I think it’s kinda cool that one of my all-time favorite sports legends is a guy that a lot of casual sports fans might never have heard of. I used to be disappointed and dismayed that the shadowy world of professional pocket billiards had such difficulty getting mainstream media coverage, but now …
(Photo courtesy of www.insidepoolmag.com)
So much time as passed since the days when I used to gripe about that situation that I now understand it’s probably not going to change substantially in my lifetime, and I guess that’s OK. Too bad for the many great players and all the fans, but probably an understandable situation given the aforementioned “shadowy” nature of the game.
I have been wading around cyberspace for quite awhile looking up information about Efren Reyes, so long in fact that I have forgotten what got me onto it in the first place.
I want to say that Reyes was the greatest pool player I had ever seen, but anybody who knows anything about pool understands that the “sport” defies the idea of that kind of broad labeling. Best you can hope for is “best you’ve ever seen” at this or that particular game.
Since I practiced for several months with Irving Crane, he has to easily get the nod as the greatest straight-pool player I’ve ever seen, but Reyes is my pick for 9-ball. He also has the purest and most elegant stroke I’ve ever seen, and I suspect that anyone who’s ever seen him play would probably agree. It’s probably no coincidence that the three sports I am most involved with – baseball, golf and billiards – each offers a particularly compelling reverence for the purest swing, or in the case of pool, stroke.
However I happened upon Reye’s Wikipedia entry, I was struck by the extensive listing of his “Titles and Achievements,” numbering to 78 in all. I noticed there were only seven listings in the 1980s, and I was looking for the event in Atlantic City, N.J., where I first saw him play.
The other cool thing I remembered was that he used to play under an alias in those days – Cesar Morales – which he said he used because at the time U.S. players knew of Efren Reyes by name (he was already a legend in his native Philippines and in the Far East) but wouldn’t necessarily recognize him by sight.
But once they saw his stroke, as I did at that 1988 tournament on the boardwalk in Atlantic City, they would have had no doubt.
The other reason I liked Reyes was that he was born in Angeles City just outside of what was Clark Air Force Base. I had been to Angeles City a couple of times when I was stationed at Subic Bay Naval Base during the Vietnam War, and the thought of a world-class pool player emerging from my adopted homeland tickled me no end.
There is perhaps no other sport in the United States played by so many millions of citizens that seems so completely unable to effectively market its professional tour than pool. Catching “The Magician” on one of those taped matches on ESPN or ESPN2 can be a hit-or-miss undertaking, but I would urge you to do so if the opportunity arrives.
You should never pass up a chance to see one of the all-time greats.