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Shaw comes back from hot seat loss to win 11th Annual Empire State Championships

Pnoto by Erwin Dionisio (l to r): Jorge Rodriguez, Jayson Shaw, Frankie Hernandez, Raphael Dabreo

Fracasso-Verner goes undefeated to capture Amateur title
When Frankie Hernandez first appeared in our database, finishing 25th in the US Open 9-Ball Championships, won by Tommy Kennedy in 1992, Jayson Shaw was four years old. A year later, in the same event, Hernandez would share a 17th place finish with such luminaries as Allen Hopkins, Jim Rempe, Richie Richeson and Cliff Joyner. In Frankie’s best earnings year, to date (2001), Shaw had just become a teenager, as Frankie was busy finishing 49th at the US Open, but cashing in 21 events, including eight stops on the Joss Tour, two Turning Stone events (II & III), and geographic victories all over the map; Florida, Las Vegas and New England, et al.
At the $1,000-added, 11th Annual Empire State Championships (Open/Pro division), which drew 28 entrants to Raxx Billiards in West Hempstead, NY on the weekend of February 23-24, Hernandez advanced to the hot seat match, where he met and defeated Jayson Shaw in an exciting, back and forth, double hill match. Shaw returned from the semifinals to down Hernandez in the finals.
When Shaw first appeared in our database in 2006, Lukas Fracasso-Verner was four years old. They didn’t meet to play in this 11th Annual Empire State Championships, although it would have been fun to watch. Fracasso-Verner went undefeated through the $2,000-added Amateur event’s field of 140 to capture the Amateur title.
Both defending champions of this event were on-hand at this year’s championships, but both would end up in the tie for 13th in their respective divisions; Zion Zvi, the two-time defending champion of the Open/Pro division, and Jason Carandang, last year’s amateur winner.
Fracasso-Verner is fresh off his best earnings year to date (2018) and recent winner of a stop on the NE 9-Ball Series. He was last year’s winner in the Amateur division of the 8th Annual George “Ginky” Sansouci Memorial, at which he lost his opening match and won 11 on the loss side before downing Chuck Allie to claim the title. That said, he’s proved to be a bit of puzzle. Though his various accomplishments on regional tours and national events has been impressive (last year’s Ginky Memorial and this event as just a couple of relevant examples), he has come into this broad field of top-notch competition without benefit of a Junior National Championship under his belt, although he’s competed several times. He is also not on anyone’s short list to become a member of the USA’s junior team at this year’s upcoming Atlantic Cup Challenge. According to Roy Pastor, who’s taught Fracasso-Verner in the Connecticut Youth Billiards program and is a part of the BEF’s junior and world championship programs, Fracasso-Verner’s absence from this year’s Atlantic Cup Challenge team says less about his individual skills and talent, than it does about the overall strength of the youth programs leading up to the BEF Junior Nationals every year.
“The field (of junior competitors) is getting stronger every year,” said Pastor, “and there are a lot of Lukas Fracasso-Verners out there.”
Joey Tate, the teenager, from Raleigh, NC, for example, is younger than Fracasso-Verner and has already attained a 681 Fargo Rate. By comparison, Fracasso-Verner is currently at 645. And there are others, some of whom, over the years, have defeated Fracasso-Verner in Junior National competition.
“Lukas is a terrific player, though,” said Pastor, “and has the potential to be one of the greatest.”  
This time around, Fracasso-Verner opted out of the loss side route for this event, going undefeated through the Amateur field. He defeated Chris Ganley in the hot seat match and Matt Klein in the finals.
