Earl "The Pearl" Strickland
(The Unauthorized Article On My Favorite Player Ever!)
BCA Hall Of Famer Earl Strickland had the record on the number of US Open 9 ball Championships won at 5, until recently, when Shane Van Boening (SVB) has achieved the same feat; Strickland won his five US Open 9-ball titles, beginning in 1984, his last in 2000 -- a span of 16 years, sending his 9 ball legendary pool prowess upon the indelible countenance of billiards history; and Earl won his titles amidst a cast of champions like Mike Sigel, Buddy Hall, Allen Hopkins, David Howard, Jimmy Reid, Nick Varner, Tommy Kennedy, Mike Lebron, Johnny Archer, Efren "Bata" Reyes (The GOAT), Rodney Morris, and many other greats of past and present, the future of the game to come. Strickland won against giants in the game in their own right. That is substantial.
So many great billiards players throughout the wonderful, dynamic, myriad of characters that map out the collective whole, the community of billiards legends throughout billiards history, but "The Pearl" is my favorite of all times, and arguably the GOAT of 9 ball (greatest of all times); I say he is the greatest 9 ball player to have ever lived, with Reyes being the GOAT all around in pool and billiards, any game. That is my opinion on Earl Strickland, as opposed to Reyes. If not for Reyes, I think there is a strong case to be made for Earl Strickland being the greatest of all times in pool, but Reyes is so strong, although he didn't win but one US Open 9 ball championship in 1994 that I read of, so Strickland outdid him there 5 times over, but that is one single event, and Strickland was the king of the US Open for a time, until SVB rose up in recent times assassinating players games in tournaments, winning 5 himself, but they are from different eras, though they cross over a bit.
And Strickland has so much passion for the game! Such a fiery, all-guns-blazing, full-throttle, steam-roller, run-out machine when he gets his back arm oiled up, and in full swing, such a smooth stroke, long bridge, body in perfect alignment, solid as any pro in the history of the game I assert; An incredible natural billiards mutant savant 9 ball pool God in human form from my billiards aficionados perspective.
And when you watch Strickland play, you never know what will transpire: he may win 9-0 or something or break his cue, or argue with the spectators, the referees, or just run out in beast mode. Usually it is quite something to witness.
Also, check me on this, but even though Reyes won 120-117 back in the day in the three-day, 'Color Of Money' head to head matchup between these two icons of billiards lore, held in 1997 in Hong Kong for then biggest $100,000, winner-take-all prize in the history of the game -- in all fairness to Strickland's 9 ball prowess, he had it won nearly, up by 17 games starting the final day of play, then appeared to let down a bit, with Reyes steadily grinding all the way. Any true student of the game would do well to watch Reyes or Strickland; these great, legendary players stand as examples of the best of the best the game has ever produced. But back in the day, you always knew Reyes vs Strickland wouldn't be just any matchup, but be as a billiards war, and man, they went at it. I mention Strickland and Reyes together to highlight that Strickland played in a time in the game where Reyes so often reigned supreme, and so for Strickland to achieve 5 US Open 9 ball titles, in light of that, is very substantial indeed. How can it not be?
Additionally, Strickland won the WPA World 9 ball Championship three times -- and has appeared 14 times in the Mosconi Cup, winning it with his teammates on 9 of those occasions -- placing "The Pearl" second only to that of Johnny Archer's 17, in most Mosconi cup appearances for the USA -- who is tied with team Europe's Ralf Souquet at 17 appearances as well; incredible tenacity, in light of the most raucous audience the game has ever seen. A truly amazing, championship player of the highest order, Strickland. He always made the game look easy, so often under the toughest pressure and fanfare -- winning the World Pool Masters in 1997 as well -- so many titles won, champions bested, racks run, the best of the best so often run over by the Strickland, billiards-express, gravy train -- straight out of Roseboro, North Carolina.
Hail to the king of 9 ball! Hail to one of the greatest to ever play pool. That "pearl" is one of the brightest shining gems the game has seen, will ever see.