In this video Minnesota Fats battles Willie Mosconi to see who will become the unofficial pool champion of the world.
The event was the most widely televised pool event in history, and was aired on February 14, 1978 on the Wide World of Sports. Howard Cosell called the match, which comprised of best-of-seven sets of 9-ball, 8-ball, Rotations, Straight Pool, and One Pocket.
Fats and Mosconi were pool-cue pugilists with a long-held grudge that originated during the filming of the 1961 film The Hustler. Willie Mosconi, while consulting on trick shots for the film, reportedly acknowledged that the character Minnesota Fats was based on real-life hustler New York Fats. New York Fats, upon hearing the news, took the claim a step further, changed his name to Minnesota Fats, and parlayed the film’s success into a high-profile career of his own. (In the video, Mosconi denies that there was any real-life connection between the two Fats.)
But the underlying grudge between the two men was philosophical: Mosconi felt that pool was a gentleman’s past-time, whereas Fats maintained it was a hustler’s game and should be amped up with braggadocio. Fats played to his audience with the demeanor of an arrogant stand-up comic, a loud mouth that prompted Mosconi to occasionally wear ear plugs during their tournaments.
If you want to pick the winningest style for your own gameplay, go with Mosconi, who defeats Fats before they can even get around to Straight Pool or One Pocket. For more on the tournament, check out RA Dyer’s book, The Hustler and the Champ.