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Fracasso-Verner and Klein met first in a winners’ side semifinal, while Ganley and Paul Carpenter squared off in the other one. Fracasso-Verner got into the hot seat match with an 8-4 victory over Klein and was joined by Ganley, who’d sent Carpenter west 7-5. Fracasso-Verner downed Ganley, who started the match with 5 on the wire, 10-7 to claim the hot seat.
On the loss side, Klein picked up Xavier Romero and Carpenter drew Jim Gutierrez. Klein and Carpenter got right back to work, downing Romero and Gutierrez, both 7-3, to meet in the quarterfinals. Klein then eliminated Carpenter 7-5 and got a second shot at Fracasso-Verner with a 7-4 victory over Ganley in the semifinals. Fracasso-Verner claimed the Empire State title with an 8-5 victory over Klein.
Shaw comes back from hot seat loss to claim 10-Ball Open/Pro title
There had to be an inescapable air of inevitability about the 10-Ball Open/Pro event. With Jayson Shaw in the relatively short field, as the winners’ side whittled down further and further, who wouldn’t be bracket watching to see if they were next on the world-class player’s hit list. Frankie Hernandez, though, was one of the 28, who, having competed against his share of top-notch champions, would be unlikely to be intimidated. Cautious, maybe, respectful of Shaw’s obvious talent, but up to the challenge, which reached him in the hot seat match.
Shaw had faced and defeated another unlikely-to-be-intimidated competitor, Jorge Rodriguez 7-3 in a winners’ side semifinal (Rodriguez won this event in 2015). Hernandez, in the meantime, squared off against and eventually sent Rob Pole to the loss side 7-2. In a thrilling, double hill hot seat match, Hernandez sent Shaw off to the semifinals.
On the loss side, in the first money round, Rodriguez picked up Tenzin Jorden, who’d been the first of two to defeat defending champion, Zion Zvi, and a week earlier, had chalked up his first Predator Pro Am Amateur title. He’d defeated Jimmy Rivera 7-3 and survived a double hill match against Joey Korsiak to reach Rodriguez. Pole drew Raphael Dabreo, who’d most recently eliminated Jonathan Smith 7-4 and Mike Salerno (Smith, in the previous round, had knocked out Zion Zvi).
Rodriguez and DaBreo advanced to the quarterfinals, both 7-2, over Jorden and Pole. DaBreo took the quarterfinal 7-5 over Rodriguez. It was getting late, already into early Monday morning, when Shaw, seemingly impatient, gave up only a single rack to DaBreo in those semifinals to earn a second shot against Hernandez in the hot seat.
Things broke pretty evenly in the early going of the finals, which didn’t get underway until nearly 2 a.m. Shaw and Hernandez fought back and forth early, with no clear winner in sight. Near the middle of those finals, though, Shaw broke through to claim the title 9-4.
A Second Chance event drew a full field of 16 entrants. Julie Ha ($160) won four straight in the single elimination bracket to down Monika Callaghan ($100) 8-6 in the finals. Chulo Castro and Mark Antonetti finished in the tie for 3rd place ($30 each). A Third Chance event drew another full field of 16 and was won by Brian Tierney ($160), who downed Dave Callaghan ($100) 7-5 in the finals. Mike Callaghan and Shashi Hajaree each took home $39 for their third place tie.
Tony Robles thanked the ownership and staff at Raxx Billiards for their continuing support and hospitality at these annual Empire State Championships, as well as title sponsor Predator Cues, Ozone Billiards, NAPL, The DeVito Team,, Billiards Digest, AZBilliards, Pool & Billiards Magazine and his entire staff, including his lovely wife, Gail. The next stop on the Predator Pro Am Tour, scheduled for the weekend of March 2-3 will be an Amateur event, hosted by The Spot in Nanuet, NY.

