Willie Mosconi vs. Jimmy Caras – ABC’s Wide World Of Sports (1963)

Willie Mosconi vs. Jimmy Caras – ABC’s Wide World Of Sports (1963)

Author
  • Video Quality
  • Quality of Commentary
  • Instructional Value
  • Historical Significance
  • Caliber of Players in Match

The name Willie Mosconi is or should be familiar to anyone who follows professional billiards on television – the annual Mosconi 9-ball US vs. EU tournament is named after him. You can read more about him on Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Willie_Mosconi

The name Jimmy Caras is not as familiar, though as a contemporary of Mosconi’s, he was equally legendary in his time. You can read a brief biography of Caras on this BCA Hall Of Fame page: http://bca-pool.com/?page=33

ABC’s Wide World Of Sports was an American “sports anthology” TV program that aired on ABC Television from 1961 to 1998. All through the 60’s and 70s, it was a Saturday afternoon TV staple back when there were only three major TV networks (and if your town was not in a major market, you were lucky if there were more stations available).

The pool match in this Youtube video dates back to 1963, only two years into the TV series’ life. It’s remarkable to me that this program even exists, much less is available for viewing on Youtube.

The match played in this video is straight pool, a.k.a. “14.1 Continuous.” If you are unfamiliar with this game: the idea is that a rack is played out, with players earning one point for each ball pocketed. Players must call their shots. When 14 of the balls in the rack have been pocketed, the cue ball and remaining object ball remain in their positions, and the other 14 balls are racked up at the head string with the head string ball space left empty in the rack. Play continues from this point until, again, only the cue ball and one object ball remain. This process continues until one of the players reaches the point count established at the start of the match. In the case of the Mosconi/Caras match, that point count is 125.

Searching Youtube for 14.1 continuous billiard match video, there are a large number of them available. However, you won’t find any videos older than this one. Because of its age, there are technical flaws – the worst one being that the audio volume of the broadcast drops dramatically at about the 11 minute mark. But it’s still audible if you crank the volume to the max – and besides, it’s the imagery that is the real treat here.

Please note: the video is black and white and the resolution is low fidelity. Both players are wearing suits and ties. The scoreboard is manual. The camera angles are limited. The video may strike you as quaint, and is very much a product of its time. That said, it’s fun to watch what the game of professional billiards looked and felt like over 50 years ago.

 

SPOILERS AHEAD

 

One of the remarkable aspects of this match is the degree to which Caras manages to stymie Mosconi throughout the match. Bear in mind: Mosconi was a monster at the table, and won many 14.1 titles in his career. Going into this match, one would expect Mosconi to have at the very least given Caras a run for his money. But the opposite is the case: Caras dominates the entire match, giving Mosconi precious few opportunities to get any momentum going.

But the real revelation of this match is watching Jimmy’s style of play. It’s deliberate, fast and without hesitation. He moves around the table like a cat, wasting almost no time from shot to shot. Despite the speed with which he plays, his shotmaking is near flawless, and his position play is astounding in its precision and consistency. He chalks up his cue tip after every shot. He sets up for a shot, takes no more (or less) practice strokes than necessary, stays down through the stroke and the follow-through before springing to an upright position and moving efficiently into position for the next shot. Occasionally you’ll see him stop and look at the table for a bit, chalk up a little longer, walk briskly around the table to view the balls from different angles, set up for a shot only to change his mind and go for a different shot. He only plays safe shots when he’s certain he can’t pocket a ball and get adequate position on another ball. He pulls off amazing combos in seemingly impossible situations. It’s an astounding performance to watch – highly recommended.

Tom O’Neill is an I.T. professional, electronic/computer musician and amateur pool player living in New Haven County, CT. He started playing the game regularly and joined an APA league in his mid 40s, relatively late in life compared to most players. As such, having not developed the kind of muscle memory most pool players already have by that time, he’s had to work a bit harder than most to gain a degree of expertise in the game. He considers himself a student of the game; he has worked with a number of pool training products and read a number of books on the subject. He intends to share his experience with these products and books on this site over the coming weeks and months. He is active on social media and Soundcloud, links for which can be found at http://doctechnical.com.

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