Mr. 403. ~ Patrick Sampey {Interview}

Monday, September 22, 2014: John Schmidt is called Mr. 400. However, when I interviewed him today, he informed me that he actually ran 400 the first time he got his high run in straight pool (14.1), and then 403 the second time. Therefore, he is more correctly called Mr. 403.

I’m here to set the record to rights and let it be known. I actually met him years ago, back in 2007 at Starcade Billiards in Fort Walton Beach, Florida; he told me then that he had run 403 (I’d forgotten the exact number, however).

“I didn’t hit my first ball until I was 18 years old,” Schmidt tells me — he on the west coast in California and I here in Florida, the landmass of the US between us.

With him on speakerphone it’s almost as if we’re sitting face to face. We hit it off right from the start. Speaking with him is like talking to an old friend: easy and relaxed.

His younger brother, Stan, influenced him to play that first outing. They went to a poolroom called Boyce’s Billiards in California that day. The rest is history.

“I was a baseball player and a golfer,” Schmidt tells me of that time in his young life, and he adds that he really didn’t get into pool in a big way until he was 21. I find this fact amazing, since he now ranks as one of the best pocket billiards champions of all times — on the level with legends in the game like Willie Mosconi.

Schmidt and I talk of the 2014 Mosconi Cup and how he’s a member of the current team, and he regales me on his past experience in the 2006 Mosconi Cup: team USA tied team Europe 12-12, but it was considered a win, Schmidt explains, because team USA had won it the prior year. For that reason, team USA retained the cup. 2006 was the only year there was ever a veritable tie like this, and sets it apart as perhaps the most unique face-off yet.

He speaks of the ‘06 team being a “rookie” team with a younger, less seasoned group that was a little discombobulated and disjointed, although individually they were all great players.

The green core of the team was comprised of Rodney Morris, Corey Deuel, Mike Davis, and Schmidt, although they did have seasoned veterans Johnny Archer and Earl Strickland on board to complete the eclectic menagerie.

Additionally, he states that playing in Europe in front of a raucous, biased crowd placed team USA as a clear underdog yet they somehow, against all odds, pulled out the win with tenacity, grit, and the pride of a nation behind them.

Schmidt recalls, “The Mosconi Cup of ’06 was quite an experience…”

“They do things right, and it was a very extravagant, well run, well publicized, incredible event. I thought that we were pretty big underdogs going over there, because going over there and trying to beat them in Europe is quite difficult… so, I thought for us to go over to Europe and win was quite an accomplishment… and it was the first year that they paid the winning team more