Darren Appleton is the World Tournament of 14.1 Champion

Darren Appleton

England's Darren Appleton capped off an amazing week of pool action by finishing off strong to capture his first ever World 14.1 title ! Appleton had lost in the finals last year, but sweetly rectified that with a resounding victory over America's #1 ranked Shane Van Boening. The Andy Cloth World Tournament of 14.1 6 days of grueling pool stamina battles ended with spectacular performances by the world's greatest professionals. 
The ANDY CLOTH World Tournament took place on August 4th-9th, 2014. Also sponsored by Andy Cloth, Kamui Brands, OB Cues, Amsterdam Billiard Club,, Pool & Billiard Magazine , Aramith Balls, and George Beckman Kinetic Sculptures. Official patron 14.1 aficionados are Stu Mattana, Tom Gleich, Harold Siegel, Dr. Greg Diehl Plastic Surgery, and Official World 14.1 photographer Charles Eames.  A star studded field has made it back once again to the 14.1 extravaganza taking place at Steinway Billiards Cafe, who is once more hosting the world's greatest straight pool championship. 
Notably this year's event was particularly tough in the field of champions as former World 14.1 winners Thorsten Hohmann, John Schmidt, and Stephan Cohen all failed to qualify the top 16 final bracket!
The first semi-finals pitted Great Britain against Russia. Evgeny Stalev took the lead early and looked as if his smooth, super offensive style would lead him into the finals. Stalev had played some stellar 14.1 throughout the event, and Appleton had had medicore performances including a dogfest the night before against Mike Dechaine (USA).  Down by 70 points, Appleton turned up the juice and made a run. Though Stalev kept the lead for the first half of the match, Appleton took over and never looked back with an eventual 200-145 win. 
The next semi-finals was a battle of the Americans. Max Eberle of Las Vegas and Shane Van Boening of South Dakota were fighting to see who would have the right to play for the USA in the championship finals. At first, experience seemed to play in favor of Shane as Max botched many chances early on and Van Boening stretched to a 100+ ball lead.  When Eberle had a chance again, he was down 40 to 147. And then he came back to life. Starting with a very tough shot, he went on to run 121 balls and take the lead. To date, Eberle's highest run in competition.  SVB eventually got back to the table, but was visibly shaken a bit in his game as he faltered, but Eberle had also used up alot of energy and they both traded safeties for several innings. Needing only 22 balls to make his first major championship finals, Eberle got another key opportunity and was faced with a good break shot into the side pocket. Unfortunately, he made the ball and busted the rack but scratched. Van Boening took the gift and scraped by to a 200-178 win.
"I felt and looked like I was buried. Was so easy to just give up and say I had a good tournament. But seeing Jim Rempe at the 14.1 Hall of Fame Banquer really inspired me. In the video, Nick Varner was congratulating Rempe and said Jim never gave up till the last ball. That was in my head. So I fought back and made the biggest high run of my World 14.1 experiences and made it into a real match", said Eberle after the semi-finals ended. 
Last year Appleton had made the error of over practicing before the final day matches, on top of a long 2 hour drive. This year he swore off practice and came into the finals fresh. In contrast, the war with Eberle may have drained Van Boening some as he missed his first chance to strike blood. We will never really know because, once again, Appleton put in a incredible performance. He Started off with a 69 ball run, and then finished with a 131 & out completing the entire championship match in 3 innings!
"Not much I could do there", Van Boening said softly as he shrugged his shoulders. " Darren played great and deserves it."
"I really didn't prepare as much this year for the tournament because been working on my new house and got my wedding this weekend. So I didn't really expect to win at all. I really struggled in the early parts of the tournament including last night in the quarter-finals against Dechaine. But today I felt really good", said Appleton after the finals. "This World 14.1 is one of my favorite tournaments. The win comes at a great time because all my family is coming into town and I can share this with them."
As Darren Appleton's name will be inscribed as the 74th World 14.1 winner, he requested (almost insisted) he be allowed to take home the World 14.1 Cup for the year to showcase in his private poolroom. After a Bronze, a Silver, setting the world record at 200 points, and shooting in 1450 balls this week en route to winning the Gold this year…Dragon Promotions decided he be the first player to earn the right. 
Brackets & Stories at  .  Numerous photos and highlights at 

