Ralph Greenleaf - One of the greatest to play the game

MurrayNevada

AzB Gold Member
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Growing up my grandfather (Born in the 1890's) often spoke of seeing Ralph Greenleaf play in New York City. He thought he was greater than Mosconi and all the other greats. I didn't know the incredible, and sad, story of Greenleaf until I read the book cited below. It is well written and flows very well. Very informative and presents a history of the game.

Greenleaf: Pool's Greatest Champion​

Available on Amazon: https://tinyurl.com/y7kltocj
 

jay helfert

Shoot Pool, not people
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I'm old enough to have known many of the old time players who competed against both Greenleaf and Mosconi. To a man they ALL said Greenleaf was the better player.
 

L.S. Dennis

Active member
I'm old enough to have known many of the old time players who competed against both Greenleaf and Mosconi. To a man they ALL said Greenleaf was the better player.
I read in one of Babe Cranfield’s books that he also thought Greenleaf was the best of all time. He said that Greenleaf was a master of limited cue ball movement, so much so that he said Greanleaf could run two racks and not hit a rail once.
 

AtLarge

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I read in one of Babe Cranfield’s books that he also thought Greenleaf was the best of all time. He said that Greenleaf was a master of limited cue ball movement, so much so that he said Greanleaf could run two racks and not hit a rail once.
Perhaps you are remembering something from The Straight Pool Bible by Cranfield and Moy. In the chapter on "Minimizing Cue Ball Movement," Cranfield says this about Greenleaf: "How skillful was Greenleaf at controlling the cue ball? I once saw him run 60 balls and only hit the rail with the cue ball two times over the whole run!"
 

Dan White

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I'm old enough to have known many of the old time players who competed against both Greenleaf and Mosconi. To a man they ALL said Greenleaf was the better player.
Maybe it is like arguing which color is better on a sports car, but Mosconi claimed in his autobiography that he had the best of Greenleaf by the time their road trip was winding up. Of course he learned a lot by watching Greenleaf, so...
 

kling&allen

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I thought about including this data in the book, but concluded it detracted from my main point--that Greenleaf made pool popular and the sport's popularity quickly faded without him. I didn't find a single source who said that Mosconi was the better player. But everyone loved Greenleaf so those recollections are biased. Billiards Digest (Dyer / Ursitti) did a good comparison of the data here:


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But I will note that Greenleaf played on 10 foot tables against must tougher competition than Mosconi later faced in the post-WW2 era. Most of Mosconi's tournament victories were on 9 footers played in invitationals with only a handful of players. By WW2, when Greenleaf was in his mid-40s and Mosconi was in his early 30s, Willie was certainly the better player as shown in their 1945 tournament showdown. I think 1937-1940 is a better comparison as Greenleaf was in better health (he was in his late 30s) and Mosconi was a full adult (mid 20s). Greenleaf dominated Mosconi during those years and didn't lose a single reported match to him.

Of course, if you asked who to bet on, I'd say Mosconi. Willie always showed up on time and in condition to play.
 

alstl

AzB Silver Member
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Speaking of Greenleaf and Mosconi I've seen a list of who Greenleaf defeated in his world championships. Is there a list available of who Mosconi defeated in his world championships?
 

L.S. Dennis

Active member
Maybe it is like arguing which color is better on a sports car, but Mosconi claimed in his autobiography that he had the best of Greenleaf by the time their road trip was winding up. Of course he learned a lot by watching Greenleaf, so...
If I remember correctly about that famous ‘road trip’ that the older Greenleaf and the young Mosconi took (I forget who was the sponsor but it ended up with Greenleaf 57 and Mosconi 50 or something like that. The interesting thing is that most of Mosconi’s wins came toward the end of that trip which would lead you to believe that Mosconi was getting better and better and probably would have overtaken Greenleat had it continued.

Mosconi recalls learning much from Greanleaf on that road trip.
 
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L.S. Dennis

Active member
Perhaps you are remembering something from The Straight Pool Bible by Cranfield and Moy. In the chapter on "Minimizing Cue Ball Movement," Cranfield says this about Greenleaf: "How skillful was Greenleaf at controlling the cue ball? I once saw him run 60 balls and only hit the rail with the cue ball two times over the whole run!"
Yes I think you are correct, I have that book somewhere in my collection and it’s most likely that it came from that source.
 

