Willie Mosconi

The most recognized billiard player of all time, he won the world billiards champion title 19 times from 1941 to 1956.

Mosconi’s father owned a billiards parlor, but wouldn’t let his son play–so Willie began sneaking in at night when he was 5 years old, practicing with a broom stick and potatoes.

He entered his first major tournament in 1937, then won the world pocket billiards championship in league play in 1941 and in tournament play the following year. After losing the championship in a match with Andrew Ponzi in 1943, he regained the title by beating Ponzi in 1944 and held it until 1946, when Irving Crane won a world championship tournament.

Mosconi reclaimed the championship by beating Crane in a 1947 match. From 1950 through 1953 and in 1956 and 1957, Willie won annual tournaments to become world champion. He retired from competition after suffering a stroke in 1957.

In 1954, Mosconi ran a record 526 balls during an exhibition in Springfield, Ohio. He also set a record for highest run in a single game, 127 balls, in 1945, and his high grand tournament average of 18.34 balls in 1950 is the record for a 41/2 by 9-foot table.

Mosconi was the most recognized billiards player of all time. He won the world billiards champion title 19 times from 1941 to 1956, and these wins were in 14-1 ball play. During some of those years he defended his title more than twice.

Even after his retirement from normal competition, Mosconi was an enthusiastic promoter of pocket billiards for the Brunswick company, giving exhibitions and appearing in televised matches. He was also the technical adviser for the 1961 movie, “The Hustler,” which starred Paul Newman and Jackie Gleason.

Mosconi died on September 12, 1993. He was elected to the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame in 1979.