vised confrontation glossed by the dulcetrntones of Howard Cosell. It was no contest.rnWell—who cares? I do. Everyonernshould acknowledge the beauty and excellence,rnthe arete achieved through arduousrnyears of competition. After all,rnHerbert Spencer did not say, as he is oftenrnsupposed to have said, that “to playrnbilliards well was a sign of an ill-spentrnyouth.” He merely indicated thatrnCharles Roupell had made the remark.rnIn any case, it is one of those sayingsrnthat is exactly wrong—and ProfessorrnI larold Hill got that right in MeredithrnWillson’s ‘I’he Music Man: “It helps developrnhorse sense, and a cool head, and arnkeen eye,” though even in that case, therninvidious distinction that the professorrnwas making (between three-rail billiardsrnand pocket billiards) isn’t valid. No onerndid more to prove that than the authorsubjectrnof the present volume, who diedrnat the age of 80 on October 16. Flagsrnshould have been flown at half-mast inrnobservance of his passing, for WilliernMosconi was a national treasure.rnLike Joe DiMaggio and Ben Hogan,rnWillie Mosconi was the personificationrnof his sport, meticulously professional, anrnimpeccable gentleman who played a ballrngame at a level of Olympian transcendence.rnMere mortals who struggled withrntheir own limitations and the laws ofrnphysics could only look on in wonder atrnsomeone who seemed to play not onrngreen baize but upon an elevated Elysianrnfield—on a hermetic plane of concentrationrnthat excluded even his opponents.rnHe plavcd against himself, andrnwon often enough to immortalize hisrnname.rnIt is a pleasure and a privilege, readingrnthese pages, to hear a legend review thernlegends of his life. The legends are true.rnI mean, what can you do when you havernto play Ralph Greenleaf (the greatestrnpool-shooter before Mosconi, worldrnchampion 13 times) at 8:00 on stage atrnthe Strand Theater and you have ticketsrnfor Afcfe’slns/i Rose at 8:30? Easy. AfterrnGreenleaf breaks and plays a safe, yournrun off 125 nominated shots to win therngame, as well as an assortment of trickrnshots to satisfy the audience—all in 17rnminutes. When the curtain goes uprnacross Times Square, you’re in your seatrnand ready to continue a pleasantrnevening.rnThat was in 1948. Of course, therernwas a predictable background to suchrnskill and theatricality—Willie Mosconirnwas to the manner born, in Philadelphiarnin 1913 (the same year as Wanderone,rnwhom he referred to as “Wanderphony”).rnHis father owned a small pool hallrnfrom which the child was banned. Hernwas soon standing on an apple crate,rnrolling potatoes with a broom handlernupon a forbidden table. Moreover,rnWillie’s cousins were in vaudeville asrn”the Dancing Moseonis”—the combinationrnof pocket billiards with show businessrnseemed fated. Soon Willie, at thernage of seven, played an exhibition matchrnwith Ralph Greenleaf himself—”ThernGhild Prodigy versus the Wodd Ghampion.”rnI le would spend the next 25 yearsrndethroning his model and nemesis.rnThe young Mosconi soon tired of thernLIBERAL ARTSrnTAILIIOOKTRICKKRYrn111 .’.eekiiiij; lo piiiii.-;h \ron<;duiiii; in llic liiillmok M-S-JIIHIM.: scandal, I’tiila^dii offieijlsrn\jw ij;()^()ll^K pursued alleujed iiiiMOiicliiel by male oltieeis wliiji: mostly isjiuiriiij; alleijeilrniniscoiitliiel hv leiiiali: i)ffii.t;rs. lepoitfil llie SdJ? i Jii’i;o (•vion-lrihum’ lasl . i i -rn<;iist. . -leriior iiiali: olticer \li() hi-iiii; eoiirt-iiiarliaifd ftir piihlicK sliaviiig a It:-rniiiaieiithtfi’-ilLii’-. For example, staled that “it wa^a coii’sfioiisdeeisidii lo punish malern,ii,il(iis l(ir miic.ciiidiicl. I liat «:!•> tlie clirectioii. and iiivestiijatois were not yoing torni;et sidclrzukcl 1) llie niistondiK;! ol uoineii.” That dceisiini pioinptixi I’.laine Oonirni i l l . Itie ijresidiiil of the (;enter fui Military Ke.uliness and a liiiniei mc iiihcr nf arniwiicl .ippiiinled liv I’lo.Mtlcnt Knsii lostncK ihcrojeof Momeii ineiinibal, toeoinplaiiirnto Naw Secrel;irv John 1 ),ilton. In an August 23 letter to Daltoii, Doiinelk warnedrnllial “till- sele(lif pioscention, .iL[aiTi>f nun onlv.will not MIKO the prohlem ol .sc.tiialrnliaiasMiient in the a% oi aii ot the seiviec.>). ‘Ilie apparent doiilile staiidrirtl ,!l workrnIK re is holli ilemonli/in^ to N.iw men and ikineanint; to nillilar women.”rngame. He returned to it at the beginningrnof the Depression only as a way to supportrnhis extended family. He was a sharkrnbut never a hustler, and from the beginningrnhe took on the best at the highestrnlevel of structured competition. Suchrnyears took their toll: a stroke at the age ofrn43 retired Mosconi after 15 world championships,rnbut it did not keep him awayrnfrom the table. Nothing could keep himrnaway from that platform where he oncernran 526 balls before he tired; where hernbeat Willie I loppe, the personificationrnof three-rail billiards, at his own game;rnand where he did likewise to RexrnWilliams, the English snooker aee.rnSometimes Willie used two tables, asrnfor one of his most spectacular trickrnshots in which he knocked the cue ballrninto an are to another table where hernsank six balls. Ho hum.rnWillie’s Game tells it all, and gives usrnthe history of pool in America as it goes.rnThe book has two subtexts. One isrnWillie’s crusade to raise the level of therngame (“pocket billiards” to him, neverrn”pool”); the other is his struggle to win,rnhis painful education in what it takes tornbeat the best. He had to learn the hardrnway never to let up on an opponent. Asrnthe billiards impresario Sylvester EntwhistlernLivingston told him, “When yournhave the knife in, twist it.” Since thatrnwas against Willie’s nature, the strugglernwith others was a struggle with himself.rnFinally, Willie Moseoni learned the secretrnof the game: “But the best lesson ofrna l l . . . is a simple one: Don’t miss! If yourndon’t miss you don’t have to worry aboutrnanything else. I always kept that rule inrnmind when I shot, and I left many a sonof-rna-bitch sitting in that chair a longrnwhile waiting to shoot again.”rnWillie Mosconi did indeed raise thernlevel of the game by the example of hisrnperformance and dapper, graceful demeanor.rnHe was the last man in thernworld we could ever think of as “behindrnthe eight ball” or “snookered.” His bookrnis even more than entertainment and instruction,rnand for that some of the creditrnmust go to Stanley Gohen. It is a worthyrnmemorial to the Achilles of the feltrnand the Heifetz of the cue, and highlyrnrecommended to those enlightenedrnsouls who would rather read about thernBilliard Congress of America than thernUnited States Congress.rn].0. Tate is a professor ofrnEnglish at Dowling College onrnLong Island.rn30/CHRONICLESrnrnrn