Widely acclaimed as the premier Bank Pool player of all time, many consider Eddie Taylor one of the very best One Pocket players of all time as well. And before his eyesight began to fail him, Eddie was right there in 9-Ball, too. Clearly Eddie Taylor is one of the finest all-around players ever to pick up a cue, for which he was honored in 1993 by election to the Billiard Congress of America Hall of Fame.
OnePocket.org: Could you tell us a little about how you developed into such a great Banks and One Pocket player?
Eddie Taylor: My first game was pool of course, but then I got into Snooker when I was about 14 years old and I got to be a very good Snooker player, but there was no money in it. All of the money games around the South — especially in Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama and a couple other states — all the money games were on Bank Pool. That’s how come I wound up playing Banks.
OnePocket.org: So you followed the money…
Eddie Taylor: I was sixteen years old and I was playing very, very good Banks at that time. Earl Shriver and a guy they called Erie Fats — who was a tremendous player of everything — came to Lexington together, and that’s when I wound up with Earl, which was my first inkling of One Pocket. Earl was really a top notch One Pocket player. He played everything good, but One Pocket was probably his best game. When I got with Earl Shriver, every time we didn’t get any action in a little town or something, we’d play some One Pocket — he was teaching me how to play. It was a long time before I got real comfortable with One Pocket, but the banks helped me tremendously.
OnePocket.org: So when you got together with Earl you were only 16 and he was only 21, yet he was already a top One Pocket player — so what’s all this about having to be older to play good One Pocket?
Eddie Taylor: Right, he was already a good One Pocket player at 21. But they didn’t play that game everywhere. We hustled all over the country, and we just didn’t run into it at that time, except Oklahoma City was a pretty big One Pocket town. I would say it didn’t get real popular until the 50’s.
OnePocket.org: Where do you suppose Earl learned the game since he was only 21 and already so sharp at One Pocket?
Eddie Taylor: I don’t really know. I think he might have learned it from around Hubert Cokes or somebody like that. Cokes was one of the early, early players. I never had anyone ask that question before. I don’t know exactly where he learned it, because they didn’t hardly play it in the South. It was kind of like finding Straight Pool in the South — you could drive all over for six months to a year and you’d never see a Straight Pool game. They played 9-Ball of course, but mostly they played Rotation. It was during the depression, and most of the time I never had enough money to play but one or two games, so you didn’t want to play a game where somebody might luck out on you.
OnePocket.org: Who were some of the other players that helped build your One Pocket game?
Eddie Taylor: The next guy that helped my One Pocket game, who was also from the Washington DC area, was Johnny ‘Rags’ Fitzpatrick. The first time, we played 9-8 at my hometown — this was in the 40’s — we played for $400 a game and we played for two weeks, and I think either he won one game or I won one game — I don’t remember which.
OnePocket.org: So at that time he was giving you a ball?
Eddie Taylor: Yes, 9-8, but at Banks I gave him a ball and beat him. But he was a very good player and a very good player to play with. He was a gentleman and played high, too. He stayed with me for six months until his mother called and said the government wanted to see him to go into the service. But he was a tip-top player.
Another early player was Hayden Lingo. He came to Knoxville and played John R. Cook and John R. gave Lingo the 1-2-3-4-5 playing Rotation and broke Lingo because Lingo was kind of stalling, and you know any good player could run out from the 5-Ball no problem. He came back a little bit later and beat John R. of course, playing even. That was my first inkling of Hayden Lingo. I never did play Lingo for money, but he was one of the top early One Pocket players. I learned one thing from him; I learned that you don’t want to get a lot of balls bunched up along the rail above your pocket because you’ll block your long banks. You want to keep those balls out of your way so you can make the long banks. I had heard so many great things about him, and when I practiced with him I could see why.
OnePocket.org: It seems like Hayden Lingo got around a lot — I know he was in Boston at one point.
Eddie Taylor: The time I was around him for a couple of weeks was like 1950 or ’51 — I think I had a ’50 Buick.
OnePocket.org: Considering your ability to make long banks, did you tend to push the balls up table early in a game?
Eddie Taylor: Yes, I also did that if I could, anytime it was a real tough game.
OnePocket.org: Who were some of the other strong One Pocket players you bumped into?
Eddie Taylor: Another guy was Don Decoy; did you ever hear anything about him?
OnePocket.org: Yes, I have heard of him, I understand he died in a car crash.
Eddie Taylor: That’s right, but he was a very, very good player — at every game, too. Another guy you might have heard of was Bob Roberts, from California.
OnePocket.org: ‘Big Nose’ Roberts…
Eddie Taylor: That’s right. He wound up committing suicide. He got some kind of bad problem with his back and he couldn’t play pool. Well I played him a couple of times — we won’t go into it — but I came out a little ahead.
Anyhow, those, and there was probably two or three more that I’ve been trying to think of… Of course Ronnie Allen was a tip-top player, no question about that. He was giving everybody two or three balls — well not everybody — but most everybody.
OnePocket.org: In the early sixties.
Eddie Taylor: Yeah. He won the One Pocket tournament in 1962 in San Francisco — I think there were about 14-15 in it — and he won that. I think I finished like third, and we played a little after that, but that’s neither here nor there. Ed Kelley was another very good One Pocket player. That pretty much settles it up as far as the real good players that I can remember.
OnePocket.org: Did you ever play Eugene ‘Clem’ Metz?
Eddie Taylor: The first time I played Clem was in my hometown and I didn’t know him. I played him either 8-6 or 9-7 and I had him down to his last dollar — his last game — but I didn’t know that and I had to quit because I was having a bad problem with my left eye and left side of my nose. It was killing me, and I had to get somebody to take me home and put scalding towels on it. Anyhow, he told me this later, ‘I only had one shell left.’ But the next day he got even and I quit. I wanted to change the game, but he didn’t want to change the game.
The next time we played, I had quit playing for 10 or 11 months. He came in and they called me and I said ‘I can’t play; I haven’t been playing.’ But I finally played and he beat me out of a couple of hundred dollars — but that didn’t matter at all. The next time I saw him was in Johnston City when the tournament was getting ready and all the action was going on. I hustled him to play some for a hundred or two but he wouldn’t play, but we became good friends after that.
OnePocket.org: How about Marcel Camp, did you ever play him?