Jim Rempe & Frank Stellman Inducted into the 14.1 Straight Pool Hall of Fame

Jim Rempe

"King James" Rempe and Frank "Sailor" Stellman will be this year's Straight Pool Hall of Fame inductees. Both men are still alive and well, and are due to appear in New York City for the first time in a long, long, while. Rempe made a huge impact on the pro pool scene from the 1970's through the early 2000's, while Stellman influenced numerous top players in the mid-west with his 14.1 teachings over a span of 60 years. Fans and players can attend the once in a lifetime special event at 7:00pm on August 6th, 2014 at Steinway Billiards Cafe during the 74th World Tournament of 14.1. It will be a star studded gala with billiard super stars such as Mika Immonen, Shane Van Boening, John Schmidt, Stephan Cohen, Johnny Archer, Darren Appleton & many more with Charlie Williams as the event MC. The ANDY CLOTH World Tournament of 14.1 is  sponsored by ANDY CLOTH, Kamui Brands, OB Cues, Amsterdam Billiard Club,, Pool & Billiard Magazine , Aramith Balls, and George Beckman Kinetic Sculptures. Official patron 14.1 aficionados are Stu Mattana, Tom Gleich, Harold Siegel, and Dr. Greg Diehl Plastic Surgery.  Dr. Michael Fedak and Dragon Promotions are pleased to bring the 4th Annual Straight Pool Hall of Fame and the  74th production of the oldest billiard event in the world on August 4th-9th, 2014. 
"Straight pool is my favorite pool discipline. It's a game where knowledge is very important and makes the difference between good players and the best players", explained Rempe about his love for 14.1. " I know not many players can say this, but I really look back at my life and see that I did not have a misspent youth. I took my dad's advice on finding something I love and make a living doing it. Pool is the greatest game ever." 
Of the 4 nominees including Nick Varner, Lou Butera and Allen Hopkins, Jim Rempe won 40% of the votes submitted by fans via social media, polls, and emails. King James was born in 1947  in Scranton, Pennsylvania.  Rempe began playing pool at the age of 6 and he turned pro at the age of 22, winning 98 major championships, and taking 11 world titles, including the World Nine-ball Championship, the World One-pocket Championship, and the All-Around World Championship.  Rempe won 3 US 14.1 Masters Championships (later changed to the US Open 14.1), 1973 NY State 14.1, the US Open 9-Ball, and 4 World 9-Ball titles. He accumulated 23 tournament wins between 1972 and 1978, more than any other pool player in the world, thus acquiring the nickname "King James".
"When I decided to become serious about pool five years ago, I looked up Jim Rempe to learn the game from a true professional.  I thought that I would spend a couple of hours with him that afternoon.  His enthusiasm for pool was so infectious that before we knew it, eight hours had gone by.  He has become a good friend and mentor, and he teaches the game as well as he plays it.  His pedigree speaks for itself, and he belongs in the halls of fame of all of the pool disciplines.  Congrats, Jimmy!",  said Dr. Gregory Diehl of Diehl Plastic Surgery. 
In the Unsung Hero category, Frank Stellman won 80% of the votes and had many vocal supporters lobbying for this mid-western legend. Frank "Sailor" Stellman is from Racine, Wisconsin and was born in 1927. He was a guru who taught and influenced many 14.1 players and groomed dozens of 100 ball runners. He also organized Wisconsin's first state 9-Ball tournaments for men and women, and he was the technical host for a weekly TV pool show. He has given numerous pool seminars usually free of charge. This was Frank's second year on the 14.1 HOF ballot. 
"Wow. This is something I really never expected in my life. I helped players learn the game not for any recognition or money, but only because I felt it was the right thing to do. It's quite an honor and I'm going to do my absolute best to get to New York City! It's all up to my doctor to give me the green light!" The 87 year old Stellman has diabetes and faces amputation of his foot, but still manages to get to the poolroom to watch and advise players. He recently was transported to Red Shoes Billiards to watch the World 14.1 Qualifier in Chicago.
"This induction is going to a very, very deserving man. Frank to me is like Yoda, not well known but so full of wisdom and knowledge. He influenced myself as well as so many top notch players. Guys like Dallas West, Jimmy Mataya, and Jeff Carter would always defer to Sailor's final word about any shot on the pool table. That's the kind of reverence he had. And he did it for no money. For him it was about the love of the game. That's why he never competed. He was close friends with Willie Mosconi, and one whom Mosconi considered a peer", said an enthusiastic Mark Wilson, a student of Stellman's as well as a renown teacher now himself. More notably, Mark is the current Captain of the USA Mosconi Cup Team. "No one could be more happier than myself on hearing the news of his induction. For me, this further legitimizes the Straight Pool Hall of Fame."
"Every year the Straight Pool Hall of Fame sells out with over a hundred people attending. It's a classy, entertaining, and emotional celebration of the greats of the sport", says Cindy Lee, CEO of Dragon Promotions. 
Past inductees include live inductions of Ray Martin, Jerome Keough, Jack Colavita, Danny Diliberto, Oliver Ortmann, Gene Nagy. Group inductions by decades include 14.1 Hall of Famer legends Ralph Greenleaf, Frank Taberski, Erwin Rudolph, Jimmy Caras, Andrew Ponzi, Thomas Hueston, Alfredo de Oro. 
Fans can buy tickets at the door, and tickets for the Hall of fame 14.1 Banquet in advance for $55 by going to  . The dinner includes a 5 course meal and beverages as well as seating next to the stars of billiards. For $141 you can also join the Elite Members of the 141 Club on the same link.
People who can't make the dinner can watch the complete ceremony for free online at 
Live stream Pay Per View of the matches from Day 1 – Day 6 of the World 14.1 can be bought at 


