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Untold Stories: The Boy Wonder

Greenleaf was the dynamic foil to the usually monotonous Taberski.

ALTHOUGH GREENLEAF failed to make it to the top during the following two years, he nonetheless continued wowing the press and the fans. In October 1918, for instance, the 18-year-old ended a game in a single inning with an unfinished run of 100. It was often Taberski, his conquerer from 1916, who continued to block the way. At the time many believed Taberski unstoppable.

Two more different players could hardly be imagined. Greenleaf was lighting fast, aggressive — even capricious. Veteran Taberski had earned the nickname “The Inexorable Snail” because he was so slow. Greenleaf was young and dynamic. Taberski could be boring. But the Schenectady, N.Y. native was also very, very dangerous.

In 1918 Greenleaf fell victim once again to this plodding and methodical ball-running machine. It marked Taberski’s 10th straight victory in head-to-head competitions against world-class players — an unheard-of feat. But Taberski’s style was also driving fans crazy. So the powers that be suggested a one-minute shot clock as a way to speed things up. According to Mike Shamos, writing in his excellent “New Illustrated Encyclopedia of Billiards,” Taberski disagreed with this new rule and as a consequence no tournament was held that year. “However, the time limit was instituted in the 1919 championship, and Taberski refused to compete, thus starting the reign of Ralph Greenleaf,” writes Shamos.


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