Billiard Hall Owner and Professional Player Frank McGown Dies in Billings, Montana

jay helfert

Shoot Pool, not people
Gold Member
Silver Member
A great, often overlooked, Straight Pool champion in the 1960's and 70's. He moved to Montana in the late 70's to work for George Frank the owner of Corner Pockets of America, the first big chain of poolrooms. At one time they had over three dozen locations and Frank was the general manager of the chain.

Several of the original Corner Pockets still exist and Frank owned one himself for many years. He played slooowww but very good. I ref'd for him in one of Fred Whalen's events in the early 70's. It was hard to remember the ball count, because he took so long between shots. RIP Frank. You can take all the time you want now.
 

freddy the beard

Freddy Bentivegna
Silver Member
Slooooowww...

A great, often overlooked, Straight Pool champion in the 1960's and 70's. He moved to Montana in the late 70's to work for George Frank the owner of Corner Pockets of America, the first big chain of poolrooms. At one time they had over three dozen locations and Frank was the general manager of the chain.

Several of the original Corner Pockets still exist and Frank owned one himself for many years. He played slooowww but very good. I ref'd for him in one of Fred Whalen's events in the early 70's. It was hard to remember the ball count, because he took so long between shots. RIP Frank. You can take all the time you want now.

Frank and I played a 4 out of 7 onepocket race at one of Fred Whalen's tourns in LA. Frank wasnt much of a onepocket player, but a serious force in straight pool. I happened to win the match 4 games to 2 in just under 4 1/2 hours! As horrible as that sounds, in the course of the match, two of the games I won I ran 8 and out! He actually played top speed straight pool
RIP Frank with your good shootin' East Coast straight pool ass.

Beard
 

lfigueroa

AzB Silver Member
Silver Member


A real gentleman and a class player who could play some beautiful straight pool. Back when I lived in Montana, my home room was TJs and The Corner Pocket and I had a chance to play Frank in an exhibition there.

(insert flashback music)

Back in the late 70's I was stationed at Malmstrom Air Force Base, just outside of Great Falls, MT. One year, The Corner Pocket up there decided to bring in Frank McGowan, former 14.1 champ, for an exhibition. The manager, Joanie, asked if I'd be willing to be the sitting duck and play him 125 points of straight pool, before McGowan shot some trick shots. I said sure.

Well, I don't know what I was thinking. But I had seen Mosconi do his exhibition several times before. And I kinda suspected that McGowan would follow the usual routine for these affairs and show up in a suit, or a coat and tie. So, for reasons that are still unclear to me today, I decided that the appropriate thing for me to do in this situation was to also wear a suit. The only problem was that, at the time, I only owned one suit. It was a perfectly fine suit: a three-piece; in light gray; white shirt; skinny bright red tie.

Think Bond. James Bond.

So it's time for the exhibition. There's a room full of people around one table and McGowan comes in, and I don't know, he takes one look at me -- three-piece suit; in light gray; white shirt; bright red tie -- and he kinda goes catatonic or something. I guess it would be like going out duck hunting and the first duck you see flies by in a tux.

Well, somehow I get the first shot. Clearly, I've thrown Frank off his game.

I start to run the balls. I get into the second rack. And then the third. Frank goes to the bathroom. I get into the fourth rack. The balls are *wide open.* And then comes the shot that I still remember today: a little baby two ball combination on the rail behind the rack that, as Danny McGoorty would have said, a drunk Girl Scout could've made if you held her up to the table long enough.

And I took it for granted and I hung up the ball.

I was told afterwards, by a friend who went into the bathroom at that point, that McGowan was in there washing his hands. When my buddy told him that I had just missed, McGowan went, "He missed?!" And McGowan comes flying out and quickly proceeds to make a dish of, "Shredded Duck ala Lou," with an 80-something run and then a 50-something.

Frank was a truly great player. RIP.

Lou Figueroa
 
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Terry Ardeno

I still love my wife
Silver Member
May he rest in peace.

So sorry to hear that Frank died. He was a good man.

I keep "books" on players and the first time I talked to Frank McGown was on April 3, 2000. I "interviewed" him and he was pleasantly surprised and seemed genuinely happy that someone "remembered" him.

Here's some excerpts from my notes on him....

He was born on Sept 27, 1933 and started playing pool at the age of 14.
His all-time high run was 288.

He says that he was not a natural but he did put in "lots and lots of practice."

Frank considered Luther Lassiter the 2nd best 14.1 player ever, behind only Mosconi. He even said that in his opinion, Lassiter was better at 14.1 than he was in 9 ball.

He considered Strickland and Sigel as the two greatest 9 ballers ever with "a slight edge to Strickland".

Frank claimed that Joe Balsis was a "sore loser" He called him gruff.

He also said that Irving Crane refused to gamble with Lassiter any more after Lassiter "destroyed him....practiced on him" in a 14.1 match.