The 4th Annual 14.1 Straight Pool Hall of Fame

New York City – Pool fans are invited to have dinner with the world's greatest players at the 4th Annual 14.1 Straight Pool Hall of Fame Banquet. The special event takes place at 7:30pm on August 6th, 2014 at Steinway Billiards Cafe during the 74th World Tournament of 14.1. It will be a star studded gala with billiard super stars such as Mika Immonen, Shane Van Boening, John Schmidt, Stephan Cohen, Johnny Archer, Darren Appleton & many more with Charlie Williams as the event MC. The World Tournament takes place on August 4th-9th and is sponsored by Andy Cloth, Kamui Brands, OB Cues, Amsterdam Billiard Club,, and Pool & Billiard Magazine. Official patron 14.1 aficionados are Stu Mattana, Tom Gleich, Harold Siegel. The 14.1 Hall of Fame Banquet is presented by Dr. Michael Fedak and produced by Dragon Promotions.
"Every year the Straight Pool Hall of Fame sells out with over a hundred people attending. It's a classy, entertaining, and emotional celebration of the greats of the sport", says Cindy Lee, CEO of Dragon Promotions. 
The Straight Pool Hall of Fame Induction videos will be produced by and .  The Hall of Fame ceremonies will be streamed online for free on Ustream by Upstate Al of AZBtv. 
Past inductees include live inductions of Ray Martin, Jerome Keough, Jack Colavita, Danny Diliberto, Oliver Ortmann, Gene Nagy. Group inductions by decades include 14.1 Hall of Famer legends Ralph Greenleaf, Frank Taberski, Erwin Rudolph, Jimmy Caras, Andrew Ponzi, Thomas Hueston, Alfredo de Oro. 
To vote, please send in your choice at . This year's nominees on the ballot include: 
Jim Rempe, -Born in 1947, in Scranton, Pennsylvania, US)- Rempe began playing pool at the age of 6. he turned pro at the age of 22, winning over 100 major championships, and taking 11 world titles, including the World Straight Pool Championship, WPA World Nine-ball Championship, the World One-pocket Championship, All-Around World Championship and, later, the Mizerak Senior Tour. Rempe won 3 US 14.1 Masters Championships, 1973 NY State 14.1, the US Open 9-Ball, and 4 World 9-Ball titles. He accumulated 23 tournament wins between 1972 and 1978, more than any other pool player in the world, thus acquiring the nickname "King James"
Allen Hopkins- Born in 1951, Elizabeth, New Jersey) He promotes multiple annual pool events and still competes as a professional contender. Known for playing all games on a world class level, World Open 14.1 Champion, 1977 ,US Open Nine-ball Champion, 1977, PPPA World Nine-ball Champion, 1977, PPPA World Nine-ball Champion, 1979. 
Hopkins created and still produces the Super Billiards Expo for the past 20+ years.
Lou Butera- (born 1937 in Pittston, Pennsylvania) , Butera won the 1973 World 14.1 Championship defeating legendary Irving Crane, as well as runner-up in the World 14.1 in 1972. His nickname, "Machine Gun Lou", derives from his stunning the crowd and fellow competitors by running 150-and-out in straight pool in 21 minutes against Allen Hopkins in 1973. He gained exposure to the masses in 1981 and 1982 when he appeared in network trick shot competitions on CBS and ABC.
Nick Varner – Born 1948 n May 15, in Owensboro, Kentucky – Varner gained notoriety on the professional pool scene after he won two ACU-I Intercollegiate Championships while attending Purdue University. A cliché given to Varner was "Speak softly and carry a big stick" because of the way he conducted himself as well as his competitive endeavors. In 1989, Varner became only the second man to earn over $100,000 in prize winnings accumulating 16 major nine-ball events and was "Player of the Year" in 1980 and 1989. 
Frank "Sailor" Stellman – From Racine, Wisconsin born in 1927. Legend in the midwest, taught and influenced many 14.1 players and groomed over a dozen 100 ball runners. Organized Wisconsin's first state 9-Ball tournaments for men and women; He was the technical host for a weekly TV pool show. He has given numerous pool seminars usually free of charge. Frank's second year on the 14.1 HOF ballot
Tom Jennings,- A mathematics professor, Jennings was still able to find time to play pro calibre pool and in 1976 and 1977, he won back-to-back US Open 14.1 Pocket Billiards Championships, being the first player since Steve Mizerak to win consecutive championships. He won both titles while also a full-time mathematics professor at Middlesex County College in New Jersey.
Fans can buy tickets in advance for $55 by going to  . The dinner includes a 5 course meal and beverages as well as seating next to the stars of billiards. For $141 you can also join the Elite Members of the 141 Club on the same link.
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Conrad Burkman – The Man Who Has Seen It All

Conrad working hard at the 2004 Glass City Open

With his seventieth birthday recently eclipsed, Conrad Burkman has cemented his place as the elder statesman of pool. The long-time publisher of The National Billiard News has been deeply involved in the pocket table games for well over forty years and his memories over that time are priceless.

We recently had a conversation with Mr. Burkman that point out the sources of his expertise and highlight the depth of his experience. Our first question was a query as to how he had first become immersed in the game.

"My first involvement with the game was back in the early sixties when I began playing in a local pool league. I played out of Cushion and Cue in Livonia in a league owned by Ray Abrams. One of the drills with this league was that you were required to help referee his yearly pro tournament, The Motor City Open. Ray owned three poolrooms at the time, Livonia, Oak Park and Allen Park.

"Our league played Straight Pool and the Motor City Open was a Straight Pool tournament, so it was kind of a natural and easy thing for us to do. I did my bit there and there was a fellow watching named Joe Farhat from Lansing and he owned a room called The Velvet Rail. Joe thought I was a pretty good referee so he asked me for my help with the State tournament. It seemed like a pretty good gig so I said, 'Sure, I'll come up'.

"The next year the US Open (Straight Pool) was going to be in Lansing. I agreed to referee there and the very first match I drew was between Irving Crane and Joe Balsis. I was scared to death. Here were two of the legends of the game and I had to go make calls on them. But after the match was over Crane walked over to Bob Freshley (Tournament Director) and said: "I want that fellow to referee all of my matches. He's the best referee I've seen in years".

"As it turned out, Balsis and Crane met again in the finals. The finals were televised on local TV and that was my first time to ref a televised match. The next year the US Open was held in Las Vegas at the Sahara and ABC's Wide World of Sports was televising it nationally. They were looking around for someone with TV experience to do the refereeing. I volunteered that I had that experience, left out the little bit about it being local, and got chosen to be the TV ref. From there the refereeing just snowballed and before I knew it I was the BCA Head Referee.