Eddie Taylor: Oh I knew Marcel real well. He came to my hometown and put on a show, and he was the US Snooker Champion at that time, and I played him an exhibition. We played two out of three and he beat me of course. At that time, Snooker was pretty much my best game other than Banks.
OnePocket.org: He was a good One Pocket player, too, wasn’t he?
Eddie Taylor: We played Banks after the exhibition. The guy that owned the poolroom had given me the key to his place so we could get in there and play — they closed at eleven o’clock. I was 3 or 4 games ahead when this policeman — I guess he heard the balls — banged on the door and we had to let him in, and he stopped us from playing. Marcel was ahead of me 6-1 in that last game. I said, ‘Well the only thing I can do is tomorrow I’ll give you 6 balls and I’ll leave you a long shot like it was. That’s the best I can do.’ Anyhow I broke him the next day and it came out in the paper, ‘Mr. Taylor and Mr. Camp played a very close exhibition match last night and the next day Mr. Taylor and Mr. Camp engaged in some Bank Pool and Mr. Taylor pocketed the coin.’ I’ll never forget that as long as I live.
OnePocket.org: In the newspaper!
Eddie Taylor: But Camp and I ended up good friends; I knew him well.
OnePocket.org: So you were already near the top of your game by about 1940?
Eddie Taylor: Yeah, when I was about seventeen, there was a guy from Atlanta that I ran into that gave me the fifteen ball playing Rotation and he broke me — probably beat me out of thirty dollars or something like that. Then a few years later I had about three thousand in my pocket, and these three guys — who all had a pocket full of money — said they had this guy who would play anybody 9-ball. They caught up with me in Jacksonville, Florida, so I asked them to put up a thousand dollars, and I’d put up the money when I got there. So I checked out of the hotel and drove all the way up to this town in Georgia — eighty miles. When I got there, they hadn’t put up the money, but they got their player, and it was the guy who had broke me two or three years before in Atlanta.
I would say this, in the early 1940’s I would have played anybody on this earth 9-ball, one shot push-out. Where I could push-out, I’d push-out to a bank, and a lot of good players found out they didn’t want to shoot it, but they didn’t want to give it to me!
When I saw who it was, I was going to try to get some odds, but he said ‘Oh no, I’ve heard all about you Eddie.’ But now, those three guys want to bet but he won’t let ’em. He wouldn’t let ’em do anything but play for twenty dollars a game, and besides that he says, ‘I’ll play you some when the sun goes down.’ I never heard that one before! I wasn’t going to play, I got so mad that he wouldn’t let them bet. They couldn’t even bet on the side ‘cuz the guy wouldn’t let ’em. Anyway, we did play, and he won the toss and he broke the balls and he ran out, and broke the balls and ran out, and broke the balls and ran out; and he did that five straight games. The sixth game he made one on the break but he couldn’t see the object ball so he had to kick, because we were playing shoot to hit the ball — which I didn’t like either, but he wouldn’t play no other way — so he kicked and hit the ball, but ended up leaving me a shot. Well I ran out that rack and then broke and ran out, and broke and ran out and broke and ran out, six in a row to go ahead and he quit. I cussed him out I was so mad; I had gone to all this trouble to drive up there. I said, ‘You mean to tell me you’re gonna quit? You never even missed a ball!’ His name was Buck Bozeman, and he was a very, very good player, that for some reason you never heard so much about.
OnePocket.org: For a guy that just ran five racks to quit on you, that’s playing pretty strong! You went to the very first Johnston City event, didn’t you?
Eddie Taylor: Yes, what happened was, I was in Cincinnati and I only had about forty dollars in my pocket and Squirrel (Marshall ‘Squirrel’ Carpenter) called me and said, ‘Why don’t you come over. There’s a lot of players over here; you can get some action.’ I said, ‘Squirrel, I really don’t have any money.’ And he said, ‘Oh, I’ve got plenty of money for you to play with.’ So I said, okay, I’ll come on over. Well I got in there at two o’clock in the morning and they had this one table in the back of the J&J Ranch, and Squirrel was shooting a long shot off of the end rail and they’re betting two hundred a pop on it. I said if he ever missed that twice he’s dead, and he did miss it twice, in fact he missed it three times, but he ended up beating Earl out of twelve hundred. From there on I had plenty of money to play with, but nobody would play me.
I’ll always say this, Squirrel shot better off the rail than anybody I ever saw play pool in my life. I played him one time 9 to 7 or 10 to 8 — this was a long time ago — and I kept leaving him shots from off the rail where if he missed, I’m out. But he kept making ’em! I’ve always said he was the greatest player off the rail. He could even raise up his stick and he would never jump the table or anything.
Finally I wound up playing this guy — a banker from Du Quion — I can’t remember his name. First, I played him One Pocket 10 to 5. He said nobody ever beat him playing 10 to 5, but I beat him out of two or three thousand. Then I played him one-handed to his two at Banks, and beat him out of another two or three thousand — not the same day — and he told George Jansco, ‘You know, it’s worth a hundred dollars a game to see that son-of-a-bitch shoot with one hand.’
At that time I was playing very, very, very good one-handed. I’d have played anybody in the world one-handed One Pocket or Banks. It was between me and Earl supposedly for the top one-handed One Pocket players.
One time, in Hot Springs Earl and I played for three hundred a game — he was getting staked — and he beat me five games in a row. The guy that was my backer at home was Charlie Brooks, a real high bookmaker, and he said, ‘What do you think, Eddie?’ I said, ‘It don’t mean a thing.’ The money was half mine anyway that we were playing for ‘cuz I had a pocket full of money. So he said, ‘Well why don’t you play him some for five.’ And I said, ‘I think that’s a good idea.’ So I said, ‘You want to play for five, Earl?’ And he said, ‘Yeah’, and we started playing for five and I beat him six in a row. That shows you how things go…
OnePocket.org: So you and Earl both traveled together and matched up against each other.
Eddie Taylor: Oh, that didn’t matter at all to Earl. He was always after me because I was doing so well, but it always backfired. Another time he was backing a player against me where I got the break and the first shot and I was playing him 9 to 3, but I learned how to do that, so I even got him on that.
OnePocket.org: Do you remember your “spectacular run of 9 and out” against Lassiter to win the ’64 Johnston City All-Around title?
