View Full Version : Does today's equipment really make the game easier

L.S. Dennis
02-11-2003, 06:48 PM
We've all heard by now how simonis 860 cloth and the nice plastic ball used today supposedly make the game much easier than the days of yesteryear. I assume this must be especially true in straight pool probably more than any other game. But is this really true? Jim Rempe and Mike Sigel seem to think so, so who are we to dispute them.

During the days of yor, guys like Mosconi and Caris and Greenleaf used to runs hundreds on 5X10 tables with clay balls and Brunswich burlap cloth. I suspect to get the rack to spred with that equipment you practically needed a blasting cap!

Who knows that if Mosconi had been playing on the equipment of today when in 1954 he had that 526 ball run it might not have been 1,526!!!

L.S. Dennis
02-12-2003, 01:16 AM
I almost forgot to mention the new bridge extenders that are used today and most certainly weren't around some 40 or 50 years ago as well!

02-12-2003, 01:38 AM
You would have to go back farther then 40 or 50 years to see any significant differences I would think. Other then the cloth, and some was pretty fast even back then the game has not changed much. The cues I am sure are much better now. I think the biggest difference may be air conditioning. Can you imagine playing in the summer back then. I remember seeing a Matthew Brady type picture of some men playing in a saloon around the 1880's. and thinking how hard that table. must have been to play on.

02-12-2003, 02:03 AM
Grady in his video said that it was easier back in the day. Apparently the old 5X10 tables had much bigger pockets (hard to believe, i think you guys already have way too big pockets compared to snooker and uk 8ball)

Grady did say that the players of today were definitely better

02-12-2003, 09:40 AM
I played snooker in the UK and I was very surprised at how big the pockets were. They were about as big as a tight pool table. The snooker tables in the US have very small pockets. If you get on a golf table, impossibly small.

Fran Crimi
02-12-2003, 10:08 AM
Great topic, Dennis.

I think I remember Mosconi saying it was harder playing with the old equipment.

My friend has an old set of clay balls and every so often we'd break out the box and play. Forget it. You may as well be playing with rocks. Forget about spinning balls. You have to get the perfect angle or you're sunk. Very tough.

I was watching the show "Modern Marvels" on the History channel and they had a segment on billiard balls. They said that during WW II Brunswick-Colander-Balk (spelling?)put out a notice to the public asking for suggestions for a replacement material for billiard balls because importing ivory had been banned. They offered a $5000 bonus for the one who came up with the best material. The winner was a guy that liked to putter around with things, not a scientist, who came up with a combination of substances that were durable enough to withstand the constant impact of balls hitting each other. This substance later became known as plastic. The government became interested, contacted Brunswick and began to use the product in airplane construction, which they claim made the production and repair of fighter planes all the more easier and quicker, which eventually led to winning the war.


02-12-2003, 10:36 AM

<font color="red">excerpt: </font color>

Whoever said nothing good ever came out of a saloon?
Toward the end of the 19th century, billiards had become so popular that hundreds of elephants were being killed each day for their ivory, which was what billiard balls were made of at the time. As Ivory became more scarce as well as more expensive, billiard ball manufacturers were desperate to find an alternative. In 1863, Hyatt saw a poster in Albany, NY, advertising $10,000 for anyone capable of producing billiard balls out of something other than ivory. While in his workshop, Hyatt was surprised when he discovered that the chemical collodion that he had spilt on the floor congealed into a tough, flexible film. Unfortunately, the balls produced from collodion alone were very volatile, and would explode when they hit each other. So Hyatt added camphor, a tough, white, aromatic gum resin, to the collodion and celluloidTM -- the first thermoplastic -- was discovered in 1866. Hyatt founded the Albany Dental Plate Company in 1870. It produced celluloid dental plates, replacing, the expensive vulcanized rubber plates used at the time.

L.S. Dennis
02-12-2003, 10:37 AM
Fran, I think I have to agree with you on this. Along with Mike Sigel and Jim Rempe you're in good company in your opinions on this.

I remember first starting to play with the old clay balls and your right there's a world of difference between those and the balls of today.

Regarding the old 5X10's they had TIGHT pockets not big ones so I'd like to dipell that myth as well. Rempe talked about the old 80/20 Mali cloth they had to play on back then that was much tougher. All this combined seems to point to a much tougher games in those days which is what Sigel and Rempe rightfully mantain. I suspect that I agree with them.

