April 11 – Anniversary of a Billiards Blitz

Posted on April 11, 2016

The game I commonly think of as “pool” is also called pocket billiards. You've seen it, right? People hit numbered wooden balls by striking a cue ball with a long stick; a good pool player can sink the numbered balls into the pockets without also sinking the cue ball.

On this date in 1940, Andrew Ponzi set a world record during a straight pool tournament by sinking 127 balls in a row! (That had to be in the course of a whole bunch of games. There are only 15 numbered balls!)

When Ponzi was just a boy named Andrew D'Alessandro, he was in a trolley accident. Unfortunately, his right hand was mangled, and it never did heal correctly. He started playing pool just to get more strength in that hand.

And he found that he was really good at it!

D'Alessandro won so many bets against his friends in the course of their pool games, that his friends started calling him “Ponzi” after the notorious “Ponzi scheme” swindler. That sounds like a mean nickname, but I guess nobody thought he was cheating, so it was more like an affectionate nickname.

Later, when he became a professional pocket billiards player, D'Alessandro adopted the name Andrew Ponzi. He ended up winning titles in 1935, 1940, and 1943. He ended up setting high run records.

And you know what Ponzi claimed? He said the hand injury helped him, because he was able to develop a free hand swing from the wrist!

Pool (pocket billiards) is all about learning the angles
and practicing how hard to hit the cue ball -- at what
angle -- to get the result you want!

By the way...

You probably know that world records often fall to new world records. Sprinters run faster, high jumpers go higher, and baseball players hit more home runs. In 1954, famed pool player Willie Mosconi sank 526 balls in a row!

  • Not as amazing, these real shots from a real tournament show what great pool – not fancy tricks – looks like.

Also on this date:

Scientist and inventor Percy Julian's birthday

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