Eddie Taylor: What happened was, the score was 2-2 in games and he had me 7-0 in the next game and I mean, I performed a miracle to win. He had his game ball in the hole, and I managed to run four balls until I had this hard, hard cross corner bank. I never could follow his ball in because there was this ball sticking out over the line that he would have shot in, and that’s the one that I banked and went around the table and then was able to follow it in. I finally won that game — boy I’m telling you, that was a tough game. And then the very next game I left the cue ball in his pocket and he kicked. He did have what looked like a dead ball, but he didn’t even hit that ball. He hit another ball that he didn’t even mean to hit and shit it in and ran eight and out on me. I said, ‘Oh my God!’ Boy that was a heartbreaker there, because he really lucked out — he didn’t hit the right ball and still got away with it! Then it was my break and it was 3-3 — and I know you’ve seen this — the cue ball kissed off of a ball that had gotten down to the foot rail and it kind of double-kissed the cue ball into the pocket. He didn’t have a shot that was any good though, even though I scratched on the break. So we dickered a couple of shots back and forth, and then he tried to bank a ball cross corner, but I had fixed it so I didn’t think he could do it because of a kiss. Sure enough it did kiss, and when it did that left me a little opening where I could make a ball and break up the balls, and that’s how I got the nine and out.
OnePocket.org: So you trapped him on a bank that was a kiss.
Eddie Taylor: Yeah, I never said it like that, but that’s actually what happened.
OnePocket.org: But that was the way you defended against the bank — you left it so it was a kiss.
Eddie Taylor: Yeah, but all-in-all Lassiter turned out to be a very good One Pocket player.
OnePocket.org: Before Johnston City, where did you find the most One Pocket?
Eddie Taylor: There was a lot of One Pocket played around Hot Springs, Arkansas. There was a guy from Little Rock — oh, what’s his name (later recalled as Vernon Brown); hell I traveled with him quite a bit to start with — anyway, we told everybody everywhere we went that there was going to be plenty of action in Hot Springs on pool, and sure enough, quite a few came. We had got this guy to put up a table upstairs. He had a poolroom, but he had to close it at eleven o’clock. So he bought this table — a 4-1/2×9 — and he cleaned up a room upstairs, and put this table and some chairs up there and started charging five dollars a night just to get up there to get in on the action. The gambling was kind of closed down in Hot Springs at that time so all of the gamblers were coming up there and betting on the games. They charged $10 an hour for the table and the winner paid for the pool. There were no games for under a hundred; most of them were for two or three hundred a game. There were a lot great players; people like Puckett — a bunch of guys I can’t remember — and all the games were One Pocket. Cokes was there; Fats was there; Shriver was there. And the next year, my gosh, there was probably 75 people — players from all over the country. I’m talking about champions! I almost thought of the name of another player — it was the name of a town in Oklahoma…
Now there was a funny thing happened out there in Fort Worth. Earl happened to be there when this came about. I had tried to find UJ Puckett several times because I wanted to play him, but I just missed him in several towns. Now I sneaked in there in Fort Worth — I walked in there — and Puckett comes over to me. I had never seen him in my life — I’d heard about him of course. He comes over to me and says, ‘Well, Taylor, there ain’t no need of you stalling around, if you want to play some 9-ball then get your stick.’ Puckett wanted to play me some 9-ball for fifty a game. I said okay, so we started playing. I was going to try to sneak around a little, but I couldn’t do no sneaking because there was too many there that knew me.
They’re all up on this little alcove watching, and what happened was, we had played three or four games or something like that, and Puckett missed a 9-ball. And he had been bulldozing me. So I said, ‘Well, I didn’t believe it, what everybody told me; I really didn’t believe it.’ He said, ‘What’s that; what’s that?” I said, ‘Well they told me you were the biggest dog in the game.’ Well everybody really cracked up laughing when I said that, but I wound up beating Puckett out of nine hundred. There was a restaurant next door and afterwards I took all of them over for a steak, and Puckett sat down next to me and says, ‘Oh, I’m sorry Taylor, I didn’t mean all that…’ So me and Puckett wound up being real good friends.
Eddie Taylor: Yeah, ‘Eufaula’ (Glen Womack)! He gave me a ball and I beat him out of quite a bit of money. That came about because a while earlier, back in Fort Worth, Texas, I had played Eufaula 9-ball and beat him out of six hundred, so he wanted to play me One Pocket. So I played him One Pocket and he beat me out of four hundred. So then I got a ball off him in Hot Springs, and of course I did pretty well.
OnePocket.org: Eddie, I notice that so many players after you beat them — even if you hustled them to beat them — yet you end up becoming real good friends with them.
Eddie Taylor: Well I usually got along well with everybody after I did beat them. Of course I didn’t always win.
OnePocket.org: It seems like if you beat somebody out of pretty good money, you often took them out to dinner afterwards.
Eddie Taylor: I took Marcel Camp, and the fellow that was with him — he was from up your way, Chick Seaback — I took them both over to a friend of mine’s house and we all got drunk. That’s a true story! That’s what happened.
OnePocket.org: Do you have any advice for players trying to improve their One Pocket game?
Eddie Taylor: I try to tell everybody, anytime you are banking an object ball close to the cushion, you don’t draw the ball. If you draw the ball, you’ll get a kiss. I remember showing this shot to several of the guys in Tulsa when I was guest of honor there. Cory Deuel was there and he said, ‘That’s impossible, Eddie, how are you going to keep from kissing that ball?’ So I said, ‘You just have to forget about that’. So I set it up and I shot it one-handed and made it, and he said ‘How in the hell do you not kiss that ball?’ So I showed him how, and finally he made it and said, ‘I see why they call you the greatest bank pool player.’
I used to make that shot four out of five times. Now I can’t make it anymore but I get Buddy Hall to shoot it. I set it up and he shoots it. He knows how ‘cuz I showed him how to do it. Of course he makes it every time, like I used to when I could see.
OnePocket.org: Was Buddy a player that you kind of taught?
Eddie Taylor: Well, not really, but he was working for Red Box when I moved down here. At that time Buddy Hall was really playing terrific 9-ball, and he was always wanting to have me practice with him, but I said, ‘Buddy, I’m not really much of a practicer.’ But anyhow I did practice with him a bit.
OnePocket.org: He turned into a heck of a One Pocket player, too.
Eddie Taylor: Yeah, he said I helped him out quite a bit, especially with his One Pocket. We were in Washington DC at some kind of tournament and Buddy offered to play anybody One Pocket — I mean anybody — as long as I would coach him. He wasn’t even considered a One Pocket player at that time, but nobody would play him!
