HADDON HEIGHTS, N.J. -- Willie Mosconi, 80, who won the world billiards title 15 times from 1940 to 1957, died Sept. 16 at his home here after a heart attack.
Among his career highlights was his 1941 world championship title in the longest billiard tournament event in the game's history, according to Pool & Billiard Magazine's June issue.
That round-robin event featured the top eight players, each of whom played every other player 32 times. Participants played five days a week over a six-month period in six cities. Mr. Mosconi set many records during the tournament, including the fastest game of record with 125 points in 30 minutes.
Other records he still holds from other matches include his exhibition high run of 526 balls in the game of straight pool in Springfield, Ohio, in 1954.
Mr. Mosconi, who stood about 5 feet 8 inches and weighed 140 pounds, was distinguished-looking with prematurely gray hair and dapper dress. He was handsome, affable and engaging. His game was fast and daring. He moved around the table like a dancer, rarely taking a practice stroke. He often gambled on risky shots and sank them, and was recognized as a master of the table-length shots.
He gained a wider fame as technical adviser for the 1960 movie, "The Hustler." The movie was loosely based on the life of his longtime pool rival, Rudolph Wanderone, better known as Minnesota Fats. Mr. Mosconi also coached Tom Cruise when he co-starred with Paul Newman in the 1986 sequel, "The Color of Money."
Mr. Mosconi was said to have suggested that Jackie Gleason be cast as Minnesota Fats, the cunning pool shark who is challenged by the young and eager innocent, Fast Eddie Felson. Mr. Mosconi spent about 4 1/2 months teaching the game to Newman and made some of the fancy shots for the movie.
The film's success made Minnesota Fats a household name. Wanderone's dramatic rise to prominence angered Mr. Mosconi. He believed hustlers made their living by gambling, often purposely losing games and a little money to sucker the unwary into big-stakes games they had no prayer of winning. Mr. Mosconi, on the other hand, made his living in tournament play, pitting his game against those whose skills rivaled his.
Finally, television saw the commercial possibilities of the rivalry and lined up a challenge match. The two traded challenges and jeers for weeks and met on camera in 1978, Mr. Mosconi in a tuxedo and Minnesota Fats in baggy pants and polo shirt. Mr. Mosconi triumphed easily.
Mr. Mosconi was born in Philadelphia and took dancing lessons as a youth. But at the age of 6, he discovered a pool table in an uncle's basement. He was so good at the game that the uncle took the 11-year-old boy to New York, touting him as a "boy wonder" of pool.
He dropped out of school in the 10th grade to help support his family, but was quickly fired as an upholsterer. He then entered a pool tournament that paid $75 to the winner, and, of course, he won. In 1933, he traveled to Chicago and entered his first world championship tournament, which he lost by a single ball to Erwin Rudolph.
The Brunswick Co., which manufactured billiard equipment, then hired him at $600 a month to tour the country and give exhibitions.
"Willie's Game," an autobiography based on Mr. Mosconi's life, was released in June.
Survivors include his wife, Flora, of Haddon Heights; three children; and five grandchildren.
GERALD D. LOB
Gerald D. Lob, 61, a retired engineering manager of WETA Channel 26, died of cancer Sept. 17 at the Hospice of Northern Virginia.
A resident of Springfield, Mr. Lob was born in Lancaster, England. In the 1950s, he was a policeman in Sydney. He then returned to England and worked as a broadcast engineer with Grenada Television in Manchester.
In 1968, he came to the United States. He worked for a television station in Philadelphia until 1972, when he moved to the Washington area and joined the staff of WETA Channel 26. He retired in 1991.
Survivors include his wife of 30 years, Sylvia Lob, and their son, Alistair G. Lob, both of Springfield; his mother, Ena Stewart of Kirkby Stephen, England; a brother, Peter Lob of Norwich, England; and a half-brother, Ian Stewart of Kendal, England.