02-12-2003, 10:38 AM
A long time ago I remember reading an article about this inventor looking for a better material for use in dentures. The result was a new substitute for pool and billiard balls.

Paul Mon

02-12-2003, 10:47 AM
I don't know if there was a standard back then. I have read and been told that in the 1960s when pool began becoming very popular again, that some manufactures like Brunswick began making the pockets bigger. I remember some of the old Gold Crown's with really big pockets. Even in tournament play many of the tables supplied were too easy for championship play. If you ever see the tape of Irving Crane running out 150 in the 1966 US open. He should have missed many times the table was so easy. Referring back to what you said about the old 5x10's The ones used in championship play were set up tough. I believe 4 1/2 to 4 3/4 was what many of them were. Mosconi told me he had played on tables with 4 inch pockets. One of his knocks on today's game was always how easy the tables are. Not long before he died, (his game now very weak) I saw him set up a break shot and run off 42 balls (three racks), he left a good break shot but quit at that point. He walked over and sat down. He turned and said "If I was playing on that table 30 years ago, I might have run a thousand." I am told though, that the table he ran the 527 or 28 I forget, was a pretty easy table also. It makes sense because he never posted a run like that till the 1950's. If the tables were in fact so easy as Grady says back then, Mosconi would have done numbers like that much sooner.

L.S. Dennis
02-12-2003, 11:04 AM
You're probaly correct about the big tables being set especially tough for the big tournaments back then. I'm not sure where I read it or heard it, it might have been Caris who was talking about the tight pockets on the old 5X10's they used to have to play on.

Whenever I get a chance to play on one of these old big tables (there's not that many around anymore) I always take advantage just to give myself a good reality check.
It's always a sobering experience!

Fran Crimi
02-12-2003, 11:21 AM
You know...maybe it was WW I and not II. I could have gotten the wars mixed up. LOL ...And now that I think about it, I think it was $10,000.

I'm just a world of inaccurate information here. Ha!


02-12-2003, 11:24 AM
Hafta agree with ya, Fran. Also, how about clay balls, on fuzzy cloth, on slower rails, with sticks(not cues) that didn't have the same quality tip/ferrules and shaft tapers of today!


02-12-2003, 12:17 PM
Reports of exploding balls surfaced across the country.
Actually what happened is Celluloid appeared to explode because there outer shell could not withstand the hard collisions. The balls were simply bursting. The noise made on impact further enhanced the illusion that they were actually exploding.

In the span of thirty six years the Hyatt's celluloid factory in Newark was the sene of thirty nine fires and explosions, resulting in at least nine deaths and thirty nine injurys. The materials used like alcohol, gun cotton (collodian), camphor, and nitrocellulose were flamable indgredients!

I copied the above, not word for word, from The Billiard Encylopedia. Phelan and Collender probably saved themselves $10,000 because it doesn't say the sum was ever paid. It's doubtful they would pay if a ball shattered.

~~~ rod busted a one ball in several peices, no explosion just peices. Hey this is a dangerous game!

Fran Crimi
02-12-2003, 02:02 PM
<blockquote><font class="small">Quote Rod:</font><hr>
~~~ rod busted a one ball in several peices, no explosion just peices. Hey this is a dangerous game! <hr /></blockquote>

Hey Rod, I think I have a combat chin protector lying around if you'd like to borrow it.


02-12-2003, 03:31 PM
&gt;In the span of thirty six years the Hyatt's celluloid factory in Newark was the sene of thirty nine fires and explosions, resulting in at least nine deaths and thirty nine injurys. The materials used like alcohol, gun cotton (collodian), camphor, and nitrocellulose were flamable indgredients!

I can imagine that was a dangerous place to work. I know from dealing with older guitars the celluloid is HIGHLY flamable. It leaches off chemicals and shrinks over a period of time as well. Nitrocellulose lacquer is also obviously highly flamable, and leaches chemicals and shrinks over time as well. If you look at an old guitar the finish is often "checked" with tiny cracks all over the body. That is the result of the shrinkage. Instruments finished in nitro are highly sought after however, even modern instruments. The wood is able to breathe and continue to age... and the finish is usually much thinner than newer finishes, allowing the wood to resonate.

I have put a match to a real celluloid guitar pick and those things go up just like that!