OnePocket.org: So you helped him out with his Banks and his One Pocket.
Eddie Taylor: Yeah, he always tells everybody that. Actually Buddy is a lot like Lassiter, that wasn’t supposed to be a One Pocket player, but Lassiter became a real good One Pocket player. He wasn’t to start with, but he got so he was a very good One Pocket player. I had a hell of a time with him.
OnePocket.org: And like you weren’t supposed to be a Straight Pool player…
Eddie Taylor: Well, it’s like Beenie (Bill ‘Weenie Beenie’ Staton) said, ‘If Eddie had born in NYC there’d have been a lot of Straight Pool players leaving.’ Actually, when they finally invited me to the World’s tournament in NY — I told my wife, ‘They’ll probably need some towels to wipe up the blood.’ Anyhow, Irving Crane was telling me this story. I had won one match and lost five and Crane said that he and Lassiter were talking to the promoter, and the promoter said, ‘Hey, I thought this Taylor was supposed to be a hell of a player.’ Crane told me that Lassiter spoke up and said, ‘Don’t worry about Taylor; when the smoke clears, Taylor will be there.’ I won my last eight in a row, so I finished 9-5. I would have finished third or forth — I finished seventh — but I didn’t have any balls in those five games that I lost.
OnePocket.org: Did you ever play Bugs?
Eddie Taylor: The first time I played Bugs he came to Washington when I was kind of hanging around the Guys and Dolls, but I was hardly picking up a cue at that time. Beenie used to come over and say, ‘Come on, I’ll play you Straight Pool a hundred points for three hundred.’ And I’d say, ‘Well let me hit a ball or two.’ But he’d say, ‘No, no, no if you hit one ball there’s no game.’ So when Bugs came, we played four hundred dollars a game. The first day we played about six hours and broke about even, and I was really beat because I hadn’t been playing. So I said, ‘We can play some more tomorrow; but I got to quit.’ The next day we started again and I beat him out of twenty-eight hundred, and I’ll never forget the last shot as long as I live. It was a long shot and the ball was way down on the other end of the table maybe three or four inches off the end rail. I couldn’t play safe so I just stood up and hit it and it just flew in the hole, and that’s when the backers all quit.
Another time we played, I had gone to this place in Ohio where they were having a bank pool tournament and I didn’t get into it because my eyesight was haywire at that time, but I was kind of booking the games. Well I tried to play Bugs, but if you had seen me you would have laughed because of the way I was playing — I just wasn’t seeing right. He beat me one game and I said, ‘I got to quit.’
OnePocket.org: You mentioned playing one handed; there was a guy from the Boston area named Andrew St. Jean who was supposed to be a strong one-handed player.
Eddie Taylor: I didn’t know him, but you know who told me that he was a tremendous one-handed player? Fats told me, and another guy named Dayton Omstead — and Dayton was a pretty damn good three-cushion billiards player. He told me that he played St. Jean even up, and he was running three and four and going five rails and whatever, playing one handed. Of course he didn’t play Banks because they didn’t play Banks in that part of the country. I never got to meet him, but I’d have gone against him. At one time I don’t think anybody could have beat me playing one-handed One Pocket or one-handed Banks.
OnePocket.org: It sure does sound like you were a very strong one-handed player…
Eddie Taylor: If you ever talk to Mike Massey, the trick-shot player — he was from a little town just outside Knoxville — he used to come watch me play. We used to play partners a lot and if you got eight by yourself, you collected from everybody. I had to play one-handed, and this was with the best players in Knoxville, and I usually won — I don’t remember actually losing — I won pretty regularly. Mike says ‘I remember seeing you bank those balls 6 or 7 at a time one-handed.’
One time with Titanic Thompson — I’m sure you’ve heard of him — well Ti was in town and he saw me playing a guy that was a bookmaker playing for four hundred dollars a game, playing him 8-5 one pocket and I was playing one-handed with no tip on my cue. Now what happened was, I drew the ball about 6-7 inches with no tip, one-handed. So he said ‘They’ll be no more of that’, and he got a glass of water and I had to dip the stick in the water each time before I shot, but I still beat him out of four thousand. Well Titanic saw that and said, ‘That was the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen in my life!’
I first went to San Francisco in 1953 because a guy had told me Jimmy Moore was in the World Tournament there, at the Downtown Bowl. So when I got out there naturally I don’t know where I’m going and I’m on this one-way street, so I ask a guy at a newsstand on the corner, ‘Pardon me sir, but do you know where the Downtown Bowl is?’ He said, ‘Yeah, I sure do. You go up here about six blocks to Taylor…’ And I’m thinking does this guy know me or what? And then he said, ‘You take a left, and you’ll see a pharmacy, Eddie & Taylor Pharmacy.’ And I’m thinking this guy is full of shit, he’s just kidding me, but I drove up there and took a left and sure enough I see the sign Eddy & Taylor pharmacy. Just as you turn to the right there was a motel called the Olympia Hotel. When I checked into the hotel — they used to put cards in the drawer that you could send. Now on these cards it said Olympia Hotel, corner of Eddy & Taylor — E-d-d-y — San Francisco. I must have sent about 30-40 of them to people I knew!
The second night I was there I played a guy from Chicago that owned a bar on the main street, and they said he was a pretty good player. I played him one-handed and beat him out of six thousand.
OnePocket.org: That was at One Pocket?
Eddie Taylor: Yeah, my one-handed to his two. I beat him five games ahead and when I was going over to pay the tab he asked ‘How much are you winner, Taylor?’ And I said, ‘Eight hundred,’ because I was thinking I was four games winner. So he said, ‘I’ll play you one for eight.’ And I said, ‘Get it up.’ We played for the eight and I won and I said, ‘I guess you want to play for the sixteen.’ And he said, ‘F**k you, Taylor, I’ll play you some for five.’ So I wound up beating him out of six thousand.
At the same time these guys that were playing in the World’s Tournament — there were twelve of them — were playing for the top prize of $2500. Mosconi won it and got $500 extra for high run.
OnePocket.org: So you made twice what they did, playing one-handed.
Eddie Taylor: That’s what I’m saying; I’m sure those guys that were watching this had their mouths watering. It’s such a shame that pool has always been so cheap. For some reason — they’ll put pigeons, horseshoes and anything in the world that you can think of in the paper, but not billiards and pool. It’s really pitiful, because pool is a hell of a sport. I mean it takes some real finesse. Pool is not an easy game. I won the Stardust, which was eight thousand and something, and they had in the write up ‘The largest prize of all time.’ That was 1967. It’s not much better than that today. It’s really pathetic. I feel so sorry for those players.
