Richard Kranicki Interview ~ “Mighty” Joe Young

I first met Rich Kranicki a little over 5 years ago when my business partner, Al Tonelli, introduced me to him in our new pool room. “He’s a person of great interest with great ideas; gives lessons to a few guys too,” he said. Over the years, I discovered that Al was right – Rich did have ideas brewing with a couple coming to fruition.

As a student of the game myself, I’ve had the distinct pleasure of discussing, dissecting and learning about the mechanics and physics of pool with him that I would never have achieved alone. Rich is an accomplished author, once a contributing columnist for InsidePOOL Magazine, screen play writer, inventor and product developer and the only author to receive Willie Mosconi’s endorsement.

I am proud to know Rich and look forward to years of “picking his brain” about the sport. I hope my interview introduces Richard to the masses and wish him continued success in all his endeavors.

Hi Rich, tell me a little about yourself. Where are you from? Where do you live? Do you have any hobbies or interests outside of pool? I was born and currently reside in South Philadelphia. I like motorcycling because of the freedom that comes with the therapeutic feeling of almost flying while exploring the highways and byways.  I also enjoy watching a good movie and listening to good music. Aside from pool, do you or did you have another occupation? I worked as a City Recreation Leader, a drummer and electronic technician for several years.  I did some modeling which led into TV Commercial and Drama study. When were you first exposed to pool?  We’ve all had that moment or something that made us “catch the bug”, what was yours? At 14 years old, I began frequenting Longo’s Pool Room with my buddies in the summer.  We used to save a dollar every day to bang balls around on the 5’x10’ tables.  I loved the hardwood floors and the loud humming of the two big fans that ventilated the second floor. I just loved the ambiance. Tell me about the history of your pool-playing, or in this case, your pool-teaching career. Sometime in the early 80’s, after a brief and frustrating stint with a world class pool player, I [decided and] drove 17 hours, non-stop from Philadelphia to Madison, Wisconsin, to study with the grand master BCA Instructor – Mr. Jerry Briesath.  Jerry’s organized method put me on the right track. Shortly afterwards, I studied with Don “The Preacher” Feeney.  Don taught me the importance of proper alignment.  Don was an Engineer, so we communicated very well. [Back home] since my basement was where the washer machine, the dryer and the drainage sink were located, there was not quite enough room to play without obstructions on a 4’ x 8’ pool table.  So, I resorted to doing a lot of drills.  In one way, it was very frustrating but the positive was that the lack of proper space forced me to focus on addressing the shot, descending over the shot, stroking and different aiming methods. During a two-year span of mainly practicing, 12-14 hours a day at times, I would lose track of time.  For example, I would start practicing on a Monday morning and finish on a Tuesday evening, but still thought it was a Monday afternoon when I went to bed! I went from running five balls in rotation 50% of the time to 10 balls 50% of the time. But, my 500% improvement did not satisfy me. So, I started my personal quest for more knowledge with a prayer and a daily journal. Ironically, in the summer of 1989, I ended my quest to be the best player I could be when meeting Willie Mosconi.  I met Willie through Mike Fusco who was the owner of The Boulevard Room and I soon started to write Willie’s screenplay.  While I was demonstrating a couple of my discoveries to Willie, he offered his collaboration with my instructional book that I was beginning.  What an honor!   Here’s a legend whose name everyone would empathetically say while shooting pool back then, and he offers his assistance to me?   I was in disbelief!   I was extremely honored to be the only author to have received the Mosconi endorsement!  Sadly, Willie and I did not get a chance to work together on my book, because he passed away soon afterwards.  However, his family honored Willie’s intentions by endorsing my book, ANSWERS TO A POOL PLAYER’S PRAYERS. As it stands today, I have stopped counting the time, after spending over 32,000 documented hours exploring new teaching methods.  I used to laboriously draw diagrams and write, but the last few years, I have discovered a video camera was much easier to communicate. You were once a regular contributor in a popular magazine column. How did you get into teaching pool and why? If I can remember correctly, I started to lend advice to some of the great players when they asked if I saw what they were doing wrong.  Then I started to teach the serious players because I empathized with their years of frustrations.  In most cases, I was able to quickly see what they were doing wrong.  And, to keep things less complicated, I would only correct what the individual player needed and did not change their styles. You’ve been called the “teacher’s teacher”. That’s a phenomenal compliment by one of the leading teachers in the country. How do you feel about that? What are your [other] greatest professional accomplishments? Well, if can say this in the humblest way, I was honored by several top instructors for my work.  I was honored with terrific reviews from Jim West, Thomas C. Shaw and Bob Henning.  Bob wrote something like “Mr. Kranicki had invented new terms and nobody took this subject matter to the depth that Kranicki does”.  Jim West wrote “Answer’s to A Pool Player’s Prayers is the mother of all treatises on the fundamentals of pool”. I also received a great book endorsement from my long-time teacher, BCA Grand Master Jerry Briesath. What an honor because Jerry was responsible for setting me on my exploratory path. Now, to the specific incident that I think you are referring… before I go further, this young world class player had asked to keep his name confidential at the time and so, please forgive me for keeping his request now. When I met this troubled world class player, he said that I was his last hope.  He claimed that he tried several Hall of Fame teachers, and players in the pool world including in Hong Kong. So, after a very quick instruction, Al Tonelli, one of the owners of Fat Albert’s Billiards, asked him, “Are you happy with Richard’s help”?  This world-class player loudly said, “No!  I am not happy!  I am $#!^ ecstatic!.  He just fixed my problem in two !%#!* minutes”! I have video of the before and after session as a memento! Well, a few years later, at a cue exhibition, someone calls out, ”Richard Kranicki! The teacher’s teacher! I was there that night when you taught so-and-so!” It was the world class player’s friend.  He explained that his world-class friend was, at the time, and still is a pool teacher. I hope that no one loses sleep because they need to know the names in the story. If so, try asking me after this article is released. Maybe, then I can get their permission to reveal their names in private. One of my most proud pool moments was playing an exhibition with Willy Mosconi.  Before we started, he strolled behind me and whispered, “Don’t miss!”. I had to giggle. That’s what he used to tell his opponents when he was the perennial champion. Here is a photo taken with my mother and Willie at the Claridge Casino and Hotel in October 1990!
