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Willie Marconi the Best in Billiards

Jason Kirk, Getty Images

Willie Marconi was considered one the greatest billiards players of all time. In my opinion he was the greatest. Willie passed away in 1980 after suffering a stroke. His best game came on April 17, 1956 against Jimmy Moore in Kinston, North Carolina. In that game Marconi sank 150 balls in a row, a perfect game.

That was not Marconi’s best though. In an exhibition game in 1954 he sank 526 straight balls. Marconi was considered one of the best players in the world from 1941 to 1956 when retired from playing billiards.  He took playing billiards to a new level, from the smoky basements and bars to a reputable sport.

In 1978, well after Marconi retired, he took on his arch enemy Minnesota Fats. Marconi and Fats did not get along because Fats promoted pool hustling which Marconi said gave the sport a bad name.  Minnesota Fats, always a trash talker, taunted Marconi for years but always declined Willie’s challenge to play him. But in 1978 when both men where 65 but still ‘on their game’ they played a match on ABC’s Wide World of Sports. Fats didn’t change much, he was still talkative and Marconi didn’t change much either, he was still dressed in his trademark sports jacket, slacks and shiny black shoes.

Marconi had no problem beating Minnesota Fats, but it was more than that, it was billiards (Marconi) beating pool (Fats). It was the cherry on the cake for Willie Marconi because he was the technical director on the movie ‘The Hustler’ which made Minnesota Fats (played by Jackie Gleason) a household name.


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