Anyhow I think I’ve done enough talking to last a while.
OnePocket.org: Well, thank you very much; it’s been very nice talking to you, Eddie.
Eddie Taylor: Very nice talking to you, buddy, and give my best to your wife Sue.
On Mosconi, Fats, Frankie Boughton and others…
On the best early Bank Pool players he ever faced
Eddie Taylor: Bob Bowles and Charlie Jones were the two best Bank Pool players that I ever saw; they were just tops. It was between those two and myself as to who was the best banker going into the 40’s and the 50’s. I played Charlie for like twelve days once. It started off that after five or six hours there’d be one game difference, then two. Then finally at the end I was beating him.
The last time I played him he came in to the Phoenix Hotel and said, ‘Come on, I’ll play you for fifty a game’, and I was flat broke from the racetrack. I said, ‘Charlie, there’s nobody here to put up the money, they’re all at the track.’ Only Don Decoy was there, and Joe Cremins from Cincinnati and the guy on the cashier’s desk. Don Decoy probably had seven or eight hundred dollars in his pocket, but he wouldn’t even stake himself if it was over twenty dollars a game — he’d get staked and then never miss a ball. I knew there was no need of asking him. So Don Decoy comes over to me and says ‘I’ll let you play him a hundred dollars worth at twenty-five a game.’ I liked to have fainted and so did Joe! So I told Charlie, ‘I’ve got a hundred dollars, Charlie, if you want to play some for twenty-five a game.’ And he says, ‘Okay, come on Eddie.’ I told him that as soon as the guys come in from the track we can play for whatever.
Anyhow, I won the first game and he said ‘Bet you fifty.’ Of course everybody put up back then, so I said, ‘Get it up.’ Don Decoy didn’t even fall off his chair; it’s a miracle that he didn’t. We went on and played thirteen games and I won twelve of them, and Charlie banked eight and out the game he won.
When we got up to the room, I had won $525, and I said to Don, ‘Joe’s broke, lets give him this twenty-five.’ He didn’t really want to but I gave it to him anyhow. Then Joe says to me, ‘You know Eddie, in those thirteen games you missed one ball that you shot at in thirteen games.’ I said, ‘Oh, man, come on, I was in a trance.’ And Don Decoy spoke up and said, ‘That’s right Eddie, you missed one ball in thirteen games – that you shot at.’ That was in the Phoenix Hotel in Lexington, Kentucky and that had to be about 1947.
On Minnesota Fats (aka New York Fats; Rudolf Wanderone)
OnePocket.org: How well did Fats play One Pocket back when he was younger?
Eddie Taylor: Fats had a very good game of One Pocket, but he wasn’t really considered tops. I was with Hubert Cokes one day in Johnston City, and he said ‘Why don’t you play Fats some?’ I had money in my pocket, but I said, ‘Fats wants 9 to 7; I can’t give him that.’ But Cokes wanted to stake me to play him $200 a game. I said, ‘I’ve got a pocketful, but I don’t want to play for yours if I wouldn’t play for my own, and I don’t like the game.’ But he just kept on, so I said okay, and we played. So the first game he banked something, and he ran seven and out. The next game I ran nine and out. The next game he ran seven and out again. So I quit and said ‘You’ve got 10 to 8 if you want it, Fats.’ But he didn’t want it.
Me and Fats played several times. I played Fats in my hometown when I was 14 years old and I think Fats was about 20 or 21. We played a game of Banks and a game of One Pocket for two dollars and a half a game and we played all night and broke even.
Later on, when I had a billiard room in St. Petersburg, Florida I got Fats to come down for the American Cancer Society. We were very, very close friends, and I told him I couldn’t pay him but expenses. But Fats said, ‘Eddie, you don’t have to give me nothing, I’ll come down.’ So he did, and the place was packed and everything went great. The next day there were two reporters, and we went to an Italian restaurant a couple of doors away, and they were interviewing Fats while I was sitting there with him. Fats was telling them ‘Eddie here is the greatest Bank Pool player that ever lived, but my game was One Pocket. Once upon a time, me and Eddie played for three days and three nights for five hundred a game and broke dead even.’ That night I went back and told my wife, ‘Vi, I just got the greatest compliment I ever got in my life.’ ‘What’s that?’ she said. ‘Well Fats just said we played for three days for five hundred a game and broke dead even.’ You know, nobody ever broke even with Fats!
Now you asked me if I meant to say ‘a game of Banks and a game of Rotation’ – but there was one young man back home who wasn’t really a home boy, and I had seen him play One Pocket, and I had even played him a couple of times, just fooling around. It was nothing really. I knew what it was and all, but I really didn’t start playing the game until Earl Shriver came along. For a long time I’d shoot to the wrong pocket. I don’t know how many times I did that! I still do that occasionally when I play with my friend. He’ll say, ‘Eddie, that’s the wrong pocket!’ I’ve done that a hundred times. And then of course I’d naturally overlooked scratches. But I finally got over that. I think anybody that is learning to play One Pocket always overlooks scratches.
In Washington DC in 1945 I played Fats for fifty a game – a game of Banks and a game of One Pocket , and I beat him out of five hundred. So he said, ‘Come to Philadelphia tomorrow and I’ll play for a hundred.’ I said ‘Where are we going to play – there’s blue laws on Sundays in effect and there’s no place open.’ But he said, ‘Yeah, there’s one place open.’ The guy that used to be the manager of the Chicago White Sox had a place with billiard tables downstairs – all 5×10’s. Of course when we played in Washington they were 4-1/2×9’s. Fats thought the 5×10’s might affect my play, but really I played the best pool in my life on big old 5×10’s. So what actually happened was, I met him the next day, and for the first two hours he was beating me at Banks and I was beating him at One Pocket! But after that I came out ahead.
