie Mosconi

While "The Hustler" brought Willie to the fore and popularized the game of pocket billiards it also provided a launching pad for someone who was far less skilled in the game of pool, Rudolph Wanderone. Known previously as New York Fats and Baltimore Fats, depending on where he was located, Wanderone claimed the movie was about him and hence forth went by the name of Minnesota Fats. Even though Walter Tevis, the author of the novel upon which the movie was based, denied the claim, Wanderone was persistent in his declaration. Though he tried to uplift his own legend and denigrate Willie's, no one who really knew the game was duped, especially Willie.

"Hustler is just another word for thief, and Minnesota Fats is just another word for phony," Mr. Mosconi once said of his rival.

Wanderone wasn't qualified to carry Willie's socks and everyone knew it. A televised challenge match was arranged in 1978, Mr. Mosconi showing up in his tuxedo and the lip flapping Minnesota Fats in baggy pants and polo shirt. Willie destroyed the fat man. Still, the media loved Fats and to this day his name is associated with pool and, fittingly, a variety of lesser quality pool products.

Willie was a great technician and teacher. Books by Willie Mosconi are still sought after by collectors and aspiring pool players.

Thursday, February 07, 2013

My Buddy, Billy Johnson, Gone

We were kids together, Billy Johnson and me. We drank beer, chased girls, laughed and joked, sported around town - we had fun.

We grew up, but we stayed in touch. We fished, we bowled, we shot a little bar pool up at Hunky Hall.

One time we were out in a boat up in Lake Hopatcong, drifting with live bait, herring, when I hooked into a good one. It was one of those fish that you don't realize you have on the line until you start reeling in. When it got close to the boat, we both saw that it was a huge rainbow trout. Billy grabbed the landing net and got ready to net the fish, but as soon as it saw the boat it turned and ran and snapped my line. Over the years, whenever I recalled that day, I would tell Billy it was his fault I lost the fish. He'd swear at me, but I'd claim that he had deliberately sabotaged my attempt at making angling history. Of course, eventually, I'd reluctantly admit that it was my fault the line had snapped because I had the drag set too tight. A fact I'd conveniently forget the next time I brought the subject up. I like to kid him like that and make him laugh.

But, seriously, when it came to being a friend, he was one in a million. Whenever I moved, I called Billy. Yeah, he used to work for a mover but that didn't obligate him to supervise all my moves. Still, he never said no, never complained that his back was sore, never made any excuses, he just showed up.

One time, we were in pretty desperate straits without a place to live. Billy took us in. He didn't have a lot of room, not with him, his wife and kids already sharing a small apartment, but that didn't matter. He gave us shelter.

Billy left us last week. Cancer. It was much too soon. He deserved more time on earth. More time with his family, his friends, with me.

I miss him.