Minnesota Fats may be the most unique and entertaining person pool has ever seen.
He was a one-man quote machine, and there are a lot of great stories about him. Let’s start with some claims Minnesota Fats made at one time or another in his life:
He sailed around the world six times, and survived two shipwrecks. He had sex with harem girls. He was forced to perform fellatio at gunpoint by a pistol-packing beauty.* He beat Hitler at pool. He hobnobbed with kings, queens, and celebrities including Clark Gable, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Damon Runyon and Al Capone. Etta James claimed to be his illegitimate daughter. Willie Mosconi wore earplugs when playing Fats. He had a bunch of nicknames: Minnesota Fats, New York Fats. Brooklyn Fats, Broadway Fats, Chicago Fats, Fatty, The Fat Man, The Fat One, Double Smart Fats, Triple Smart Fats, Rudy, The Bank Shot Bandit and The Dean of the Green. Richie Florence once spotted Minnesota Fats 8-7 playing one pocket and ended up losing $52,000. In a published interview years later, Florence said that Fats was so funny, he was belly laughing the whole time.
Here are some of Fats’ best quotes:
“If Cornbread Red ever plays me, he’ll be known as No Bread Red.” “”I beat them all,” he says. “There was Blue Hamilton, the Bromo Seltzer King, Sniffy Moore who sniffed from morning till night. The Yellow Kid. Ralph Greenleaf, and his wife Princess Nai Tai Tai, who was beautiful beyond compare. Wimpy Lassiter, Tuscaloosa Squirrelly and Cornbread Red. Some of the greatest action men of all time. I ironed ’em all out.” “A pool player in a tuxedo is like whipped cream on a hot dog.” “My grandfather took me to the pool hall when I was a baby, and they’d put me on a table while they played. My crib was a pool table.” “Money is the root of all good.” “I’m the laziest guy in the world.” “Titanic Thompson got his name cause he was on the Titanic in 1912. He put on ladies’ clothes to save himself, and got off the boat first.” “I know three, maybe four, people in the world that can drink and shoot.” “I dated Mae West when she was a young woman.” “If it wasn’t for me, ‘The Hustler’ never would have been as fantastic as it was because everyone on earth knew me.”
When asked why he wasn’t drafted, Fats’ replied:
“Why wasn’t I drafted? I played in Army and Navy hospitals till it came out of their ears so they bypassed me on account of all them charity things. And me, I wouldn’t shoot a fly myself. They would be wasting their time, drafting me.”
Fats’ views on his fellow man:
“I’m the most intelligent man I know; the more I hang around with you imbeciles the more I realize I am the most intelligent man I know. I could spot Einstein the 10 ball. I know everything that everybody else knows, and nobody knows what I know.” “Ordinary humans are imbeciles to start with. A lot of people don’t know the strength of that.”
Why Fats avoided pool tournaments:
“You judge a king by the size of his wallet and his palace. You can leave the crown in the toilet.”
On his trip to Baghdad as a young man (and other travels):
“At the palace the princess Fatima danced on a table right in front of me. Years later her daughter came after me. In India, I used to entertain all the important ones, the Ali Kahn and his old man Aga Kahn. I was around with what’s his name way back in the olden days, Maurice Chevalier. Anyway, I played in the sultan’s palace, the most unbelievable joint in the world, solid gold stairs and a gold pool table.”
Fats’ opinion on education:
“School, to me, was the biggest joke the world has ever known. I learned everything I ever needed to know from lawyers and doctors and legislators, all them people who was brilliant.”
His views on exercise and golf:
“Exercise is the biggest joke in the world, it’s a joke. And aerobics, it’s so ridiculous it ain’t even funny. I never watch TV in my life, but I’m down in the bar and I see it. Here’s a woman who looks like Tarzan. Unbelievable, so ridiculous it ain’t even funny.” “I wouldn’t carry a golf bag if you put a machine gun in my mouth. Carry a golf bag, 100 pounds of clubs in the joint. You gotta put it in the car and take it outta the car. To me, it’s the silliest thing on earth.”
Fats owned 27 dogs, 14 cats and fed every stray in the vicinity. He used to drive around with a carload of Kentucky Fried Chicken and throw it to baying packs of dogs. On animals, he said,
“What’s more ridiculous than an animal? He doesn’t know where his next meal is coming from. I hear about the things people do to dogs, it makes me sick.”
It was widely known that Fatty was a soft touch. He would cave in to every sob story. He gave clothes to children. He peeled off countless bills to the infirm, the unemployed and the very clever.
“I gave millions out.” “It is easy for me to make money. I got so many different outs it ain’t even funny. I could hustle cards and make $200,000-$300,000 a year, a million. I could hustle pool again. I can do things a lot of people can’t do. Ordinary people can’t do that.”
And, finally, Fats spoke on himself:
“I come from a long line of honest people. Me to cheat would be like me sweeping up the entire downtown area with a nickel broom, you understand?” “Ask around, I’m purer than the Pope of Rome. Purer than nine Popes of Rome” “I’m the greatest pool player that ever lived, bar none.”
In some ways he may have been right.
Watch Minnesota Fats on Celebrity Billiards, raising money for charity.
* This tidbit was found here: http://www.thehypertexts.com/Minnesota%20Fats%20Overrated%20Pool%20Billiards.htm
Photo: Courtesy of Author Editor: Marcee Murray King