Tom Fox, who wrote the Minnesota Fats book, also had a big article about me. This was in True Magazine. They sent two guys down from New York – two cameramen – and when I walked in the poolroom I thought they were shooting a movie or something. I told them, ‘I’ve got plenty of pictures’, but they took about 50 or 60 pictures. Then about a week later this lady called me to ask ‘Would you be available to shoot some more?’ I said I would, and they sent those same two guys back down. I took them out to this guy’s house that had a real nice setup and we all wound up getting half-drunk while they took some more pictures. Then later on they put in the article ‘I’ll shoot your eyes out.’ I called them up and practically cussed them out. Tom Fox said, ‘Eddie, I’m sorry as I could be, but I didn’t have anything to do with that.’ I told him I thought that was so vulgar – ‘I’ll shoot your eyes out’.
I used to have the book he wrote about Fats – he gave it to me and signed it for me, but I don’t know what happened to it. Maybe I loaned it to somebody or somebody took it. It’s no real big deal, but Fats had given it to me and autographed it for me.
OnePocket.org: I read that book; it was pretty funny. I never met Fats, so it was a nice read.
On Willie Mosconi
Eddie Taylor: Now you won’t believe this. In 1961 Mosconi and Jimmy Caras were playing exhibitions in Cleveland, Ohio. There was a place on Euclid downstairs where the action was, but they were playing at a place upstairs about two blocks from there, and I went and watched them and they put on a tremendous show.
The next night after that I walked into this place on Euclid and I saw Mosconi there watching something on TV, so I went over to him and I said, ‘Pardon me sir, but can I ask you a couple questions?’ He said, ‘Sure’. So I said, ‘Would you tell me why they play that Straight Pool call shot game instead of making the ball hit the cushion before it goes in the pocket?’ I told him I lived in a little town about 35 miles away from Cleveland, and I said, ‘You know, all we ever play, we call it bank-a-ball , where the ball has to hit the cushion before it goes in the pocket.’ And I said, ‘We got little kids over there that can run forty or fifty balls at Straight Pool; it just seems like such an easy game.’ I said, ‘But that bank-a-ball , we play that for fifty or a hundred dollars a game all the time; in fact I’d be willing to play you some of that.’
Man he was sizzling! He said, ‘Let me tell you something, son; Straight Pool is the most scientific game there is.’ He was so mad he was going to play me some Banks for a hundred dollars a game. I didn’t have a stick – I always played with one out of the rack anyhow, even though I had two or three sticks in the trunk of my car, but I never used them unless I was playing another good player that already knew me. So I went to the rack for a stick and when I got back to the table he said, ‘You’re a little late, Taylor.’ He knew of me, but he didn’t know me personally.
OnePocket.org: So somebody told him who you were.
Eddie Taylor: Yeah. So later, they were having this thing in Detroit at Detroit Recreation — which at that time was the largest poolroom in the world – they had this thing, ‘Beat the Champ’ for thirteen weeks. They had four tables and it cost a dollar a chance and you broke the balls wide open and then ran as many balls as you could, and whoever had the high run on Sunday got to play Mosconi the following Saturday.
Well there was a Polish guy, Ed Santiniak, or something like that, who had a nice bar with bar tables, and earlier I had gone down there and lost forty dollars, and I said ‘I’ll be back tomorrow night; I get paid tomorrow night.’ So the next night I went back and won about seven hundred, with this guy Ed backing most it. Anyway, we ended up being good friends, and I took him down to the black poolrooms where they played Banks – they had some good Bank Pool players there – and he went with me and got a big kick out of it. But the wind-up was we went down there (to Detroit Recreation) to watch them play.
They had bleachers where you could watch these people taking their dollar-a-chance. I wasn’t about to get in that; that would have been the last thing in the world. Well Ed wanted me to get in the dollar-a-chance game, but I said, ‘No, I can’t do that.’ But the second or third time we were sitting there and all of a sudden it came over the loud speaker, Eddie Taylor, next. I said to Ed, ‘What the hell’s he talking about?’ That’s when he said, ‘Eddie, I gave him five dollars for you to play. Please go out there and play.’ So I did, and I ran eight, and I ran twelve, and six, but the fifth time, I ran 61 balls.
Now this thing had been going on for six weeks and the high run was 44. Actually, when I ran fifty I didn’t mean to run no more, but I played out of position to where I had to cut this ball backwards and I figured I’d never make it, but I did make it and broke open the balls and ended up running 61. Now what happened was they all stopped playing; all four tables stopped because they’re not going to try to beat that 61.
Well, me and Ed leave and go back down to The Hole on Woodward – that’s where the action was – and we’re setting there talking, and here comes a guy that I knew and he comes over and says ‘Eddie, after you left they disqualified you and they all started playing again, and the manager wants to see you.’ Well Ed was really mad and said, ‘Don’t take nothing; I’m going to stop the damn thing.’ Because it was supposed to be open to anybody that wasn’t in a World’s Tournament, and at that time I hadn’t entered anything like that. The first tournament I played in was in Macon, Georgia, in 1961 I think it was. So we went back up there and I went into the manager’s office, and first he says, ‘I’m sorry Mr. Taylor, but I just talked to Mr. Mosconi in Philadelphia and he refuses to play you because he says you’re a hustler.’ Now he had already played Cornbread Red one week, and Eddie Beauchene – Detroit Whitey – another week. He was just mad because of what happened back in Cleveland.
OnePocket.org: So he ducked you twice!
Eddie Taylor: So now, the guy started offering me money. First he wanted to give me my five dollars back. But I said no, since Ed had said he was going to stop the whole thing. Next thing I know, he’s offering me two hundred dollars. Then it goes to three hundred, and I keep going back out to tell Ed, ‘You know I really don’t want to do anything to hurt pool.’ So I went back and the guy offered me five hundred dollars; I had him over a barrel. At that point Ed said, ‘Stick that five hundred in your pocket.’
OnePocket.org: So they paid you $500 not to play him!
Eddie Taylor: I didn’t really want to get in it anyway; I wasn’t looking for any advertising at that time. I would have rather played down in The Hole , where I was playing Babyface (Alton Whitlow) and everybody else.
I had been on the road with Babyface around Cincinnati and a couple other places. He came up to my room and brought a bottle and we had a couple drinks and went back down in The Hole and he wanted to play me 8-7 or 9-7 or something and I beat him out of a few dollars, and he said I got him drunk, but he brought the bottle up to my room! But all in all we were good friends.
So later on they had this Straight Pool tournament in Burbank, California where Mosconi got paid five or ten thousand to come out of retirement — and you might remember this — Joe Balsis beat Mosconi in the finals. So I’m in that tournament, and when I walked in the practice room, Mosconi was over by the wall, but he came running across the room and says, ‘Hi Eddie, how are you doing?’ Like we were the greatest of friends, and he had refused to play me! Can you believe that?
