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Ambassador Of Good Will Of The Billiard Sport “Cue Ball” Kelly’s Story

Cue Ball Kelly

One of these days they’re going to establish a legitimate Billiards Hall of Fame,

However, let it be stated right here and now that no Billiards Hall of Fame can rightfully be established unless the name of Carl Zingale is included along with such names as Ralph Greenleaf, Erwin Rudolph, Willie Hoppe, Andrew Ponzi, Willie Mosconi, and numerous others who have distinguished themselves on the field of com­bat–in this case on the green covered tables.

Carl Zingale was recently complemented at the World’s Pocket Billiard Championship at the Hotel Commodore in New York City by players and fans alike.

Frank Paradise, who is regarded as one of the all-time top cue manufacturers in the history of the game, had this to say about Carl Zingale.

“If ever the players had a friend it had to be him,”

Luther Lassiter, who is the current Billiard Room Proprie­tors Association of America’s World Champion said:

“He’s done as much for bil­liards as anyone, I know that I have always found him very helpful.”

Cicero Murphy, who was the runner up to Lassiter and will face Luther in the Challenge Match later this year, said:

“Ever since I started playing I knew that you could always count on him.”

Johnny Ervolino, who was playing in his first World’s said:

“He’s one of the strangest guys I’ve ever met in this game but also one of the most be­loved.”

And from Jack (Jersey Red) Breit came the following tribute:

He’s witty and most of all he can always be counted on to be fair.”

With tributes like this is there any doubt that Carl Zingale won’t be among those enshrined into the Billiards Hall of Fame that will one day be opened–and we hope not in the too distant fu­ture.

Before we continue maybe we ought to stop teasing the bil­liard patrons and let them in on a little secret that not too many people know.

Carl Zingale is non other than that likeable bald headed eagle who doubles as a referee & match maker–CUE BALL KELLY.

The personable gentleman who handles the referee assign­ments of every major tourna­ment in the East with the perfection required of a referee has been on the billiard scene for over 60 years in one man­ner or another.

Cue Ball’s reputation is known everywhere where players get together to either talk of the great sport that was invented for nobility or for those who are anxious to spend a few moments participating in the nation’s fastest growing competitor sport.

Cue Ball Kelly, who is always available for the players who need get home money, is indeed the friend of all those associa­ted with the game.

Cue Ball Kelly has had to scratch from the time he was born.

After all how many other people can claim to be the second oldest child from a brood of 24–that’ s right two dozen chil­dren that blessed the house­hold of Michael and Josephine Zingale.

Looking at Cue Ball you can’t help but admire the gentleman­-a man that has and in the opin­ion of this writer which is echoed across the Billiard land-will continue to serve the best in­terest of the sport.

For if you mention Billiards you have to include Cue Ball Kelly.

Cue Ball was brought up first on a farm in Rahway, New Jersey but his parents then moved the family into the Flat­bush section of Brooklyn.

With the moving into the Flat­bush section of the Borough of Churches Cue Ball Kelly turned to the pool rooms.

Cue Ball, who stands all of 5-5 and tips the scale at what he says is 200 pounds, leaned back in a chair at the Golden Q in Forest Hills and with a trace of tears in his eyes start­ed to recall those days.

“It was a tough life that I had,” Cue Ball, said. “Being the oldest boy in the family always proved tough.

“In 1907 we had a depress­ion. It was as rough as you can imagine.

“I helped mom wash bottles, clean the house and even clean the diapers of the younger Zin­gales.”

When the depression hit, Kelly’s family was hard hit.

“We didn’t have a thing,” he said, “and you could see the tears swell in that face.

Whenever Cue recalls the de­pression days in 1907 he tells about how he used to work to scratch together a few extras pennies so that the family could live to the next meal.

“I used to pick apples and cherries in the woods near home. I would sell them to the people who could afford to pay a few pennies,”

Cue ball is also proud of the way he used to hunt for the fa­mily food–in the style of the great American Indians.

“Ah cut it out, ” he said with a trace of Yiddish in his Irish voice.

