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“The Princess” – Billiard’s First Lady

Ralph and Amelia Greenleaf

The passing of 16 years has not dimmed the love of Mrs. Ralph Greenleaf for her color­ful husband who was the great­est pocket billiard player of his era and. in the opinion of many, of all time. 

The petite Amelia, known as “The Princess” when her hus­band was drawing audiences of thousands by the magic of his cue, is now a dress de­signer in the 2000 Block of Walnut Street, Philadelphia, where she first met Ralph, was courted by him and mar­ried him. 

“When he looks down from above and wants to see me he knows I’ll be on Walnut Street,” she said one rainy morning, when I talked to her. 

She choose Philadelphia as her permanent home because of the pleasant memories of Ralph, the quaintness of the city and architecture of ancient City Hall which reminds her of a medieval castle. 

A former actress the sprightly widow stepped around the main room of her dress shop, making appropriate ges­tures as she talked, 

She told of Ralph’s fondness for Willie Hoppe and how he arranged a nation wide tour for the famous pair when Hoppe expressed a desire to go on the road. She recalled Ralph’s three year appearance on the Keith vaudeville circuit when his skill with the cue was one of the big drawing cards in theaters throughout the land. 

“I’ll always believe the glare of the lights in the theater hurt Ralph’s eyes and his future effectiveness.” she said. ”There were the lights turned on the table, the footlights and too many other lights. How­ever, he felt the public wanted to see him and there was the opportunity for thousands more to see him than could see him in a billiard center. 

“l had the honor of explain­ing to the audience the shots that Ralph was about to per­form. You must remember that people a generation ago knew less about pocket billiards than they do now. Explanations help­ed them.” 

She also recalled how Ralph met Andrew Ponzi in Philadel­phia and tutored him until Ponzi became one of the best, When Ponzi once lost his temper in a match and became persona non grata with the billiard brass it was Ralph who took Ponzi on the road and rebuilt his con­fidence and his reputation. 

“The name Ralph Greenleaf was magic in those days’ said “The Princess.” He drew large crowds everywhere. We met the finest people in all the cities. It was a wonderful life and I have the fondest of memories. 

“Many people say I ought to write a book and that is what l plan to do, not only about Ralph’s skill as a player but about our experiences on tour and the people we met,” 

She recalled numerous of­ficials of the Brunswick Balke, Co. and their associations with her husband, One time in Chica­go she was sitting toward the rear of a room where Ralph was playing and two Brunswick officials were talking about her husband, unaware of her pre­sence. 

B.E. Bensinger watched Ralph play for awhile,· turned to his fellow executive and said; 

“Greenleaf is class, real, high class.” 

“That sums up Ralph in a sentence,” nodded his widow. 

“That is the way I remember him and so do the people who knew him and watched him play 


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