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.
March: Blasts From The Past
TURNING 30 IS one of those landmark occasions. It’s the “you’re-a-responsibility-laden-adult-now” birthday.
I remember my 30th all too well. When I was 29 and 364 days old, my grandmother still looked at my position as editor of Billiards Digest with great pride. “You’re so young and the editor of a magazine,” she’d say.
When I was 30 and one minute old, her tune changed. “Are you still working for the same magazine? When are you going to move on to a bigger job? You’re 30 now!”
It’s strictly a matter of perception. (And, thankfully, the perception today is “50 is the new 30,” which means I haven’t aged a day in the last 20 years!)
None of which has anything to do with Billiards Digest’s 30th birthday, but it’s a good story.
No, the 30th year of Billiards Digest is more about reflection than expectations. Oh, don’t get me wrong, we’ve never had higher expectations of the magazine than we have today. And it’s better than it’s ever been. The writing is superb, the design crisp and contemporary, the art superior.
But one of the most enjoyable facets of celebrating an anniversary is looking back. We’ve spent countless hours poring over old issues and our massive photo file. And we found so much cool stuff that we’ve decided to celebrate our 30th anniversary for 12 straight months!
Readers have already enjoyed the first installments of our primary anniversary tribute: 30 Over 30. The monthly feature showcases our selections of the 30 best tournament finales since Billiards Digest was launched in September 1978. The best part of this ongoing feature, of course, is that video footage from many of the final matches is available on billiardsdigest.com. The collection of tournament finals gives you, our treasured readers, an opportunity to see some of the stars of yesterday … Mike Sigel, Steve Mizerak, Buddy Hall, Jean Balukas, Loree Jon Jones, etc. … and some of today’s stars when they were just earning their stripes … Jeanette Lee, Johnny Archer, Earl Strickland, Efren Reyes, Allison Fisher, and more.
The 30th anniversary series is particularly fun for me because I had the pleasure of witnessing a great many of the matches. We’ve already showcased one of my all-time favorites — Tommy Kennedy’s unlikely U.S. Open Championship victory in 1992. For some odd reason there was an energy around the then-unranked 27-year-old pro at that tournament, and I followed him around all week. He carried a perpetual smile and spent most of the time offering admiration for his opponents’ abilities. It was infectious.
During his winner’s bracket final matchup with top-ranked Johnny Archer, Kennedy would shake his head and smile every time Archer made a good shot. “That was a great shot, Johnny,” he’d gush. Or, “You hit that like a world champion, Johnny.” Even Archer, realizing Kennedy’s effusiveness was genuine, would stop and chuckle.
And when Kennedy would make a good shot of his own (and he made plenty), he’d punctuate it with an almost giddy, “Yeah,” as if surprised by his own success.
By the time the championship match came around, fans sitting tableside were armed with posters that read, “Yeah,” and, “Praise the Lord,” Kennedy’s other pet phrase.
Fans viewing the video footage on billiardsdigest.com will no doubt get a good feel for what it was like to be in Chesapeake, Va., that week.
Unfortunately, not every selection has accompanying video. In fact, perhaps the greatest final day in the last 30 years is recalled only in photos and first-hand recollections.
The year was 1985. The city, Houston. The event, the Red’s 9-Ball Championships. And, yes, I was there.
I refer to that event as the greatest “final day” because it produced not one, but two of the most memorable title matches ever. The men’s final provided the welcome mat for Efren Reyes. Reyes, flanked by a Filipino contingent that strutted around the honky-tonk/poolroom asking, “Where’s the beef?” after every round, entered the event under the name Cesar Morales. (Like anyone in Houston would have known the name Efren Reyes?) Oddly enough, in the title match Reyes played journeyman Wade Crane, who at that time played under the name Billy Johnson.
The other final match that day was between Loree Jon Ogonowski and Jean Balukas. Ogonowski (who was dating future husband Sammy Jones at the time) pulled off one of the game’s biggest shockers that day, sending Balukas storming out of the club in a huff.
The years have produced many more unforgettable performances. Fans can look forward to Strickland’s television debut and German Oliver Ortmann’s shocking win over the mighty Miz in the finale of the U.S. Open 14.1 Championship in 1989.
I just hope everyone enjoys reliving these moments as much as we’ve enjoyed selecting them.
They say you can’t live in the past, which is true, but it’s sure a nice place to visit every now and then.