We asked Conrad what matches he had officiated over the years that really stood out in his memory. He mentioned three. "One was between Jim Rempe and Joe Balsis. Rempe was playing masterfully, running out, and he got to where he only needed one more ball to win the match. He chose the nine ball in the side pocket and played some draw on the ball to leave Balsis safe in case the shot missed. He did miss the shot and Balsis wasn't left safe enough. Joe ran 47 and out on him to win 150-149! Jimmy didn't recover from that loss for years.

"Another interesting match was one between Joe Balsis and Steve Mizerak. Again, this was in the finals and ABC's Wide World of Sports was televising the match. Keith Jackson was the sportscaster and Willie Mosconi was his color man. Mizerak had a shot where he was jacked up over a ball to try a really tough shot into the corner pocket. He made the shot, but the cue ball backed up and hit the ferrule of his cue. I called the foul while the crowd was still shouting and applauding the shot. I had to yell 'foul' three times before Mizerak could hear me over the noise. Of course, Balsis had seen the foul as well and he was already halfway to the table before the ball ever fell. Steve knew he had fouled and never argued a bit, just went over to his chair and sat down.

"Mosconi, on the air, says: "Oh, that is so unfortunate. That referee has just cost Mizerak the match." As it turned out, Mosconi was twice wrong. First, Mizerak wound up winning anyway. And right after the match concluded Keith Jackson came running out and said he wanted to interview me on the 'controversial' call. And I said "What? I didn't make any controversial calls." Which is when Jackson told me that Mosconi had told the world that I had made a bad call on a perfectly legal shot!

"My first reply was: "Well maybe that's why he's sitting back there and not playing anymore." I mean, this got me hot. I knew the call was good and so did the players. So we went back into the TV booth and they began showing the shot on replay. They had to slow it down to where it was nearly stop-frame, but the foul showed up clearly. The cue ball crawled nearly half an inch up the ferrule and you could see it. Keith Jackson apologized to me, but Willy never did."

But the crowning story from Conrad has to be the one that involved a wild-west style of gunfight. Conrad had agreed to direct a tournament in Joe Burn's poolroom, Forest Park Billiards, in Dayton, Ohio. The room was under a shopping center, in the solid concrete basement of the center. Conrad picks up the tale: "I didn't want to work the tournament so I tried to price my way out of it. When Burns, who co-promoted the tournament with Billy Stroud, contacted me to hire me I told him I needed three grand to do the tournament. This was a three-week affair but I knew that figure would keep me out of it. Burns looked at me and said: "OK, You got it."

"Which sprung a trap on me I tried to elude by quickly adding: "Wait, I'm not done yet. I also need all my expenses like food and hotel covered and I want to go home every Sunday night and come back on Monday night." I was sure this would put Burns off. When he said: "OK, it's yours." I was trapped for sure.

"At the end of the tournament Buddy Hall was playing Youngblood Brown for the All-Around title. Buddy and Youngblood had to play three disciplines: Nine Ball, One-Pocket and Bank Pool. Of course, Nine Ball was Buddy's game while One Pocket and Banks were both realms claimed by Youngblood. Buddy got to choose which game to start with and he surprised everyone by choosing Banks. A great move. They played the Banks and Buddy just beat Youngblood's brains in. He murdered him.

"A fellow named Bill Steigel was the referee. I was sitting on the sidelines in one of those tall spectator chairs. The players took a break after that first match and they both took turns going to the restroom. When they came back to the table Youngblood was almost out of it. He was hanging on to the table and he was walking real shaky. Anyway, this really big guy sitting behind me reached over and tapped me on the shoulder. "What's wrong with our boy out there?" he asked me. And I said: "Y'know I don't know. But he looks kinda funny doesn't he?" And this real big guy says: "Well, find out!"

"So I walked over to Steigel and asked what was up with Youngblood and Steigal said he thought Youngblood took something in the restroom. He had screwed up his chemicals. Steigal wanted to know if he should stop the match and I told him "Hell, no. He took the stuff, let him live with it!" And I walked back to my chair and sat down. And the big guy goes: "Well? What is it?" And I told him we thought maybe Youngblood had taken something in the restroom.

"This apparently caused the big guy great consternation. He growled: "Stop the match!" And I said: "I'm not stopping the match!" and as I said that I turned around to look at him and he said: "Look at this, white boy!" and he pulled open his coat and showed me this big ol' .45 stuck in his belt. And he told me: "You either stop this match or I blow your brains all the way across this damn pool hall." This put me to sweating pretty good.


