Babe Cranfield

Babe was certainly a legendary, once in a lifetime talent. For those that don't know, our very own SJM, our resident 14.1 aficionado, has some fascinating, first hand stories about Babe. Should he become inspired to join in on this discussion, it would be a treat for him to share some of them here.
 

1pocketpro

AzB Silver Member
Silver Member
I just stumbled upon this forum, so I thought I'd share my story. From 1984 through 1989, I attended Syracuse University where I received my BS and MS in Electrical Engineering. Prior to attending college, I had mainly played straight rail billiards (I grew up overseas), and on occasion, pool. Syracuse University's student rec. center had just gotten six brand new 4 1/2 x 9 Gandy tables installed. Naturally, I got hooked!

One day, a buddy of mine and I decided to go to the bowling alley on Erie Blvd (it's been long gone since). We had heard they had a couple of billiard tables over there, and we wanted to play some straight rail. As soon as I walked through the door, I was taken aback by this vast field of pool tables. To the left, I quickly noticed the billiard tables and proceeded to the counter to get the balls. As my buddy and I were enjoying a game of billiards, I couldn't help but to notice an old man to the far right running around the pool table and pocketing balls like I've never seen anyone do before. He was also wearing an apron. I didn't know what game he was playing because up until then, the only pool games I've ever played were 8-ball and 15-ball rotation (aka. 61).

A couple of weeks later, I went back to that same bowling alley to play pool with a new pool playing buddy I just recently met at the rec. center. There he is again, that same old man, dissecting a rack of balls like a surgeon. "That's Babe Cranfield", my friend said; "He won the world championship in the 60's". "What game is he playing?" I asked. "Straight pool," my friend replied. From that moment on, I just couldn't keep my eyes off. I had never seen the game played at such a level. This man was running through one frame after another with great ease, never running into problems, and leaving the last ball on the table to blast open the next frame (Babe, like many old timers, always referred to a rack of balls as a "frame"). By now, he must have run 150 or 200 balls! I finally approached him, said hello, and introduced myself. To say he was cordial and a gentleman wou;d be an understatement. I couldn't help but to ask whether he'd be willing to give me some lessons. He gladly accepted.

To make a long story short, I had been renting a room on Euclid Ave. in Syracuse, a stone's throw away from the university's engineering and computer science department. Shockingly, Babe's house was literally across the street from me. I mean, maybe 200 feet from where I was living. I knew then that pool was going to be a big part of my life.

A year later, I was able to manage a 50-ball run here and there, sometimes twice on the same day. By then, I had become a frequent patron at Caps Cue Club. From what I can tell, that room, which I'll always remember as my stomping grounds, recently went out of business (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4fH9guOfPfY). I'll never forget it or the time I ran 42 balls to win a game on a night when snow was knee-deep and my opponent only needed 2. I was playing for $5, and that's all I had on me! I needed it to pay for a cab ride back to campus. Luckily, I was able to keep my $5, win another, and get a ride back to campus from my 72-year old opponent whose name was Joe Bocardo. The very next day, Joe sat me down, praised my game, and asked: "what do you plan on doing? Are you going to be an engineer or a pool player?" "Both..." I gullibly replied". "You cannot do both", he said. "You need to pick one and excel at it".

For the next couple of years, I never wasted an opportunity to play with and learn from Babe Cranfield. Occasionally, we'd walk down to the student rec. center and play for a couple of hours. In 1987, my friend, Randy Stone, won the ACU-I regional championship in Rochester, NY. He was a tremendous player, and someone I greatly admired and wanted to emulate. In 1988, the ACU-I tournament was hosted right across the border, so I couldn't go. But in 1989, luckily, it was planned to take place at my very own rec. room where I'd spent hundreds of hours practicing for the last 2 or 3 years!!! To this day, one of the greatest highlights of my life is when Babe Cranfield sat down and watched me win the quarter-final match by beating the 1988 Canadian champion 3-0. I never missed a ball, and I went on to win the event the very next day, .

One of the very last times I saw Babe before graduating, he invited me in for a cup of coffee. Before I took off, he proudly autographed one of his tournament posters, which I stupidly managed to lose since. A few years later (1997), he was inducted into the BCA Hall of Fame.

Was Babe a world champion? By all means! In 1964 (I think), he challenged Luther Lassiter, who had just won the world championship, to a 1200-point match and managed to beat him by over 400 points (I think Lassiter's final score was in the 700's). Back then, a player could challenge the sitting champion and possibly get the opportunity to "steal the belt."

I've seen Babe run a couple of hundred balls on several occasions. He was already in his mid seventies and had already undergone a triple-bipass surgery several years ago. In the early to mid 1990's, while at a tournament at the Playing Field in Richmond, VA, I asked Mike Sigel what he thought of Babe Cranfield. I don't recall Sigel's reply verbatim, but it was along the lines of "he was one of the best straight pool players ever, maybe the best." Incidentally, Babe regularly praised Mike Sigel's game whenever he came up in conversations.

