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Early Days - The Cellar

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  • Early Days - The Cellar

    My dad was laid off for about a year and a half at one point in 1978, the year before I was born. He had either just bought a pool table before he got laid off, or he bought it soon after, to help pass the time. It was nothing special and he bought the cheapest cues he could fine at a discount store or sports store. He and my two uncles, who both lived next door (they all built houses on family land) played a lot of pool while he was laid off.

    The following are the earliest memories that I can remember when I started playing.

    It just wasn't possible to draw the cue ball. In fact it was very difficult to not miscue. Never mind the fact that I didn't know that drawing the cue ball was even a thing, or the fact that I didn't have any fundamentals or teaching, by anyone who was remotely qualified. But the tips on the cues were just so bad. My dad had a tip kit with a strange looking contraption to hold the tip in place, he kept it in an old cigar box, with the oldest and cheapest tips that someone probably gave to him for free. If a cue slipped out of our hand and fell it was nearly a sure thing the tip would come off when it hits the cement floor of the basement. I remember they were always nearly perfectly square, that is, we never bothered to round them at all. I tried to do my own tip several times, but never got the knack for it.

    There was a large yellow stain in the green felt from when I was in diapers (cloth diapers, of course) and let go of a full bladder. So in other words, the table still had the original cloth from 1978.

    There was a sum pump in the corner of the room that we would sometimes have to kick to activate. We would often have to reach down the water hole to retrieve balls that flew off the table. The cement block was discolored from mold buildup. The cushions on the table had rubber type buildup that had accumulated (grown?) on the outside of the felt in a beady line at the apex of the cushion.

    After we started playing again he decided to get a new cue, with screw on tips. These were the bomb compared to what we had prior. The new cue was a three piece cue. I would often only piece together two of the pieces so that it was a shorter length. There was an obstruction at one corner of the table, a Bench Press rack that was the most used piece of equipment in our house until I started getting into playing pool. (My dad could absolutely crush a softball. If I had a dollar for every time I met someone who heard my last name and asked me if my dad was..."Yep, that's him.")

    My dad had a metal cue that was black, two piece, that we called Midnight. Whenever my sister and I played against each other we would argue over who got to use Midnight. It would be cold, but much smoother than the others. During the summer, or whenever the humidity was high, Midnight was useless, as there would be the slightest amount of condensation that would prevent it from sliding through your fingers. Midnight was still my favorite though. It can still be found in my parents basement.
    Last edited by youngstownkid; 01-19-2017, 10:30 PM.

  • #2
    Early Days - The Cellar

    My dad used to have a book by Willie Mosconi. It was small and red. Maybe called his little red book or something. I used to try to do drills from it, but I wasn't really good enough to benefit much from it. I would get home from school before he got home from work. (Yes, I was a "latchkey kid" lol.) I would practice for our daily 50 cent match, which would only be close because he would sandbag it. As soon as he would get home I'd start on him to come play, but I always had to wait. While he was reading the paper, I'd practice. He would usually grab something quick to eat, while I was waiting I would be hitting balls. During the summer, he would just lay at the top of the stairs, exhausted from work, dismissing calls from me to come down and play.

    He was very competitive and loved sports. He played college baseball for YSU and I think tried out for football too. He never seemed to push me but had a knack for planting the thought and making it my decision. Looking back on it, I can just picture him laying there at the top of the steps, shirtless and sweating (we didn't have A/C back then), but smiling at the sound of the clicking of the balls, and the thought of me being so motivated.

    This would go on for a year or so, but it wasn't long before he no longer enjoyed playing with me because soon I was the one sandbagging it to keep it close. No amount of begging seemed to matter and after a while, I stopped asking.
    Last edited by youngstownkid; 01-19-2017, 10:31 PM.


    • #3
      Early Days - The Cellar

      Here is a picture of my dad and my firstborn, both named Andrew, taken this weekend. It was around my son's age that I can remember playing and have written these early days journal entries about, even though I played since I was cushion high to a Brunswick, having to stand on a stool to see over the table, shooting with my arms over my shoulders.

      I hope that my son looks back and thinks as fondly as I do about the games we play. This was a picture of their first ever 50 cent match. My son lost on a cross side 8b that double crossed him. It won't be long before he'll set his sights on another opponent (me)!


      • #4
        Early Days - The Cellar

        When I was a freshman in high school, one of the juniors was getting rid of a pool table. For free. That was exactly in my price range! It was not a slate table, and it had been a cat bed for a while, but I couldn't have been more thrilled. We scratched the one corner metal piece when we set it on its side (fully assembled) in his driveway. Then we put it in the bed of a pickup to bring it to its new home.