Then in 1969, I think it was, when me and Red Jones were getting ready to open a room in St. Petersburg, Mr. Baker — that owned the billiard room in Tampa — says to me ‘Would you be willing to play Mosconi for a week?’ But I said, ‘I don’t think Mosconi would want to play me’, although I had played him in that tournament in Burbank, and he beat me. But he said, ‘Well, let’s call him up and see.’
So Mr. Baker called him up – it’s a twenty-five hundred dollar challenge match – and he asked him, ‘Would you be willing to play Eddie Taylor for a week.’ So he said, ‘Yeah, I’ll play him Straight Pool and 9-Ball .’ Now listen to this – you’re not going to believe what I’m going to tell you – he would not come unless we split the money, and he was so far ahead of me at Straight Pool!
But he finally came, and that’s what we played. We played every night, and during the day we played golf and he saw how well-respected I was. There happened to be two fellows down there at two different golf courses that were from my hometown, Knoxville, Tennessee, that I knew real well, and they would set up partners golf matches for us because they knew I liked to gamble. Then we went to this millionaire’s home for dinner and all this, and Mosconi saw how much I was respected and he just couldn’t believe it.
OnePocket.org: So you gambled at golf too.
Eddie Taylor: We’d play golf in the daytime, and at night we’d play pool on this nice table — just re-covered — in the tournament room. Now this table — I never saw another one like it. It had leather rails with silver dollars where the diamonds were. Did you ever see one?
Eddie Taylor: Well, it was the only one I ever saw in my life. A very, very good table, and that’s the one we played on. Mosconi wasn’t missing anything and he was still complaining about the table. Mr. Baker got so mad! He had a motel over by the airport where Mosconi was staying, and he wasn’t even going to charge him – Mosconi had no business knocking the table like that.
At that time the Brunswick people were suing him and he couldn’t appear on TV. I was on a couple of times in the morning shooting two or three trick shots; but he couldn’t do that at that time, because Brunswick was suing him. If anything went wrong he used to say, ‘This damn table – they ought to make kindling out of it’, or stuff like that. Anyhow, he had me about 700 to 200. But the last day, I had won $160 at the golf, I’ll never forget it, and we used to go have dinner afterwards, and everything was beautiful, and that night we played and so help me God I ran over a hundred three times, which was really a lot for me – I’m not a Straight Pool player.
OnePocket.org: Do you remember how it turned out against Mosconi?
Eddie Taylor: We broke about even in the 9-ball, but in the Straight Pool of course he had me. He’d run balls until you’d get sick watching him run balls. Like Mike Eufemia; every time he’d start practicing he’d run 300 at least.
On Mike Eufemia
Eddie Taylor: I was talking to Onofrio Lauri and he said, ‘He’s an amazing guy when he’s practicing – he runs 300, 400, 350, but when he plays in a World’s Tournament, he don’t do no good at all.’ In Las Vegas in 1967 he beat Joe Balsis twice to win the Straight Pool (The Straight Pool division of the Stardust tournament]. I lost my fanny betting on Joe Balsis both times in that.
Then I had to play him in the playoffs after he just got through running 350 balls in the practice room. Danny Jones won the 9-ball , I won the One Pocket and Mike Eufamia won the Straight Pool . So we had to play each other One Pocket, 9-Ball and Straight Pool .
There was a guy named Joe Bernstein who was a high roller and he always bet on me. When I won, he’d always stick a hundred dollar bill in my vest pocket and say, ‘Have a drink, Eddie, on me.’ So Mike just got through running three hundred balls, and Joe knew I didn’t play Straight Pool, because it was a bad game to hustle. I could have played it if I played it. Anyway, he saw Mike run those 350 balls, so he had to get some odds. Then when I played him I think his high run was probably 18 or 20, and I beat him something like 125 to 32 or something like that. It was a joke! That’s when Onofrio Lauri told me that story.
Once, Mike asked me if I wanted to practice with him, when I was getting ready to play my tournament match. I racked the balls about seven or eight times until I said, ‘I don’t believe I want to practice any more, Mike.’
OnePocket.org: I’ve read that even Mosconi said something like it was necessary to become hardened by gambling when you’re younger in order to be tough enough for tournament competition.
Eddie Taylor: I think that’s what helped me a lot — being a good money player. Because I never had enough for maybe one or two games, I was always playing under pressure.
On Titanic Thompson
Eddie Taylor: He was in Tuscaloosa, where Squirrel’s (Marshall Carpenter) from, and he called me up because he thought he had some action. But I said, ‘Ti, they know me down there about like Coca-Cola.’ But he said ‘Oh, come on down; I’ll pay your expenses.’ So I knocked on the door when I got there and he said, ‘Who is it?’ I told him who it was and when I came in I saw what he was doing. There was a bunch of skeleton keys on the floor and this chair sitting there, and you could tell he’d been sitting there throwing keys at the door. I said, ‘What are you doing, Ti?’ It was an old hotel, a nice hotel, but an old hotel with those big old skeleton locks, and he said ‘I’m trying to see if I can throw one of these keys into the lock.’ I said, ‘Ti, are you kidding? Have you ever got one in there yet?’ And he said, ‘No, but I’ve got three or four to hang!’ I could not believe it! Every time after that I always asked him, ‘Did you ever get one of them keys in there?’ He said, ‘Yeah, I finally got one.’
OnePocket.org: He was full of propositions, wasn’t he?
Eddie Taylor: Yeah he was, you’re right. I sent Kelley (BCA Hall of Famer, Ed Kelley) out there, and he had Kelley dress up in some gas station uniform or something. He won about two thousand. When Ti was in Dallas he was always calling me to send him somebody who wasn’t known. I did send him three or four guys. But he was a hell of a man.
OnePocket.org: I’ve heard that he was the one person that maybe could out talk Fats.
Eddie Taylor: Oh yeah, and that would take a good one, too. I went around with him some, and we’d go out to some nice restaurant – I’m talking about nice – and he’d tell jokes that if I’d have told the same joke they’d have probably called the police on me! But he’d tell them and get away with it. He dressed like a banker, and he could just get away with those things. He was a tremendous joke teller. If you were around him, your side would be hurting.
On Frankie Boughton
Eddie Taylor: There was only one other guy that could do that to me and that was Frankie Boughton.