"Just then in came promoter Joe Burns. He walked right up to me and said: "How's it going?" Now Burns was facing me and the gunman was right behind me so I said: "The guy right behind me wants me to stop the match or he's gonna blow my brains out." And Burns replied: "Well good for him!" and walked off.

"Which put me resuming the question of whether to save my dignity or my life. So a few minutes later the time had come to tell the players to get ready to resume play and that decision was yet to be made. I became aware that four or five guys had entered the room but I had not diverted my attention from the matters at hand to really notice them. Suddenly Joe Burns was in front of me again, this time wearing a deerskin coat, the kind you see in the old west movies with fringe coming down off the sleeves.

"And he asked: "Which guy is gonna shoot ya?" And I indicated the big guy behind me and Joe looked at him and asked: "You got a piece?" And the big guy opened his coat and showed the gun. In reply Burns opened up his coat and he had two pearl-handled revolvers stuck in his belt: "Well, go for it motherfucker!" And he pulled out those two revolvers and shot them into the ceiling and plaster fell everywhere and you can't imagine the noise of twin .44's going off in a concrete bunker.

"Quick as a snake he had one of the guns under the big guys nose. All of this before the bug guy could even get halfway to his gun. And Burns goes: "Gimme your gun and get out and never come back!" And the guy leans down to me on his way out and tells me I'll never leave town alive. Burns said: "Nah, Conrad, you'll be fine." That night Burns sent two armed men with me to the hotel. One stayed out in the parking lot all night and the other was stationed just outside my door. They had two cars and the next morning they sandwiched me in between them and escorted m all the way to the Michigan state line.

We wanted to know how Conrad had morphed from being a referee into being a sought-after Tournament Director. "Well, mostly I was a Straight Pool ref. I only did a couple of Nine Ball matches. And refereeing paid lousy. I could have ref'ed every day of the year if I would do it for free, but Tournament Directors got paid, sometimes pretty well. So I branched out into tournament direction where I would also ref the final match.

"Soon I got to direct some pretty big tournaments. The Miller Lite tournament was four to five thousand players, the BCA tournaments were big, and the Valley Tournament. This all got curtailed when my mother fell gravely ill and I needed to cut back my travel. That's really how I fell out of it. I had train Ed Scott Smith and he had taken over the show real well and by the time I could have restarted that gig I had pretty much lost interest in it. It is much harder work than most folks realize.

The years of experience that Conrad has logged give him a grand overview of the famous names. We asked him how he would compare the last series of great players like Greenleaf, Mosconi, Lassiter and Balsis to today's crop of stars. He told us first that it really isn't a fair comparison. "They play different games. On different equipment. Probably the best of the earlier players was Greenleaf. He set many of his accomplishments on ten-foot tables, quite a bit different from the nine-footers employed by players since the fifties and sixties.

"Willie was a great player, but he never played anything but Straight Pool until late in his career when he could make a lot of money playing Fats on TV. Luther played everything. Now he didn't get the recognition that Mosconi did because Luther was a hustler and didn't even start playing tournaments until later in his life. But I think Luther has to rank right under Greenleaf because he was more imaginative than Mosconi. I mean, the drawback to all those old great players was they only played Straight Pool except for Wimpy.

"Today's players play many different games. Earl in his prime played absolutely the best Nine Ball under pressure that I've ever seen. Reyes is the best all-around player I've ever seen. Boston Shorty was probably the next best all-around player. Shorty played tournament-caliber Nine Ball, Eight Ball, Ten Ball, Straight Pool, Banks, One Pocket, Carom Billiards, he played it all. So does Reyes.

We also wanted to know about Conrad's history with the National Billiard News. As publisher of the oldest billiard publication we knew the road could not have always been smooth. "Two friends of mine, Ray Abrams and Bob Mullins, bought the National Billiard News and got into a bit of a hole right from the get-go. After only three issues they needed another partner to buy in to supply the money to keep it going.

"So I thought about it and told them that I would come on board if I could have say in how the money was spent and the advertising and the subscriptions. They agreed and I've been here ever since. When I came on we had only 300 subscribers and maybe 200 of those were freebies. We righted the ship and eventually Ray and I bought everyone else out. Ray continues his presence on the masthead but hasn't visited the office in a number of years, so I have control of the publication.

The National Billiard News continues today as the only national newspaper on the game. Conrad and Editor John Cash gather the news of the game every month and they fill the paper with photos of the stars of the game and tournament results and news from around the country as well as the international news of note.

Their have been some, well, interesting, times for the NBN. Conrad remembers the first color cover that wasn't. They had spent over $800 for color separations to do the cover and someone dropped the ball and never got the seps to the printer. Not long after that an editor, who had been storing all the file photos at his apartment, had an apartment fire. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief when it was learned that the photos had escaped the blaze. But there was another fire the very next night and that one ate all the pictures.