Why the lack of any prominent mention of Arthur "Babe" Cranfield in pool literature? The answer is simple: When Babe became a father, he suspended his pool career and chose a different path; He became the Vice President of Sales at Musak, the background music company. Years later, he made his comeback by winning the world championship in a 1200-point match against Luther Lassiter, as I mentioned earlier. In fact, somewhere on azbilliards.com, there's a mention of a Leroy Nieman lithograph featuring Lassiter sitting in his chair, frustratingly gazing at Cranfield stretched over the pool table. I saw that very same painting hanging on one of the walls in Babe's house. (If someone comes across one like it, I'm a willing buyer.)

Arthur "Babe" Cranfield was a true gentleman by all measures. He was never a gambler or hustler. He was a true sportsman and a great role model. On our walks back from the rec. center, he'd give me great advice; "Focus on your studies," he'd say.

In 1996, I finally understood what Joe Bocardo meant when he insisted I must choose a path. So, pool suddenly took a back seat as I began focusing on building my first company. I certainly kept playing and improving my game over the years, but it no longer consumed me or superseded my priorities.

I now live in South Florida and spar on a regular basis with a great player and champion, Tom Wirth. Tom Won the 1993 Strawberry One Pocket Invitational by beating Jose Parica in the finals. He and I play a set of rotation, a game of straight pool and a set of One Pocket every time we meet at Slate Billiards in Boynton Beach. You ought to check out his newly released book on One Pocket. It's mid blowing!

Just the other day, as I was in the midst of a straight pool inning, I told Tom that I keep imagining Babe Cranfield in the back of the room looking over. When faced with a dilemna, I'd ask myself, what would Babe have done here?

Peter Ghostine
peterghostine@hotmail.com

Great post Peter! I have the 1964 World Championship print you mentioned framed and hanging in my pool room. I found it on Ebay a few years ago and wouldn't be surprised if the seller was still selling copies. BTW I just bought a copy of Tom's new 1P book and it's well worth the money!
 

One Rock

Registered
Great post Peter! I have the 1964 World Championship print you mentioned framed and hanging in my pool room. I found it on Ebay a few years ago and wouldn't be surprised if the seller was still selling copies. BTW I just bought a copy of Tom's new 1P book and it's well worth the money!

That's the one! If you ever decide to sell it, please let me know.
 

acousticsguru

player/instructor
Silver Member
I just saw this thread about Babe Cranfield and not much information was shared about him so far. I also did a search for his name, but it looks like he is only mentioned in passing from time to time. So I thought I'd pick your guys' collective mind.

I know that he is rumored to have run 768 or so in practice, so he must have been at least a middle of the road type of 14.1 player - ha ha.

Any info/legends about this great player?

Heard/read the rumors about that practice run, too (remembering the exact same number). Cranfield's official high run (in exhibition) was 423.

Greetings from Switzerland, David.
_________________

„J'ai gâché vingt ans de mes plus belles années au billard. Si c'était à refaire, je recommencerais.“ – Roger Conti
 

george canon

Registered
Its sad, that so many great players like Babe, are fading from pool history, and today, few know anything about them, or what they did.
 

Bob Jewett

AZB Osmium Member
Gold Member
Silver Member
My encounter with Arthur "Babe" Cranfield

... Was Babe a world champion? By all means! In 1964 (I think), he challenged Luther Lassiter, who had just won the world championship, to a 1200-point match and managed to beat him by over 400 points (I think Lassiter's final score was in the 700's). Back then, a player could challenge the sitting champion and possibly get the opportunity to "steal the belt."

...

Peter Ghostine
peterghostine@hotmail.com
Just to complete this, here is that challenge from Charlie Ursitti's records:

CropperCapture[183].jpg

Adjusted for inflation, Cranfield got $12,600 and Lassiter got $8,400.
 

AtLarge

AzB Gold Member
Gold Member
Silver Member
If they had bet $500 a block Lassiter would have won all 6 blocks.
Wimpy was as solid as they came for the cheese.
Post 29 shows that they were playing for some cheese -- a $500 difference between winning and losing the match. That's about the same as $4,200 today. Luther was probably trying to win.
 

G&M

AzB Silver Member
Silver Member
Just to complete this, here is that challenge from Charlie Ursitti's records:

View attachment 573924
Adjusted for inflation, Cranfield got $12,600 and Lassiter got $8,400.
Bob - Babe had not been competing much for years before the early 60s. He told me once that the reason he got back into tournaments at that time was because, after the Hustler, the prize money got better. Also, he had two sons who were getting ready to go off to school so his family could use the extra income if he could place well enough in competition. A friend of his let him practice in his poolroom in the early am, before Babe had to go to work. So he was able to get some solid practice in while still holding his day job. And the rest is history.

Larry Moy
 
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