Who's the best, past to present

dabarbr

AzB Silver Member
Silver Member
I wrote this a few years ago in reference to a couple of threads here on AZ comparing yesterdays players against todays. This is my opinion.






Who's the best
By Frank Almanza
I have been asked many times to compare the players from yesteryear to today's crop. This question has always been asked about all sports. This age-old question may never be answered, but we certainly can try to make some comparisons. We can first start off by generalizing that the human species has not gone through any drastic evolutionary change in the last few hundred years, much less in the last 60 or 70 years. So, we can say, that there wouldn't be any significant differences in our physical or mental make up. Thus, with the physical and mental makeup being pretty much even with the players of yesterday and today, we can say that the significant difference would be in the equipment. Unlike us, our equipment has undergone drastic changes in the last 60 or 70 years.

I'm sure yesterday's players would have marveled at the equipment that we enjoy today. Better cloths; cue sticks, cue balls and object balls, etc. A lot of the equipment from the years gone by era was good, but not as good as what we're used to, considering today's standards.

So, what ruler or gage can we use to compare? Is there a way to compare some of the legends of years gone by? Can we take players like Mosconi, Greenleaf, Lassiter and so many of the other great players from that era, and try to compare them to with players of this new generation? Players like Reyes, Strickland, Archer and others. Probably not.

We're obviously including the great players from the very recent past. Some of these players are still very active today, but many of them in this group, are just a dim glow of their original brightness. This gang includes Segal, Mizarak, Rempe and that entire bunch. No offense to you gentlemen, but time marches on. Now the Barber speaks…

Having talked to many of today's older generation, the consensus is that they seem to favor the legends from yesterday. This, in my opinion, has something to do mostly with nostalgia, Like on the other side of the coin, young people I have talked to, favor today's players. Understandably so, not having seen much more.

My introduction to this game, that has become a life companion to me, was in the mid-fifties. At that time, there were still some remnants of old equipment that was held over from earlier times. I'm sure some of you remember pushing those clay balls around the table on a cloth that was once probably a blanket. Try to compare them with today's balls and fine cloths. Not to mention, the high quality cue sticks that are available to us now… big difference!

I wonder if the players from the past, players that would consistently run hundreds of balls, would have much higher runs if they had today's equipment? Probably so, but I also think that if today's players were into straight pool as much as players in the past were, they also would have comparable high runs.

In the previous generation of pool, the major game for tournaments was straight pool. Some challenge matches between two players lasted for days, while the magic number for the win, would be in the thousands. They would set their schedule to play a pre-determined number of hours each day, until someone would reach that magic number.

The only match that I can recall from recent memory that would compare, was the nine-ball match pitting Earl Strickland against Efren Reyes in a race to 120 games. That match had Earl leading until the final half dozen games, only to see Efren win the match 120 to 117. In my opinion, if the match had been a race to 200, Earl would have reached 120 games first, and by a good margin. Sometimes strange things happen to people near the end of a match. Anyway, these are the types of matches that are necessary if one wants to be able to compare the differences between players.

I guess it really doesn't matter who was the best ever. The only important thing that we can concern ourselves with, is, who is the best today. What we do know, is that a player, in order to be considered great, must pass the test of time with a lasting career. We'll let the incoming generations do their own comparisons. Many of our fine young players today have much to contribute to the game. Maybe some day in the future, people will try to compare them with their own generation. The only thing we know for sure, is that there's always a constant changing of the guard.

Most of us, in the course of our lifetime, search for something that we can excel at. Most of those that do find their niche, whatever it may be, may have just happened into it because somewhere along the way, they were exposed to it.

It could be that the greatest pool player there ever would be, is, somewhere, right now, driving a truck, programming a computer, washing dishes, or doing one of millions of other things, except playing pool. This individual may possess all the talents and inborn skills to become the greatest pool player there ever was, but may go through his entire life never knowing this, because of never having been introduced to pool.
 

TATE

AzB Gold Mensch
Gold Member
Silver Member
It could be that the greatest pool player there ever would be, is, somewhere, right now, driving a truck, programming a computer, washing dishes, or doing one of millions of other things, except playing pool. This individual may possess all the talents and inborn skills to become the greatest pool player there ever was, but may go through his entire life never knowing this, because of never having been introduced to pool.

A truly wise and thought provoking observation. What if Earl or Shane or Efren had just played a few games and quit?
 

8ballEinstein

AzB Silver Member
Silver Member
Copping out???

Well Frank, that was a great read but I was hoping you were going to nail down which players or which generation of players had the nuts. I know you've seen more than just a few players in your long career. Sure, there are difficulties in comparing players from different eras but certainly some would rise to the top, no matter the game or equipment available. I can't imagine bringing back Mosconi and putting him on a modern table, then finding out he's just a good shortstop. On the flip side, Earl wouldn't be helpless on the earlier equipment, guaranteed. So cough it up, Frank. Who gets the nod for being the best? Which generation had the best chops?

Also, I gotta take issue with the quality of cue sticks available then and now. Back in the day, there were custom cue makers who cranked out wonderful hitting cues. Certainly you've shot with a Balabuska or Rambow. These cues have a hit and feel that would rival what's on the market today. Not knocking the modern cues because I know they're pretty darn good nowadays.

Your last point reminded me of what Minnesota Fats had to say about fate. "A fella could be the worlds best skier but, unfortunately, happens to live in Hawaii. Or the guy who would be a virtuoso violinist but lives in Alaska. They never discover their true calling. I don't have that problem, you see. I'm the best pool player they is or ever wlll be."

You had to love ole Fatty.
 
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