Hustlers hang around looking for a mark to beat out of some cash in a quick game of 9-Ball. These places featured the likes of Minnesota Fats, Fast Eddie Felson (both fictional names), Cincinnati Kid, Memphis Flash, Snooker Sam, Hollywood Jack, Professor and the Whale (all legitimate names of current pool players).
Minnesota Fats was created for a movie possibly based on the life of Rudolf Wonderone, The Hustler, starring Jackie Gleason. Wonderone was known across the East Coast as New York Fats prior to the release of the movie, but decided to take up the “Minnesota Fats” moniker to take advantage of the movie’s success and garner some free publicity.
Fast Eddie Felson was a character portrayed by Paul Newman in The Color of Money with Tom Cruise.
Some of the above is still the norm when pool players gather, but it is not like it was through the early- to mid-20th century. The pool halls and pool players have become a legitimate and booming form of adult recreation. Pool leagues abound and are national in scope. Beeville is home to such a league.
The local league consists of 10 teams of five players each. Each member plays all of the opposing teams’ players in a game of 8-ball, and the winner of each match is awarded 10 points. The loser is credited with the number of balls he or she makes in the match. The player who pockets all of his or her designated balls (solids or stripes) and then sinks the 8-ball in a chosen pocket wins the individual contest.
All the scores are tabulated at the end of the night, and the team with the highest score is declared the weekly winner.
The league takes advantage of rules and regulations set up on a national basis by the Billiards Congress of America (BCA), which has been around and functioning as one of the mainstay organizations within the sport of billiards since 1948.
All the team and individual scores are relayed via computer to the sanctioning body. The BCA then compiles a ranking of both teams and individuals throughout the year.
The season is divided into two 13- to 15-week periods with end tournaments and awards going to the top players. Men and women compete together, but stats are kept for each individual gender to award the top female and male competitors. Beginners and accomplished players compete together. A handicapping system equals the playing field, so all have a chance to sink the 8-ball.
The host club last Tuesday evening, River Bend Sports Bar, has three teams in the league; the Pool Sharks, the Drop Pochetz and the River Rats (aka Hot Shots). The local VFW post has one team, the Warriors. Scores competes with two squads, the Cudas and the Sharp Shooters. Beeville’s Paisano’s tops out the league with four teams in the mix. Eight Ball Strikers, Eight Ball Mafia, The Youngsters and the Lucky Shoot.
“It’s a lot of fun. I really enjoy it,” said Emma Esparza, who confessed she has been playing pool since she was 9 years old.
The quality of pool is good, and the camaraderie among the teams and players is good but definitely competitive. The teams meet at one or two of the locations each week on Tuesday night for some fun and relaxation along with a good bit of competition for bragging rights.
“It’s a lot easier now that we are on computers. It was tough when we had to do all the stats and record keeping by hand,” said league organizer Joe Anthony Benavidez, a bit of a computer whiz himself.
“I just plug in the data to Las Vegas and get back all the standings and stats we need.”
The Beeville league has been in existence for more than 10 years with hundreds of local players enjoying the pool resurgence over the years.
The local league is always looking for new members and teams. Contact league organizer Benavidez at 361-597-0446 on information on how to become a member.
Maybe you can be the first “Beeville Kid” who knocks in a three-cushion shot on the eight-ball for a victory.