The Mosconi Legacy

Willie Mosconi
© Crown Publ. 1946

June 27th, 1913 - exactly 100 years ago, William Joseph Mosconi was born in Philadelphia. The legacy of the man whose name is synonymous with pocket billiards still lives on.

His father Joseph owned a pool hall, located in the same building as the family's apartment. But young Willie was not welcome inside the room: his father wanted him to become a dancer or an actor. The boy forced his father's hand when he showed remarkable skills around a pool table. He would practice as much as he could, using a broomstick and potatoes when he was not allowed to use the room's set of balls.

By age 6, his skills were so exceptional that Ralph Greenleaf, the reigning 14/1 World Champion, accepted to play a challenge match which he won by the close margin of 50 to 46! This match was the starting point of Willie's professional career. At age eleven, he became the World juvenile champion and continued to tour the country for many years.

After a few years away from the game, Willie came back in the competition in the hopes of making some money. His first attempt to qualify for the World Championship was successful. In the National Tournament, he finished second behind Georges Kelly, and the top four advanced to the World Tournament. In the main championship, he only placed 5th, with a high run of 65 balls.

His first World title came years later when in 1941, at age 27, he won the World Championship League Play. Played between November 1940 and May 1941, the 8-man league required to have 32 matches played between each of the participants. Mosconi's records were 176 wins, 48 losses, a high run of 126 and a best game in one inning.

Between May 1941 and April 1956, Mosconi would hold various World trophies 19 times. Leagues, Round-robins, Challenge matches… He was good at everything. His last challenge match win was against "Cowboy" Jimmy Moore, 1800 to 879. This was 14/1, played over 6 days in 150-point matches.

His most famous record was made during an exhibition in Springfield, OH, on March 19, 1954. A straight pool run of 526 consecutive balls (more than 37 consecutive racks cleared on an 8ft. Brunswick table with 5 1/4 inch pockets) which remains unbeaten to this day.

After suffering a severe stroke in 1956, he had to stop playing matches and exhibitions, but kept on promoting the game in different ways: he published two books (although ghost-written), was the technical consultant on "the Hustler" in 1961 and made several appearances in TV shows. He made a brief return to competition in the middle of the sixties, and announced his official retirement in 1966.

In 1968, the BCA welcomed Willie Mosconi in their Hall of Fame, at 55 years old. Until his death in 1993, he spent most of his time promoting the game making exhibitions, and attending trade shows across the country. The last exhibition match he played was on August 10, 1991 against fellow Hall of Famer Jimmy Caras. You can buy the DVD of this dinner show from Accu-stats here.

Mosconi died of a heart attack shortly after turning 80, on september 17, 1993. In 1994, when world's #1 cuesports promoter Matchroom Sport created a new event based on the Ryder Cup format - Team USA vs. Team EUROPE - They named it in honor of Willie.

Today, the Mosconi Cup is the most popular pool TV show in the world. It is played the first week of December every year and in 2013 it is going to celebrate in style its twentieth anniversary with a selection of players entirely consisting of wild-card picks. These ten players will have the honor of celebrating 20 years of Mosconi Cup, and 100 years of the legend's birth.

So this is the start of multiple celebrations in what could be called the "Mosconi year":

- June 27th, 2013 marks the 100 years anniversary of his birth

- September 17th, 2013 will mark the 20th year since his death

- December 2nd to 5th, 2013 will see the 20th edition of the Mosconi Cup take place in Las Vegas.

With a legacy that includes his 526 record-run that is still holding after 59 years, and the most popular pool show on the planet, Willie Mosconi's name will keep on living in the cuesports world, in the honor of a man who dedicated his whole life to his sport.

If you wish to learn more about Willie Mosconi, we recommend you to read the following books:

Willie's Game
, an Autobiography. Published on April 28, 1993 - just a few months before his death.

The Hustler & The Champ
: Willie Mosconi, Minnesota Fats, and the Rivalry that Defined Pool. A great book by R.A. Dyer.

Willie Mosconi On Pocket Billiards
, a ghost-written book originally published in 1948.

Willie Mosconi's Winning Pocket Billiards
, another ghost-written book originally published in 1965.