He said that he considered "Ed Kelly just a notch below Lassiter, Balsis and me" in 14.1.

He called Ralph Greenleaf "a drunk" and said when he had the chance one night to either watch Greenleaf or Erwin Rudolph play in an exhibition in the same city, he chose to go watch Rudolph instead of Greenleaf because of Ralph's drinking habits.

He mentioned that Mosconi considered himself to be better than other players and privately would "put down other players."

He told me that "I can't really play anymore for fun....there has to be something involved." (money)

He considered Ed Kelly to be the best all around player, but called Lassiter a "great, great, great straight pool player who just didn't miss."

He asked me if anybody in pool nowadays ever talks about or mentions him, and he was pleased when I told him that yes, players still mention him.

We kept in touch from time to time over the years. He even wrote to me when he moved from Rimrock Road to Mariposa Lane so I would have his current address! I told him that I wanted to write a book someday on biographical sketches of the famous players and I wanted to have information on him to include in the book. A week or so later, I received a package from him and included was a book I had never seen entitled "The Fabulous Mr Ponzi" copyrighted 1948. It was the autobiography of Andrew Ponzi!

What I'll remember most about Frank was his kind and professional manner, especially when speaking. He loved his wife Sharon and he really loved Montana. I got the impression that he was very content with his life. He had the "awe, shucks" type attitude about his pool career. Other things, it seemed, were much more important to him.

This is a sad day. Let's say some prayers for his wife and children.
 

Island Drive

AzB Silver Member
Silver Member
There were four Corner Pockets in the C/Springs area, only one still is running as a pool room. Frank did come to the area once long ago, and I also remember a protoge that tagged along with him, pretty good player too. My first time seeing him was on TV in the 50's where they did straight pool matches, can't remember the programs name, but went on for quite a few years, he did get around that full rack good.
 

jay helfert

Shoot Pool, not people
Gold Member
Silver Member
There were four Corner Pockets in the C/Springs area, only one still is running as a pool room. Frank did come to the area once long ago, and I also remember a protoge that tagged along with him, pretty good player too. My first time seeing him was on TV in the 50's where they did straight pool matches, can't remember the programs name, but went on for quite a few years, he did get around that full rack good.

I think that was young Lance Saunders, originally from Ventura, CA. He moved up that way in the early 80's and went to work for Corner Pockets. Another victim of me and Jimmy Reid long ago. He was the rising star in the Ventura-Santa Barbara area in the 70's, and we heard about him. Jimmy couldn't wait to sink his teeth into a new victim. Jimmy robbed him at 9-Ball first and then they played Lance's best game - Straight Pool. I'd never seen Jimmy play 14.1 but he ran a 77 (something in the high 70's) right at the beginning and that was all she wrote. Jimmy was a monster back then, afraid of no one! Not even you McMeach! :rolleyes:
 

Jack Madden

John Madden Cues
Silver Member
A great, often overlooked, Straight Pool champion in the 1960's and 70's. He moved to Montana in the late 70's to work for George Frank the owner of Corner Pockets of America, the first big chain of poolrooms. At one time they had over three dozen locations and Frank was the general manager of the chain.

Several of the original Corner Pockets still exist and Frank owned one himself for many years. He played slooowww but very good. I ref'd for him in one of Fred Whalen's events in the early 70's. It was hard to remember the ball count, because he took so long between shots. RIP Frank. You can take all the time you want now.

One of the original Corner Pockets is in Kalispell, Montana. Different name -- The Cattlemens --- but still a hot bed for pool - leagues, casual game and tournaments. Frank was a gentleman, great promotor of the game, and very good player.
 

onepocket1

Champion Sweater
Silver Member
I didn't see it listed anywhere, but Frank McGown won the 1968 World 14.1Championship. There were 2 championships that year and Irving Crane won the other one that was contested that year.

Here's a link to his hometown newspaper's obituary......
http://billingsgazette.com/lifestyl...cle_699f5670-ae5a-11df-8b1b-001cc4c002e0.html

There were 3 players left in that tournament. Lassiter, Frank and Richie Florence. Lassiter was undefeated but lost to both Frank and Richie. Frank beat Richie in the finals - I never saw anyone play harder than Frank McGown. Sweat poured off of him as he stopped Richie. (the closest Richie ever came to 14-1 World Championship)
 

pdcue

AzB Silver Member
Silver Member
I didn't see it listed anywhere, but Frank McGown won the 1968 World 14.1Championship. There were 2 championships that year and Irving Crane won the other one that was contested that year.

Here's a link to his hometown newspaper's obituary......
http://billingsgazette.com/lifestyl...cle_699f5670-ae5a-11df-8b1b-001cc4c002e0.html

Thanks for the info. For all us old straight pool junkies, do you know
what those 2 tourneys were, and where held, etc.
Any info greatly apreciated.