“What I did do though was shoot birds for the famly to eat.”

“With a pea shooter,” Kelly was quick to answer–and look­ing at him with his eyes in a far off world you couldn’t help but believe him.

Cue Ball’s father wasn’t too keen about his son’s hanging around the pool rooms.

“He really didn’t look upon the sport as being so respec­table, “Cue Ball, who has helped make the game grow in New York said.

“I used to sneak into the pool rooms when my dad wasn’t around,” the man with the un­ending sense of humor said,

By the time he was 11 Cue Ball already had a reputation as quite a sharp competitor not only with the ivory balls but with his mouth.

“I’m not ashamed to say that at that age I was what you might call on the hustler, The dough wasn’t too bad for a kid and I figured that I could make more this way than I could in school.

“There were many days that I would pick up three or four games and win them all and then go home with my pockets jing­ling.”

However, old man Kelly didn’t think that the sound of jingling coins in his son’s pockets was such a nice tune and the old man finally put his foot down.

“The only thing wrong with saying that the old man put his food down, “Cue Ball says, “is that my father didn’t use his foot. He belted my fanny until I couldn’t sit,

“The old man had this notion that there was nothing like an education to help his son get ahead. Maybe he was right now that I look at it. But being a pretty wise kid of 14 I didn’t agree then about his views.”

However, the hand of his father won out and Cue Ball reluctantly returned to the classrooms.

When he was 15 Cue Ball Kelly had his last look at the blackboards of the classroom.

“Things were too tough at home for me to stay in school,” he recalls and again his eyes were damp as he made that statement.

The interviews was getting a little too much for Cue Ball Kelly to stand and he excused himself saying that he would come back in a few minutes. He returned about 20 minutes later apologizing for the delay.

“Everyone over here knows me” he said with a proud look on his face,” and it’s tough to get away from them.”

It was 55 years ago that Carl Zingale quit the schoolroom to start making a living.

It’s been a hectic 55 years and to go into detail of this man’s career would make the story much too long.

Let’s just take a brief look into the many careers that the likeable Cue Ball has had in his lifetime.

“When I got out of school,” he recalls, “I immediately went to work. Not in the pool rooms but as a shoemaker.

“Heck I don’t mean a shoe­maker like today.

“I was a craftsman.

“I used to work for Jacobs & Sons in New York and you can ask any old timer what kind of shoes that company made.”

Then Cue Ball Kelly says he once made over 400 pairs of shoes in one day and one can’t help but wonder what type of shoe it really was.

“It was good I’ll tell you that, ” Cue Ball said and an old acquaintance of his bears him out.

From the craftsman shoe­maker Cue Ball Kelly return­ed to his first love–the pool­room.

“For the first few years I continued to hustle around to make a couple of bucks,” he says without the slightest trace of reluctance to speak about the old days.

“Then I began to realize that I wasn’t the best player around.

“Oh, I could match most of them but there were too many that were just too good for me.”

So from the handling of the cue stick Cue Ball switched his efforts and talents to re­ refereeing and then match mak­ing.

Cue Ball Kelly’s fondness for the game was match only by his love for the players.

“You name the great play­ers and I’ve booked matches for them,” Cue Ball said.

Cue Ball, who many say re­minds them of the old Damon Runyon characters, booked many of the all-time stars into areas where the game of bil­liards wasn’t even popular.

“There weren’t too many people who really gave a damn for the players,” Cue Ball said.

“I did. Maybe that’s just my nature. I always loved the game and what’s good for the game was always good for Cue Ball Kelly.

“I’ve never regretted a minute of it. The ivory balls and cue stick are part of my life.

How many games has Cue Ball booked?

“Maybe 1,000 ” he said. “I used to keep a record of them.”

Cue Ball Kelly wasn’t what the agents now refer to as a 10 per center.

“I could have made a mint if I collected 10 percent of what the players I’ve booked have made–but I don’t care.

“The players needed the bread and I was able to get them some of it, If they paid me a percentage then fine and if not I still didn’t care.

