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Eddie Taylor, part 2

On Mosconi, Fats, Frankie Boughton and others...

© 2004 Steve Booth,


On the best early Bank Pool players he ever faced:

ET: 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):

1P: How well did Fats play One Pocket back when he was younger?

ET: 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 5x10's. Of course when we played in Washington they were 4-1/2x9's. Fats thought the 5x10's might affect my play, but really I played the best pool in my life on big old 5x10'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.

1P: I read that book; it was pretty funny. I never met Fats, so it was a nice read.


Tom Fox's Fats book, published by

The World Publishing Company 1966

On Willie Mosconi:

ET: 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.

1P: So somebody told him who you were.

ET: 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.


For his role in 'The Hustler'

From Chalk Up!

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.

1P: So he ducked you twice!

ET: 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.'

1P: So they paid you $500 not to play him!

ET: 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.

1P: So you gambled at golf too.

ET: 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?


1P: No

ET: 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.

An old Eddie Taylor exhibition poster


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.

1P: Do you remember how it turned out against Mosconi?

ET: 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:

ET: 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.'


1P: 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.

ET: 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.


From Chalk Up!


On Titanic Thompson:

ET: 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.'


1P: He was full of propositions, wasn't he?

ET: 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.


1P: I've heard that he was the one person that maybe could out talk Fats.

ET: 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.


Eddie with fellow members of the Billiard Congress of America Hall of Fame, Ewa Mataya and Ed Kelley

On Frankie Boughton:

ET: There was only one other guy that could do that to me and that was Frankie Boughton.


1P: Oh yeah, from San Francisco.

ET: 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!


1P: But he came out with money every time?

ET: 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:

ET: 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.

1P: You mentioned a fellow named Sam that you were with in Nashville along with Frankie Boughton.

ET: 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.


1P: Was that Nashville Sam, also known as Okie Sam?

ET: 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.


1P: That's what Norm Webber told me.

ET: 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 6x12 Snooker table, and Sam played good on those 6x12's. I could never play a lick on those 6x12'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:

ET: 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.


1P: Thanks again, Eddie.

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