Some of my proudest accomplishments is publishing An Answer To A Prayer and earning it’s prestigious endorsements and reviews. Writing for an instructional column for a few billiard magazines like InsidePOOL. Most recently, designing The Protrusion pool cue and what an honor it is to have Dale Perry craft the two prototypes. I am hoping to have another new revolutionary product developed soon. You’re an accomplished author with your book, “Answers to a Pool Players Prayers”. When did you start the book and how long did it take you to write it? What prompted you to write the book? Where can our readers buy a copy? The research started around 1987 and the printing took about 7 months!  ANSWERS TO A POOL PLAYER’S PRAYERS came out in May of 2000 which resulted in an invitation to write an instructional column for a new billiard magazine. What prompted me to write the book?  Hmmm, I really don’t know.  It just came natural to start writing the date and every idea on paper – I guess I was on a mission.  I was just so consumed with a burning passion which fueled my quest for years and I will state that the book is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg when comparing it to what I have unearthed. Although very brief and concentrated on one area (my stroke), I’ve experienced firsthand your teaching method using your newest development, The Protrusion Cue, made by Dale Perry. Can you share with our readers what The Protrusion is and how it can be not only a useful instructional tool but as a regular playing cue too? How did you come up with the design? Why “the protrusion”? Since we cannot see the butt of our cue when shooting, we rely on our instincts to aim with the back of the cue.  The Protrusion cue is designed as a comfortable stroking aid for all skill levels.  It evolved during my years of exploring new teaching methods. It will instantaneously alert the player of a twisting or an off-angling stroke. It will quickly help the player learn the proper stroking motions and, once learned, The Protrusion will help the player maintain the learned muscle memory just by holding it.  Therefore, you can play with it while focusing on the game instead of constantly checking the alignment of the cue butt. If your stroke is not straight, even the greatest aiming methods will be inconsistent! Presentation and The Stroke Development videos can be seen on my new website www.PoolEyes.com. What and/or who continues to motivate you in the sport? I like watching the serious players play and hearing how they learned to play. I enjoy talking to the very young players who represent the future stars. I admire the continued efforts to better pool by all the devoted columnists, instructors and pool products. The current and future state of the sport.  Are you happy with the current state of pool? I am sorry to honestly say that I am not very happy with the current state of pool! I am hearing from the players who travel that while the popularity of pool has been steadily increasing in places like Asia, it has been decreasing in the United States and even parts of Europe.  I miss the great late 70’s to the 90’s when pool seemed to be more alive! That was a time when favorite rooms were filled with world and national-class players on a regular basis. I just don’t see the same dedication to improve by the majority of today’s players. Why do you think that is? – that the sport is not as popular? Ha-ha!  Do you realize that you have asked that question as though you yourself know it is not as popular? Well, I believe the biggest reason is the easily accessible electronic games. Cell phones today offer a quick alternative to mastering a “game”. The games even have their own “cheat sheets” to help frustrated players master electronic games in days, or weeks. To contrast that of pool which requires diligent years to acquire a level of good play.  It is very similar to what happened to the popularity of pool with the introduction of affordable television sets in the late 50’s.  It resulted in a drastic drop in interest and participation! So what’s keeping it alive? From what I see, it is the bar leagues and amateur pool combined with the 7-foot tables. The local leagues are a fun way to meet new friends and socialize. What improvements can be made to enhance and grow it? I believe getting national sponsorships. And I mean big companies outside the pool industry that could offer deserved cash prizes to the game’s best players. Bigger cash prizes would pay for the traveling expenses, as well as, pay the bills at home. Maybe, some new games or new rule changes, new pool products and better teaching methods to appeal to the mindsets of each new generation. A big pool movie might get attention! The game of pool experienced a big revitalization after both “The Hustler” and “The Color of Money” movies came out. Maybe it’s time for another hit. And who knows?  Maybe, my Mosconi film could be the next great pool movie that reinvigorates pool. Hey! If any of your readers know of any serious film investors, send them my way!  I have an Oscar Award Winning Producer who would love to produce the Mosconi film and I have letters of support from the pool world’s biggest authorities! Now what avid pool player wouldn’t want to see Willie running the record 526 Balls on the silver screen? I know I would! Would you?

Answers to a Pool Players Prayers can be purchased as a hard copy or e-book on The Author House web site, Google and Amazon. An electronic scanned copy of the 113 page book can be purchased for $15 via PayPal at www.PoolEyes.com or email Mr. Kranicki at poolprayers@aol.com.  Mr. Kranicki can be found at Fat Albert’s Billiards in South Jersey, working a few shifts and giving lessons.

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