“The professional pocket bil­liard player has been the most abused professional athlete in the world and anything I did to make their burden a little easier I say thank the good Lord that I was able to do it.”

Cue Ball’s rewards may not have come via the financial route but they’ve come to him by the friendships that he has made with every man who was ever anything billiard wise this century.

“You name a player in this century from Greenleaf, who I still think was the greatest of all time, right, to Lassiter and the newcomers that don’t know Cue Ball Kelly and I’ll eat my hat.”

The famous stars of the en­tertainment world are also known to Kelly through his as­sociation with billiards.
Cue Ball claims that once he was the pool partner of one known as Jackie Gleason–and there’s been no rebuttal to that statement made by the “Away We Go” man.

“I swear it,” Cue Ball said with a look of hurt on his face. “I knew the man and he’ll tell you so.”

Let Cue Ball Kelly describe his acquaintance with the rolly poly Gleason who has become one of the greatest friends that the game of billiards has ever had.

Remember many men say Gleason’s part in The Hustler was what helped get the game back on its feet.

“It was 30 years ago, at least that long,” Cue Ball says.

“We used to get together around midnight in Brooklyn and play some pool. I was bet­ter than him though. That’s something I can say with pride.”

When Cue Ball looks back upon those days he smiles and then with a twinkle in his eyes says:

“He’s really come a long way that Gleason.

“I’m happy for he really deserved it.

“He used to be the master of ceremonies in a small Brook­lyn theatre and let me tell you that it wasn’t easy scratch­ing out a living doing that.

“You had to be good to sur­vive and Jackie was better than good–he was great.

“It took him a long time to get to the top and he worked for it. No one ever gave him anything and that’s the way Jackie and I still look at it.

“The tougher it is to get something the better you are able to enjoy it once you get it.”

Cue Ball Kelly has done just about everything in his life.

He’s reluctant to admit that in times he was in trouble with the law but once you get him to admit it then you see that every time he was involved in trouble with the law he was proven innocent and after all that’s what counts.

A lot of Cue Ball’s alleged troubles with the law stem from his business with perfume.

Here’s how Carl Zingale de­scribes the trouble:

“Everyone knows Cue Ball,” he says “So when ever anyone is in trouble selling some imi­tation perfume they tell the law that they got it from Cue Ball.

“So when the law hears this they either show up at the Bil­liard parlor or at my home and I’m in trouble and then I have to fight to clear my name.’

Cue Ball is present at ever ­major tournament in and around the Metropolitan area.

During the World’s it is Cue Ball who often steals the show from the other celebs around.

In the practice room when­ever there’s a big crowd ga­thered you can bet that some­where in the middle you’ll be able to spot the bald eagle,

Cue Ball has amazed audien­ces with his trick shooting ex­hibitions.

“I really enjoy my work,” Cue Ball, said with a look of satisfaction on his big round face.

“I feel that once a man is able to really enjoy what he does then what the heck does the making of money really mean.

“I can honestly look back at the 60 odd years I have been associated with the sport and say that I’m happy.

“Would I do it again?

“I don’t need any qualifications to answer that.

”I’d do it again without the slightest hesitation.

“Sure at times it has been rough.

“There were many occasions when Louise (Cue Ball’s wife of 46 years) got a little dis­appointed but she knew that I was enjoying myself and after­ all we never did starve so I can say that I’m happy.”

How does Louise feel about Cue Ball’s career?”

One day in a desperate at­tempt to reach Cue Ball I called his home at 2 a.m.

“Hello, came a sleepy sounding answer from the other end of the line.

After making my excuses I left a message for Cue Ball

“I’m used to this,” she said. Cue Ball, the second of a line of 24 children, is proud of his only child Mike.

Mike is a cameraman with the television industry and has done work for Candid Camera and other top shows.

The many joys that Cue Ball Kelly has given to the billiards game must be rewarded.

And the climax will come when the Hall of Fame is offi­cially opened and the name of Carl (Cue Ball Kelly) Zingale is enshrined in it,

It’s got to happen–and it will –because all of today’s players are a little better off because of what Cue Ball has done.

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