Dale
 

BayGene

AzB Silver Member
Silver Member
1968 World

Somebody help me out here. I looked in Charles Ursiti's website and found only one World 14.1 for 1968, at the Terrace Ballroom of the Statler Hilton in April. McGown finished fourth (10-4). Crane, Lassiter, and Mizerak were 1-2-3.
 

Bob Jewett

AZB Osmium Member
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Here's an article from the March 1983 edition of Billiards Digest about the shot that completed McGown's 150-and-out run against Joe Balsis in the 1968 BRPAA championships.
 

jay helfert

Shoot Pool, not people
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Silver Member
There were 3 players left in that tournament. Lassiter, Frank and Richie Florence. Lassiter was undefeated but lost to both Frank and Richie. Frank beat Richie in the finals - I never saw anyone play harder than Frank McGown. Sweat poured off of him as he stopped Richie. (the closest Richie ever came to 14-1 World Championship)

Richie wasn't a Straight Pool player. He may have gotten a lesson or two from Lou Butera and Verne Peterson. That's about it. But he was the straightest shooter alive back then. He wasn't going to miss any ball out in the open. I saw him run over 100 balls (I think it was 106) and be out of line several times on every rack. He had to get hooked or tied up to end his run. Richie was a 9-Ball killer back then though. He destroyed a lot of well known hustlers when they came to L.A. By the late 60's, everyone was giving him a wide berth. And I mean everyone! Richie had to travel to Houston (Greg Stevens), or Atlanta (Billy Johnson, aka Wade Crane), or Pittsburgh (Bernie Schwartz) to get a game.

P.S. Richie did back down from a game with Cornbread in Detroit. Richie was willing to play for a thousand a game and Red said bet $10,000. Richie passed on this one. If he had the necessary bankroll, he probably would have played.
 
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Grady

Pro Player
Info

I don't know what the tournament was called or the exact year but 68' sounds about right. Frank won the straight pool championship at Charlie Millikin's place in Norwalk, CA. That event had a stellar field and it was where Lou Butera ran 150,and out in I think 26 minutes.
"Buttermilk" named Frank "slow death" for his slow play.Also, it should be noted that McGowen wasn't a great shotmaker but did play near perfect patterns.
 

pulzcul

"Chasinrainbows"
Silver Member
I'm sorry to hear of Frank's passing. I personally had not had the pleasure of knowing him but I do have friends here in Kalispell and Missoula that did. One is Terry Johnston in Kalispell and another is Pete Quande in Missoula. Both have related stories to me of Frank's prowice. Both had a great respect for his game. As I'm sure I would had I know him. I'll relay the news to them if they don't know already. RIP
 

Terry Ardeno

I still love my wife
Silver Member
I don't know what the tournament was called or the exact year but 68' sounds about right. Frank won the straight pool championship at Charlie Millikin's place in Norwalk, CA. That event had a stellar field and it was where Lou Butera ran 150,and out in I think 26 minutes.
"Buttermilk" named Frank "slow death" for his slow play.Also, it should be noted that McGowen wasn't a great shotmaker but did play near perfect patterns.

You're right, as usual, kind Professor! It was held in Norwalk and was not sanctioned by either the BRPAA or the BCA.

The National Billiard News, March 1968 issue, covers the tournament.

Here's a link that has some great info on Richie Florence, who finished second to Frank McGown in the aforementioned tournament. (The photo of Richie down a little on the right side says some words about this tournament that I mentioned he won......
http://www.tropicanabowlingalley.com/richie.html
 

Rich93

A Small Time Charlie
Silver Member
You're right, as usual, kind Professor! It was held in Norwalk and was not sanctioned by either the BRPAA or the BCA.

The National Billiard News, March 1968 issue, covers the tournament.

Here's a link that has some great info on Richie Florence, who finished second to Frank McGown in the aforementioned tournament. (The photo of Richie down a little on the right side says some words about this tournament that I mentioned he won......
http://www.tropicanabowlingalley.com/richie.html

Terry, I'm glad I clicked on your link. That long interview with Richie Florence was great, and included his perspective on losing 52,000 playing one pocket with Fats in Johnston City in 1970. Although I've read about it more than once I was never sure that it actually happened, but it did. Fats was pretty shrewd, that's for sure.
 

Grady

Pro Player
extra stuff

Not mentioned but important is that Frank, before moving west, was partners in Brooklyn, NY with Jean Balukas' dad in a pool room. They had a unique working arrangement. They'd work a month then take off a month. Worked for them.
 

Gerry

AzB Silver Member
Silver Member
I have an accustats around here somewhere with Jim Rempe commentating and he talks a little about great 14.1 players from the old school and Frank McGown was one of the first names he mentioned. Jim said ....."no one took the balls off the table like Frank McGown"

Funny thing.....My last name is only one letter off of Franks and I have been asked if we am related when I was introduced to older 14.1'rs here in the north east......I wish!
 
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