Dan White

AzB Silver Member
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If I remember correctly about that famous ‘road trip’ that the older Greenleaf and the young Mosconi took (I forget who was the sponsor but it ended up with Greenleaf 57 and Mosconi 50 or something like that. The interesting thing is that most of Mosconi’s wins came toward the end of that trip which would lead you to believe that Mosconi was getting better and better and probably would have overtaken Greenleat had it continued.

Mosconi recalls learning much from Greanleaf on that road trip.
And don't forget that Greenleaf made Mosconi do all the driving from stop to stop so that he could rest his eyes.
 

L.S. Dennis

Active member
And don't forget that Greenleaf made Mosconi do all the driving from stop to stop so that he could rest his eyes.
That part I hadn’t heard of, but being much younger I’m sure Willie could have handled the driving and eliminating the chances of getting a DUI had Greenleaf been at the wheel!
 

kling&allen

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That part I hadn’t heard of, but being much younger I’m sure Willie could have handled the driving and eliminating the chances of getting a DUI had Greenleaf been at the wheel!

In Dyer's book on Willie and Fats, Willie's son alluded to a bad car crash that Willie survived while on the road, but one that caused lifelong pain. Dyer suggests that this crash occured on one of the Willie and Ralph tours.
 

L.S. Dennis

Active member
In Dyer's book on Willie and Fats, Willie's son alluded to a bad car crash that Willie survived while on the road, but one that caused lifelong pain. Dyer suggests that this crash occured on one of the Willie and Ralph tours.
It’s funny I have that book although it’s been a while since I’ve read it. Great book and well researched as I recall.
 

Dan White

AzB Silver Member
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I thought about including this data in the book, but concluded it detracted from my main point--that Greenleaf made pool popular and the sport's popularity quickly faded without him. I didn't find a single source who said that Mosconi was the better player. But everyone loved Greenleaf so those recollections are biased. Billiards Digest (Dyer / Ursitti) did a good comparison of the data here:


View attachment 598582

But I will note that Greenleaf played on 10 foot tables against must tougher competition than Mosconi later faced in the post-WW2 era. Most of Mosconi's tournament victories were on 9 footers played in invitationals with only a handful of players. By WW2, when Greenleaf was in his mid-40s and Mosconi was in his early 30s, Willie was certainly the better player as shown in their 1945 tournament showdown. I think 1937-1940 is a better comparison as Greenleaf was in better health (he was in his late 30s) and Mosconi was a full adult (mid 20s). Greenleaf dominated Mosconi during those years and didn't lose a single reported match to him.

Of course, if you asked who to bet on, I'd say Mosconi. Willie always showed up on time and in condition to play.
But it is Mosconi (and Crane) who holds the high run record of 309 on a 10' table. Not sure if Greenleaf ever attempted such a thing, though.
 

Dan White

AzB Silver Member
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In Dyer's book on Willie and Fats, Willie's son alluded to a bad car crash that Willie survived while on the road, but one that caused lifelong pain. Dyer suggests that this crash occured on one of the Willie and Ralph tours.
Interesting. Never heard about that!
 

AtLarge

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I believe Mosconi also had a 355 that might also have been on a 5x10 not sure though
According to Willie's autobiography, he broke the 309 record with a 322 on 4/22/1953 and then beat that with a 365 on 11/13/1953. In that latter game, the run was from his own opening break shot, playing the head 1-ball in a side pocket. The book does not mention the table size for those two runs, but since the 10-footer record is often said to be 309, it must have been 9-footers for those two runs. And then about 4 months after the 365, he ran the 526 (on an 8-footer).
 
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Bob Jewett

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According to Willie's autobiography, he broke the 309 record with a 322 on 4/22/1953 and then beat that with a 365 on 11/13/1953. In that latter game, the run was from his own opening break shot, playing the head 1-ball in a side pocket. The book does not mention the table size for those two runs, but since the 10-footer record is often said to be 309, it must have been 9-footers for those two runs. And then about 4 months after the 365, he ran the 526 (on an 8-footer).
I sort of recall a discussion where one of the larger 300-ball runs was on a 10-foot table. I'll try to see if there is any mention in the rules/records books.
 
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