OnePocket.org: Oh yeah, from San Francisco.
Eddie Taylor: He was the champion of all; I’m telling you, he was phenomenal. Me and another fellow and Frankie had just come from booking the horses and we were all broke. We were standing out in front of this hotel in Nashville, Tennessee. Frankie was always well dressed – he always wore a suit and tie and maybe a hat – and he saw this man coming and he cut into him and they got to talking. Next thing you know, they’re going into the hotel together. Well me and Sam were watching and we went in after they went in to see what was going on. So we saw them go over to the cage, and we saw the man give something to Frankie – we don’t know what it is.
Well we went back outside and about a minute later here comes Frankie, and so we asked him what in the hell he did, and he showed us fifty dollars. Sam said, ‘What in the hell did you do, Frankie?’ He says, ‘I just told him I was broke from playing the horses, and that I was one of the best poker players around and I need like fifty dollars to get in the game.’ Now this was about 1940 or something like that, and he got fifty dollars off the guy; of course I’m sure the guy never got his fifty back. He used to put ads in the paper with propositions for selling razor blades or something, but the first horse bookie he could get to, he’d be broke.
He was a tremendous player, and he had a scrapbook full of where he’d won this or that. He always carried that scrapbook, and he had run something like 275 balls playing Line-up . I’d watch him go in a pawnshop with nothing but his scrapbook. When I looked in there, the guy behind the counter would be in shock standing there with his mouth open. Even after Frankie came out with the money, the guy was still standing there with his mouth open – he didn’t know what hit him!
OnePocket.org: But he came out with money every time?
Eddie Taylor: Yeah, he was an amazing guy, and a good player, but he matched up bad. If there ever was anybody who could get blood out of a turnip, he could get it.
On matching up
Eddie Taylor: It’s not how good you play, it’s how good you match up. Spotting too much burns up the action. I always played just well enough to win, that way I could come back later. I hated following other players that spotted too much. The only time I gave up big spots was if I had a chance to win big money. But I still usually came out on top.
I walked into the billiard room in San Francisco in 1953 – they had the World’s Pocket Billiard tournament there – and Frankie was the manager of the Downtown Bowl. When I walked I said, ‘How’re you doing, Frankie?’ He said, ‘I owe thirty-six loan companies.’ I said, ‘That’s impossible, Frankie; nobody on earth could owe thirty-six loan companies!’ Well he showed me thirty-six loan books. Now, they’re garnishing his wages so his wife wound up being the manager.
The owner of the Downtown Bowl – which was a huge place, with bowling upstairs and downstairs and twenty pocket billiard tables. They had two bars and a lunch counter. It was a huge place. The owner had barred him from playing pool for money. He was a great showman; he could start shooting trick shots and telling jokes and in five minutes you couldn’t get close to the table – that’s how good an entertainer he was. When I got there he had lost $200,000 for backers in one year. One Chinese fellow was suing him $60,000 that Frankie lost for him, so he can’t play nobody for money.
Me and Lassiter stayed out there in ‘Frisco for about seven months. Finally after about three or four months the guy that owned the place told Frankie he could play for money again. I always gave Frankie a ball playing One Pocket , and these two guys were going to stake Frankie, and we were going to play for $150 a game. What happened was, his wife Evelyn wasn’t going to let him play; she said, ‘Oh no, you’re not going to rob him anymore.’ Because I had beat him every time I’d played him. She said, ‘The only way I’m going to let him play is if you give me twenty-five percent of your action.’ I said, ‘You’ve got it, Evelyn.’ So I beat him out of nine-fifty and gave her two and a quarter and she said, ‘Come on Eddie, I’ll buy you a steak.’ So Frankie said, ‘Well what about me?’ She said, ‘I’ll bring you a hamburger.’ Now that’s a true story whether you believe it or not.
OnePocket.org: You mentioned a fellow named Sam that you were with in Nashville along with Frankie Boughton.
Eddie Taylor: That was Sam Crotzer. He was kind of like a brother to me. He was the only one I was really on the road with much. Most of the time I went just by myself because – well, I don’t know why; I just did.
OnePocket.org: Was that Nashville Sam, also known as Okie Sam?
Eddie Taylor: Yeah, it was. You got that right, Okie Sam. I don’t know how he got that name. I think he got that name because when he went to California he probably told them he was from Oklahoma.
OnePocket.org: That’s what Norm Webber told me.
Eddie Taylor: Oh, I know how you got that! When Sam and I split up in Kansas City – it was Christmas time, and I said, ‘Sam, I’m going home for Christmas.’ And Sam didn’t drive, but he said, ‘Well, I don’t think I’m going; I’m going west.’ His father had died so he didn’t really have a home to go to. He wound up in San Francisco. They used to have those ring games on the 6×12 Snooker table, and Sam played good on those 6×12’s. I could never play a lick on those 6×12’s, but Sam played good. I heard he was doing great. That’s when I first met Norm Webber, in San Francisco. I met him in 1962 in SF. But Sam, he was kind of like a brother to me.
Why he retired from competition
Eddie Taylor: After I turned 58 I had problems with my eyes. One night Beenie (Bill ‘Weenie Beenie’ Staton) had a little tournament – it didn’t really amount to anything — when I was living just out of DC in Maryland. That room Beenie had was real nice; at five o’clock in the morning you couldn’t get a table – that’s how busy that place was. I was supposed to play this kid, but all of a sudden as I’m watching him knock balls around, I couldn’t see the balls, they seemed real fuzzy to me. My wife went across the street and got some eye drops which didn’t do nothing. So I said, ‘I’m going to go outside for a minute or two to see if that helps any,’ because it was cold outside. But that didn’t work either. The kid says, ‘It’s alright with me if they postpone it.’ But I said, no, no; we’ll go ahead and play.’ But of course I didn’t do no good and he beat me. It was double elimination and the next day I won a couple matches, and then I had to play him again. And actually I could have beat him like 10-2 or 10-3, but he was such a nice kid I let him get seven on purpose.
In other words this was after I won the ’67 Stardust in Las Vegas. It was ’68 when my eyes went haywire. That’s when I moved on down to Florida. I still won three or four tournaments – they weren’t big tournaments, but they had pretty good players down there. By ’74 when I moved to Shreveport I was not playing but about 65% of my best. That’s also when I played Mosconi for a week.
OnePocket.org: Thanks again, Eddie.