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.
May: The Chronicler & The Champ
The first time I saw Allen Hopkins and Pat Fleming, they were dressed in tuxedos and entering, virtually side-by-side, the Grand Ballroom of the Roosevelt Hotel in New York City. Hopkins wore a black tux and sported a neatly trimmed beard. Fleming’s tux was light brown with dark brown velour lapels. Hopkins carried a black cue case under his arm. Fleming, who at the time used a one-piece cue, had his cue in a long case slung over his shoulder, with the tip end jutting above his head like a hunting bow. (It gave him a Robin Hood look.) The year was 1981, and the event was the Professional Pool Players Association World Open straight pool championship.
It’s funny the things you remember all these years later.
The next time I see Hopkins and Fleming they will be entering, again virtually side-by-side, the Billiard Congress of America Hall of Fame. (Hopefully, Fleming has long since ditched the brown tux!) The recently elected pair will enter billiards’ hallowed halls through different doors — Hopkins in the Greatest Players category, Fleming for Meritorious Service — but with similarly impressive resumes. And I suspect the memory of their inductions will stick with me as long and as clearly as that August day in 1981.
I have a special place in my billiard memory bank for Hopkins and Fleming, because they were among the game’s elite when I first started with Billiards Digest. They were, along with their contemporaries Mike Sigel, Steve Mizerak, Nick Varner and Jimmy Rempe, among the smooth-stroking, tuxedo-clad stars of the day. They were also among the first players I met, and I remember being somewhat surprised by their accessibility and openness, and how readily they accepted me into the pool subculture.
Hopkins was one of the game’s most versatile stars. He played all the games, and played them well. As a money player, Hopkins was both feared and fearless. He was a tournament force from the ’70s right through the ’90s, and won major titles in straight pool, 9-ball, 10-ball and one-pocket. He won the PPPA World Open in 1977, the U.S. Open 9-Ball Championship in ’77 and ’81, and the Camel Tour Denver 10-Ball Open in ’99. Hopkins’ action reputation was that the longer the race, the better the chance he’d win. Turns out those sessions were simply a microcosm of his career.
Meanwhile, Fleming, always one of the game’s analytical minds, packed away his cue in the ’80s in favor of the sport’s preservation. He devised a formula that statistically analyzed a player’s performance at the table and assigned it a quotient. His Accu-Stats Total Performance Average became pool’s equivalent of baseball’s batting average, and suddenly players were boasting about the TPA they’d just posted in a match.
Soon Fleming began installing video recorders to chronicle matches (more dependable than scorekeepers, he surmised). The videos soon became sought-after by both players and fans. Thus was born Accu-Stats Video Productions. Fleming created his own niche in the game, but what he could never have imagined is that his library of taped matches has proven to be the most complete video history of the game over the past 25 years. Such contributions to a sport that has a history of neglecting its past cannot be overvalued.
Sigel, Mizerak, Varner and Rempe may have preceded Hopkins and Fleming into the BCA Hall of Fame, but their places alongside the others are no less earned, no less deserved.
The Hall of Fame did right by saving them seats at the table.