Conrad still very much enjoys his role in the game. "There are travel benefits to this job. You get to go to some neat places and I still really enjoy watching the matches. Plus, I have made some really great friends over the years."

One of the memories that really sticks out for Conrad is his presence at a couple of the Johnston City tournaments. "That really was something else. That was the first time I ever saw Luther play. He was playing Harold Worst from Grand Rapids in Nine Ball. Luther was driving Worst nuts by quoting Bible passages. Luther would get bored in the hotel rooms at night and the only reading material there was the Gideon Bible, and so he read the Bible all the time. Worst scratched on the eight ball in one game and sat down. Tugboat Whaley was sitting in the stands at the foot of the table and was a famous referee of the day so Luther called out to him: "Boat, spot that ball, will'ya?" And Tugboat got up, put aside the hot dog he was eating and spotted the ball. Luther got down and fired that spot shot in and the eight ball made a sound like a flat tire, whomp, whomp, whomp, all the way into the pocket. And it left tracks. Yellow tracks. Tugboat had gotten mustard from his hot dog all over that ball and it stained the table so bad they couldn't get it out all week. Luther couldn't believe it. He just looked at him and said: "Jeez, Boat!"

Conrad continued: "Looking back on it now Johnston City was just the greatest experience. You got to see so many greats all in one place. Weenie Beanie, Fats, Shorty, all the hustlers and their backers like Titanic Thompson and it was just a terrific tournament. It was laid out with a pit for the games to be played in, a pit recessed three feet into the floor with three tables in it and padded bleachers arranged around three sides of it. The flow chart covered the whole back wall. There were even padded bleachers out back in the Cue Club, where all the hustling went on.

The memories and the stories could go on forever. If you haven't made the acquaintance of this icon of our game you can easily do so. Go to a pro tournament. He's the guy sitting in the front row snapping photos with his Nikon. And if you never get the pleasure then at least get his paper. Call the NBN at 248-348-0053 and sign up. You just might learn a few things.

All photos courtesy of Diana Hoppe – Pool Pics by Hoppe

Ogburn shocks field at Senior Tour event

Bob Ogburn bounced back from a quarter final loss to Bob Vanover and defeated Vanover 11-6 in the extended race finals to win the Senior Tour event held at Casino Magic in Biloxi Mississippi.
Ogburn had a great run through a tough draw as he started with a 10-4 win over Jyri Kari followed up with a 10-2 win over Nat Green. Things got interesting after that as Ogburn defeated the #2 player on the BCA Points list, Jose Parica 10-9 and then defeated the #1 player on the Senior Tour points list, Howard Vickery 10-8. A 10-5 win over Jim Rempe set up the match for the hot seat but Ogburn lost this match to Bob Vanover 10-5. Ogburn waited on the one-loss side for Rempe to defeat Dick Lane and then handed Rempe his second loss of the event by the score of 10-6. This set up the rematch with Vanover in the finals which Ogburn won by the score of 11-6 for the tournament win.
The win was worth $10,000 for Ogburn while Vanover settled for $6,000 in second place money. Rempe and Lane filled out the top 4 spots and collected $4,000 and $3,000 respectively.

Robbie Saez wins in Glens Falls

Robb Saez with Mika Immonen

On one of the most beautiful weekends of fall, Mike Zuglan brought his Joss Northeast Tour into Glens Falls, NY for a $1500 added tournament at Adirondack Billiards. Host Joe Stanislowsky and Bob Talbot added the money and 41 players showed. Competition was great and the great fans got to see some great pool.

In front of packed house on both days play was exciting and surprising on both days. Players like Jim Rempe, Santos Sambajon and Edgar Acaba were knocked out early in some great matches. Going through the first day unscathed were Mike Davis, Robb Saez, Mike Zuglan and Canadian Ray Cruz. On the one loss side we had Chuck Altomare vs Ryan McCreesh, Jack Smith vs Lee French.
Mike Davis came out firing and beat Saez in their first match and then beat Ray Cruz to go to the hot seat. Cruz had just beat Zuglan 9-3 and was playing great when he and Davis went to the hill. Both players in the hill match missed key shots and when Cruz tried to cut a seven ball the length of the table he jawed it and Davis won. Robbie Saez went through the one loss side Beating McCreesh on the hill, then Mike Zuglan and Ray Cruz. In the finals Mr. Saez was not to be denied. Winning both sets he took home the beautiful trophy and the cash.
Thanks to Adirondack Billiards and their staff. We look forward to returning again next year for another great event.

2001 Masters 9-Ball Championship – Jim Rempe vs George San Souci

1999 Derby City Classic 9-Ball – Troy Frank vs Jim Rempe

1999 Derby City Classic 9-Ball Division – Ronnie Wiseman vs Jim Rempe