        When I got it home I was even more thrilled to learn that the parts were nearly interchangeable. So I was able to keep the slate from the old table and use the newer rails, cushions, and felt from the cat house table. After some sweat , elbow grease, and testing the vacuum's threshold for cat hair, I had a new pride and joy and something to give me an excuse to continue my love affair with cue sports. It had three corners that were shiny brass, and one that was black plastic. It made no difference to me, though.

        For the next year or two this table suited me just fine. I had a couple other friends who had tables in their basement, but I was already the kid to beat in my small little world, and with the novelty of this "new" table I was going to spend a whole lot more time in the basement!
        Last edited by youngstownkid; 01-04-2017, 01:20 AM.


        • #5
          Early Days - The Cellar

          When I was a junior in high school I had saved up enough money to get "my" table re-felted. I didn't know any pool players since I never went anywhere to play. I didn't even know about any pool halls back then, since I was 16 and had just got my license and my parents were very protective and strict about where I went. The only thing I really cared to travel for, and was allowed to travel for, was basketball. I was all about being able to dunk a basketball. (Man, the hours I spent on jumping exercises was insane!).

          So I had to look up pool places in the phone book. After making a few calls, a local guy named Mike came by to take a look. Mike owned a pool hall in 25 minutes from where I grew up, which was a long ways away for a 16 year old back then. After replacing the felt, Mike shot a game of pool with me, and was about to give me my very first lesson, but we'll get to that after I give some much needed background.

          Now by this time, I had been playing pool for 14 years supposedly. According to my parents I started shooting at age 2, but that's ridiculous. How much would any kid play that young, right? The answer to that is simply and unarguably "Enough to get some very bad habits!"

          I used a "Praying Mantis" bridge. I'm not sure if this is a term that has been used very often so I'll explain it. If you stick your first two fingers up in the air like your trying to do an impression of a praying mantis getting into a fighting position with its front arms, then let the cue sit right in between the V of your fingers - that's a praying mantis bridge. It gets better. This wasn't even the weirdest part.

          My grip hand was completely supinated. That is, my thumb was pointing along the butt toward the bottom with my palm facing the same direction as my chest. Try to do this. It's not easy! If you try to turn your hand in that position you should feel the tension in your back shoulder increase dramatically. I used to get the worst aches in my shoulder after playing for hours. The first time I ever went to the chiropractor he noticed that I had a really bad knot in my right shoulder. So in order to get the knot out he tried pulling on my arm but that didn't work. Then he got underneath the table and I was laying on grabbed my arm with both his hands and picked himself up off the floor. My chiropractor has lost some weight over the years back then he was probably pretty close to about 300 pounds. So I've got this 300 pound guy pulling on my arm and nothing's happening. Then he starts swinging back-and-forth trying to loosen up my arm and then all the sudden the knot let go and my arm length increased about an inch or so! It was so painful and yet felt so good all at the same time!

          And there was my eyes, or should I say my left eye, which would be closed while I'm down in my stance. To this day I still do it and I can't stop. I've tried. Several. Times. Early on I noticed that I could aim better if could closed my left eye. I remember thinking that it had something to do with if I looked at things two dimensionally as opposed to three dimensionally, but it might be more of a dominant eye thing. I have asked people about it and everybody says something different. One person who I respect very much (as he is in the Billiard Encyclopedia of Hustlers) said something that stuck with me, and that was that he had never been beaten so badly than by a guy who only had one eye.

          So, anyway, about that lesson. This guy was watching me shoot with one eye closed, using a praying mantis bridge, and a grip hand in a supinated position... and do you know what he told me? He said "Whatever you do don't let anybody change the way you shoot! You will get so much action it will be insane!" He also showed me how to shoot a masse shot, which was very natural for me because I was already in a position where I could easily jack up because of the way my hand position was. I mean for the first six years of my life, I shot jacked up overhead all the time so shooting a masse shot felt very comfortable for me. Being taught something like that, at that age..., man, I soaked that up and I practiced that like crazy. I could not make a 20° cut reliably but I could control the cue ball the length of the table with a curve 1 inch, 2 inches, 3 inches like it was no problem.

          The best way to describe my pool game at this time was very inconsistent (due to a bad stroke because of nonexistent fundamentals) but extremely crafty because I would practice the stuff that I thought was cool, not the stuff that would make me better.

          The pic isn't one of me, but my second son, taken when he was around 7 maybe.

          He's 9 now and still not tall enough to actually have good posture so I try to encourage him to use this platform shown in the picture.
          Last edited by youngstownkid; 01-04-2017, 11:20 AM.