02-12-2003, 08:12 PM
I've been thinking about this. Yes balls and cloth have improved. The old balls were heavy and the old cloth did not have nylon plus it had a nap. If anything was better then, it might have been the cushions. I'm speaking of say 1940's to 50's. I played on those tables with new and old balls. The cushion's were very lively but the bed speed was a little slow. I never saw a set of cushions replaced or noticed the need as I do with todays tables. I believe the rubber was very pure and faster. That's not saying good cushions are not available today but as standard equipment some are very slow.

I noticed Greg at Diamond mentioned going to Artemis cushions, evidently he feels some cushions are sub-standard and they are. Connelly uses them and probably a couple of others. Brunswick to my knowledge uses their Super Speed which aren't very speedy. Another change along the way is rail height and facing angle. I was told Brunswick changed both about mid 60's. It went up higher and that might have been because of popularity of the game. Meaning with all the new rooms opening, balls bouncing off the table could have been a problem, (just speculation). The old rail height had to be lower because of c/b reaction. Higher rails mean slower rebound because it pinches the ball under the rail a bit more, loss of energy.

On the old tables and cloth I could draw the c/b to 5 rails fairly easy. One item I left out is there was not any air conditioning! Geez how did we do without that?
Just a few days ago I tried that on a GC III and come up 4+ feet short. It could be the cushions are a bit old and rubber quality.

The point is I believe the old tables were more solid and the cushions were more lively. I think there is a little trade off with todays non directional cloth. The heavy balls would be somewhat of a problem on any table.

02-12-2003, 09:57 PM
No Fran, you can keep that item you may still need it. ha!
My aim seems to be in the forehead area!

L.S. Dennis
02-13-2003, 04:57 PM
Aside from the obvious space factor was there any other reason that the old 5X10's were abandoned? Possible and effort to speed up game?

I kind of wish there were more of them around these days.

02-13-2003, 05:38 PM
Space definately but it could be they wanted the championship games on 9 footers to help promote the game for the average Joe and home sales. Those things sure take up a lot of space. I use to play a lot of 9 ball and some 14-1 on them. I haven't a clue where one is here.

02-15-2003, 12:26 AM
I grew up playing on 5x10's in the 40's &amp; 50's in Kling &amp; Allens &amp; other big time rooms in the Kansas City, Mo downtown area. Ivory cue balls were going out when I was coming in. I still practice my Masse shots with ivory. The balls today are totally superior to the old clay balls, and the ivory cue balls then were usually out of round. The comments being made on this acts like we played on rugs then, the Simonois #l being used then was fast, and the tables &amp; their workmanship was great. The game is easier today because the balls are better, the cues are better, the tables are smaller, the pockets are bigger. If you ever find a old 5x10 table &amp; try playing on it, you'll agree with me. The high run on them did not go over 300 balls until 3-3-39 when Irving Crane ran 309 in Layton, Utah. Mosconi later did same, then set the high run of 365, which held until the l0' went out of use. Mosconi's high run of 526 was on a 5x8' table. If he had that same 8' table with 5" pockets back in his prime, he would have ran 700. Most of the old 5xl0's had 4l/2" pockets, that was when the game was the most difficult. A couple of years ago I did a New Years eve party at the Schuler Cue Factory in Palatine, Ill &amp; Ray put me on a l927 5x10' with 4l/2" pockets, I made all my show shots, but I had nightmares for weeks about that. I had forgotten, just how tough, it used to be &amp; how good, you had to be, to win on them. In the 30's &amp; 40's, on the 5xl0's with 4l/2" pockets, the game was definetely much more difficult than it is today, there is no question about that. Fast Larry www.fastlarrypool.com (http://www.fastlarrypool.com)

L.S. Dennis
02-15-2003, 01:57 AM
Interesting comments and obsevations Larry. Are you sure about Mosconi having his high run on a 5X8 table? I've never heard of one of those. I think I may have read somewhere that he did it on a 4X8 table but I could be wrong.

I agree with you in that the game had to be a lot tougher back then.

02-18-2003, 09:59 PM
There is still one company that makes tables like the old days. Murrey and Sons out of California( recently bought out) has many models. The rails are angled down so the ball will jump if hit too hard with top. The pockets are deep and very narrow. They are solid oak and are extremely well made. They are the fastest tables I have ever played on by far.