Madison Recreation’s “Boy Wonder”

Steve Mizerak

Young Steve Mizerak, Jr., is now 11 years old, but is at least as advanced as a 25-year-old in the skillful game of pocket billiards. He’s getting better and better, day by day as many of the older players will admit as they have been defeated by young Steve. Look for his name in the galaxy of billiard stars in 10 years.

If you ever stop at the Madison Recreation Center in Perth Amboy and happen to see an 11-year-old boy pocketing pool balls like a polished professional, you can be certain it is one of the current boy wonders, Steve Mizerak, Jr.

Young Steve has been playing pool since he was no higher than the proverbial Tom Thumb and he’s good at it too. Ask present World Champion, Willie Mosconi, who says he has a good chance to provide some real competition in the next few years.

In recent play Steve Jr., has runs on a 41/2 x 9 of 48- 41- and 40. This is as good and, in many cases, better than many players are able to do after five to ten years of play. Like the late great Ralph Greenleaf, young Steve is a south-paw, but he has real style.

In dedicating a book to Steve written by Mosconi, Willie made this inscription: “Keep practicing champ, and you can take my place.”

For some indication as to how Steve Jr, played seven years ago, here is a clipping from the Perth Amboy Evening News:
“Throw the kid out! What do you want him to do-tear up the table?”

That’s exactly how little Steve Mizerak Jr. was welcomed about five months ago when he toddled into the Madison Recreation Center to play his first game of pocket billiards.

But things have changed since that October day when young Steve and his father, Steve Mizerak, of minor league baseball fame, dropped into the billiard parlor to talk baseball and billiards with the boys until the afternoon performance at the theatre.

Little Steve soon had other ideas. He picked up a cue stick and went to work on the nearest table, much to the anguish of Jim Crover, proprietor of the establishment, who immediately ordered the youngster out.
Before a bystander had a chance to stop young Steve, he neatly stroked the seven-ball into the side pocket, and oddly enough, never hurt the table one iota.

Well, from that day on little Mr. Mizerak was as welcome at the billiard parlor as World Champion Willie Mosconi, Jim my Caras, Irwin Crane or Willie Hoppe.

That first shot convinced Crover and others that the kid had possibilities. They stood in amazement as he walked nonchalantly to the other side of the table, drew a bead on the 11 ball and lined it into the corner pocket.

At this point the elder Mizerak introduced his four-year old offspring to Crover, whose face took on the hue of a well boiled lobster as he apologized for wanting to throw the kid into the street.

Crover then concluded that the youngster must have inherited this natural ability from his father, who is without question the best pocket billiards player in the city-with the exception of Lou Russo, the state champion.

But Steve Sr. was quick to explain that he never gave the boy a lesson. He had his own toy table to be sure, but up until that visit to the Rec young Steve was rather cold to the game. Evidently the sight of the big tables changed his mind.

From then on young Steve made almost daily visits to the Rec, giving up the movies, can day and everything else just for the pleasure of playing a while and watching players like his dad and Russo tangle in a hot 125-point match.

Young Steve soaked up every bit of billiard knowledge he could, and by Christmas time he had advanced enough to get a two-piece champion’s cue stick as a gift from his father. In the ensuing months Russo took the boy under his wing and explained bank shots, combinations, position play, the tricky draws and spins of the cue ball and the rules and regulations of the game.

By mid-February he was playing regular games with others and running anywhere from four to eight balls, a feat for even a veteran pool player. In a recent match, he defeated an 18-year-old pin boy who is rated one of the better teen-age stars in the city.

When he engages older, more experienced players, he stipulates that they must bank all their shots, and in that way, he wins about eight out of ten matches.

At the table, young Steve is cool and collected. After he makes one shot, he usually stops to watch a player at an other table, scratch his blonde locks or tug at his socks. Nothing seems to bother him.
He has marvelous control even on long shots. He bridges his tiny hand like an expert and often stands on the ball box at the end of the table to shoot from the middle. Like a true champion, he plans his shots so that he’ll always have a good follow-up.

A southpaw, he is now learning how to stroke with his right hand, too. A champion has to be ambidextrous, he’s been told, and a champion he’s going to be.

A few weeks ago, Crover took young Steve to the New York offices of the Brunswick Balke Collener Company for a demonstration of his abilities. There he wowed the professionals and company executives, who promised to feature him in several movie shorts and in future television programs. Like Crover, these men also predict a brilliant future for young Mr. Mizerak.

Now that Pop Mizerak is off to the baseball wars as manager of the Goldsboro, N.C., team of the Coastal Plains League, young Steve will have to do most of his practicing at home on a large table recently installed by his father. But he does not expect to spend all his time at the table. Like his father, he also wants to be a big-league baseball player.
And he probably will be that too.”

With this story it is easy to see that young Steve must have some of the Magic Touch and no one seems more convinced of that than his pop who’ has this to say:
“To my way of thinking, Junior is as good as any other boy his age in pocket billiards and to back up my statement, I am willing to accept any challenge with a $1,000 purse posted by anyone”

In other words, Pop Mizerak says, “Put your money where your mouth is.”

And he means it too.!!

This article originally appeared in the November 1964 issue of the National Billiard News and is reprinted with permission.