From the Publisher
By Mike Panozzo
Mike became editor of Billiards Digest in 1980 and liked it so much that he bought the company. He has served on the Billiard Congress of America board of directors and as president of the Billiard & Bowling Institute of America.
September: The Kaiser
BILLIARDS, AS a sport and an industry, could certainly use a feel-good story right about now, and the recent announcement revealing the Billiard Congress of America's Hall of Fame inductees for 2011 provided not one but two.
The unveiling of Ralf Souquet and Danny DiLiberto as the 58th and 59th members of the industry's shrine to greatness demonstrated both the game's global reach and storied past, as well as its respect for both.
In Souquet, the Hall of Fame electorate embraced a male European pool player for the first time. (The Hall has previously welcomed Belgian three-cushion legend Raymond Ceulemans and European-born lady stars Ewa Laurance and Allison Fisher.) The German Souquet certainly wasn't the first Euro pool player to throw his hat into the American ring game. Several Swedes competed in pro tournaments in the early '80s, and the Fatherland sent Oliver Ortmann, Germany's first international pool star, to the U.S. before Souquet as well. But, other than Tom Storm, the Swedes never really threatened much and Ortmann, while stunning the American pool community by winning the 1989 BCA U.S. Open 14.1 finale over Steve Mizerak, simply didn't spend enough time in the U.S. to make a difference.
Souquet, on the other hand, had no such aversion to travel. The jet-setting German circled the globe in search of quality tournaments and the best competition. He won Matchroom's World Pool Masters in 1994, and the WPA World 9-Ball Championship in 1996. His first big tourney win in the U.S. was in 1998, when he won the Sands Regency Open in Reno. Pretty soon the seemingly emotionless, machine-like Souquet started frequently adding to his collection of tournament hardware in the U.S., winning the biggest events this country had to offer the BCA U.S. Open 14.1 Championship, three BCA Open 9-Ball Championship titles and the U.S. Open 9-Ball Championship. Three Derby City 9-ball crowns and a Turning Stone Classic title further padded his resume.
Closer to home (his, not ours), Souquet boasts a piggish 36 European Championships gold medals and is the most celebrated European participant in the Mosconi Cup.
But Souquet's induction into the BCA Hall of Fame is more about his celebrity in the U.S. and says a lot about just how global the pool world has become. The pro tour, as it currently stands, is a smattering of tournaments on all continents that draw the world's top talent. Souquet shies away from none.
More importantly, perhaps, Souquet is universally admired for his comportment both at and away from the table. He is never at the center of controversy, never whines when he loses, never puffs his chest when he wins. He respects the game and its history.
Fans of the game recognize this in Souquet, and it makes him a player you may not necessarily root for (depending on your allegiances), but a player you'd never root against.
For someone who has watched and interviewed Souquet for nearly 20 years, I've always found him accessible, forthright and interesting. A player who has endured more than his share of heartbreak and euphoria during his many years representing Europe in the Mosconi Cup, Souquet has always offered honest and insightful comments before, during and at the conclusion of the emotion-charged event. For me, as a writer, the Mosconi Cup has always been the litmus test for a player's true character. And Souquet has never changed through those events.
So now, Souquet joins the list of primarily American pool stars in the sport's only true Hall of Fame.
I think he's a perfect fit.
Next month...Danny DiLiberto, Angelo Dundee and me.