Burbank California Tourney

Joe Balsis

BURBANK, CALIF — The World’s 14.1 Invitational Pocket Billiards Tournament here April 9-24 ended on both a high note and a low one as the in­comparable Joe Balsis defeated Willie Mosconi, 150-87, in the dramatic final match of the $20,000 cue event to win first prize money of $4,000.

Mosconi, who had to settle for the $2,000 second prize, did not take kindly to defeat in his first tournament appearance in many, many years and shocked of­ficials and fans alike with a temperamental outburst after the match before storming out of the room declaring “I’ll never play in another tournament game!”

The two men entered the fi­nal match tied for first place with 14-2 records and Balsis, generally conceded to be the top pocket billiards ace in the world today, was in command virtually all the way as an over­flow crowd of nearly 1000 look­ed on.

Balsis not only defeated the 15 times world champion de­cisively, but he broke one of Mosconi’s oldest records by averaging 22 balls per inning, Mosconi had set the old record 21 years ago in 1945,

The tournament was a huge success with the entry of Mos­coni, who retired from competition some eight years ago and since has concentrated on public relations work for Brunswick served as technical advisor on motion pictures such as “The Hustler,” and who has kept active at the table in exhibi­tions.

However, it was Mosconi, who forced the event to end on a sour note.

Obviously eager to win the tournament and complete a tri­umphant return to competition after being away for so long, Mosconi was extremely temperamental throughout the event, especially after losing his first match following seven straight victories.

Arnie Satin, the No. 1 man in the promotional setup, declared “we did everything we could to please him, but he comple­tely disagreed with everything that happened from the time he got there,”

Willie was charged with refusing to sit in the players’ chairs where they were station­ed, tossing chalk and even curs­ing among other things. He also wanted a different referee each match according to sponsors.

One sponsor and fellow com­petitor declared he had never seen anything like it, using the term “prima donna” to describe the various incidents, He added that if anyone had to leave the room or made a noise, Willie took it as a personal affront.

Satin, according to eyewit­nesses, was chased from the floor by Mosconi, with cue in hand, following a heated ex­change of words following Wil­lie’s defeat at the hands of Irv­ing Crane midway through the final week.

In the final showdown between Balsis and Mosconi, the “butcherboy” from Miners­ville, Pa., chopped down Mos­coni in just as convincing a manner as he did 14 other opponents in the outstanding 18-man field.

Balsis was red-hot in his concluding matches, in fact, ran 132,137 and 122 balls in the three matches prior to meeting Mosconi, The run of 137 was the tournament high. Joe’s best game lasted only two innings.
Mosconi himself earlier had a run of 126.

The Balsis-Mosconi match wound up with the exchanging of heated words and Satin later charged that Mosconi threw a punch at him. Fortunately, it missed.

As the announcer on the public address system asked the crowd to remain seated for the presentation of the awards and prize money, Mosconi stormed out of the room after hurling some unprintable words at the sponsors and with his final declaration “I’ll never play in another tournament game.”

Interest in billiards hit a new high in Southern Califor­nia with the appearance of Mos­coni in the tournament and every one is sorry that it had to end in the manner it did.

Mosconi reeled off seven straight wins before he lost his first match to Cicero Murphy, the Negro star from Brooklyn. Willie got off to an early lead, but Cicero finished strong, to drop into a tie with Balsis and set up their showdown.

Balsis ran off six straight wins before being tripped up by Danny De Liberato of Miami 150-89.

After Joe won his next two matches, he then lost to Harold Worst, who ran 105 to eke out a 150-130 triumph in the most exciting match of the tournament.

This article originally appeared in the May 1966 issue of the National Billiard News and is reprinted with permission.