Harold Worst: Was He the Best Pool Player of All Time?
Who was Harold Worst? Despite his last name, Worst, was he ironically the best pool/billiards player of all time? In the
opinion of several experts quoted below, the answer is yes, if we
consider the major championship games of his era: three-cushion
billiards, straight pool, one-pocket, nine-ball and snooker. In the modern era,
only Worst was a world-class performer in all the major disciplines, and he was
beating all comers even when stricken with brain cancer that ended in his
premature death just as he reached the zenith of his sport and art, in his
Harold Worst Trivia: In the early 60s, Harold Worst started a chain of pool
rooms and hired a local furniture manufacturer to make affordable house cues, so that any stick could be bought at a reasonable price. The
cues were designed to be inexpensive so that more people could afford them. The
color of the handle denoted the weight (light, medium or heavy). If you can find
a Harold Worst cue in good shape, please be sure to snap it up, because it's bound to go up in
compiled by Michael R. Burch
In an AZbilliards poll, Harold Worst was picked by a passionate, well-informed panel as the third-best American pool
player of all time, after Willie Mosconi and Earl Strickland. But the case can
be made that Worst was the
best all-round player, since he excelled at pocket billiards, while Mosconi
and Strickland couldn't hope to match him
at carom billiards (i.e., pocketless billiards also known as "three-cushion
billiards") or snooker. According to the panel of experts cited
on this page, Worst
played at a world-champion level at three-cushion billiards, straight rail
billiards, balkline billiards, nine-ball,
one-pocket, straight pool and snooker. Bank may have been a possible
weakness, but Worst was a cut-shot artist who didn't need to bank often,
and to my knowledge there were no major bank tournaments in his day. When Worst was at
his best, the championship games were the aforementioned ones. And during the last year
of his life, before he died of terminal brain cancer at age 37, Harold "The
Best" Worst cleaned everyone's clocks at those championship games. Furthermore, who
knows how much better he may have become, or how long he might have ruled the
billiards and pool roosts, if he had lived longer?
Harold Worst was a "boy wonder" mentored by Willie Hoppe, the
legendary king of three-cushion billiards. At age 21, Worst became the
youngest player ever to qualify for the world three-cushion billiard championship.
At age 25 he
won the three-cushion world championship and held the title the rest of his life. According to
Ronnie Allen, who knew him well, Worst didn't start playing
pocket billiards seriously until his early thirties, and he died soon thereafter.
But in that short period of time, he managed to not only
to beat the best pros, but to dominate and strike fear into them. In 1965, the last year of
his life, while being severely ill and 70 to 80
pounds underweight, Worst still managed to retain the world
three-cushion billiards title in Belgium, to win two major American all-round pocket billiards
tournaments, and even to win an English snooker tournament! Worst is one of only five players, and the
only one in the modern era, to
have held world titles in three-cushion billiards and pocket billiards. And he is the
only player to switch from three-cushion billiards to pocket billiards and win
world championships in the latter. He also remains the youngest player to have
won a world title in three-cushion billiards.
Minnesota Fats nominated Harold Worst as the best pool player of his generation,
saying that he was "in my opinion the best pool player in the world at the time
of his death in the summer of 1965, at age 37 ... Worst not only made a
successful switch [from three-cushion billiards to pocket billiards], but he
whacked out the top one-pocket and straight pool players all over the country
... What made Worst's accomplishments so remarkable was that he only entered two
[pool] tournaments, yet he won both of them."
Masako Katsura and Harold Worst
Ronnie "Fast Eddie" Allen concurred, saying in a recording available
online that Harold Worst was the greatest pool player
he ever saw. According to Fast Eddie, there is no doubt that Mosconi was the
best at straight pool, and in his opinion no one
could have beaten Buddy Hall or Richie Florence at nine-ball when they were in
dead stroke. But Mosconi, Hall and Florence were single game
specialists. Even the great Efren Reyes plays primarily two games: nine-ball and
one-pocket. Within the last 50 years there has been only one player who
was a world champion at three-cushion billiards, nine-ball, one-pocket, straight
pool and snooker ... and that was Harold Worst.
In his recording, Ronnie Allen goes on to tell an amusing and
illustrative story. It was around 1965 and the world's greatest pool hustlers
were assembled in Jacksonville for a tournament. They included Luther "Wimpy" Lassiter,
Eddie "The Knoxville Bear" Taylor, "Cowboy" Jimmy Moore, Weenie Beanie
Squirrel, Joe "The Meatman" Balsis, "Handsome" Danny Jones, and a young,
larcenous Fast Eddie. Suddenly a Western Union messenger delivered a singing
telegram, saying that someone named Harold Worst was at the Biltmore Hotel and
would play any taker a session of nine-ball for $1,000. It was
"the damndest thing," according to Allen. So he called Worst's room and told him
to "bring plenty of money" because there were twenty people lined up to play
him. When Worst showed up, he was "the essence of a gentleman," wearing a suit
and tie. He didn't bother to practice, and "never hit a ball." He just tossed
$1,000 on the table and asked who he was playing. The hustlers decided to put up
the Cowboy, Jimmy Moore, but Worst dusted him 11-6. Fast Eddie then suggested that the
hustlers put up Wimpy,
because "Lassiter ain't never lost playing nine-ball to nobody." But Worst beat
Lassiter, 11-9 and 11-10. At this point, according to
Allen, "This guy has not missed a ball, so we don't know what to
do." The hustlers decided to resort to begging, pleading and stealing. They only
got their money back by persuading Worst to spot Allen the seven ball. From that
point forward, they either dodged Worst (as Lassiter and Taylor did), or
demanded the mortal nuts (as Allen did more than once). Sometimes they sent
"undercover" players to Worst's home room in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and egged
him into bad games. But from what I have been able to gather, Worst always won
playing head-up, and even when giving up what seemed like the nuts, he sometimes
still managed to win. He was that good, in his prime. Fast Eddie still speaks of
him with evident awe, not only about his supreme skill at billiards and pool,
but about what a "class guy" and fine gentleman he was. Fast Eddie concluded
that Harold Worst was "the greatest pool player that ever lived, and ever will
live. He's got my vote, sports fans."
According to Fast Eddie, Harold "the Best" Worst had never played pocket billiards until he was
32 years old. Then within five short years he was drilling the world's best pool
their best games. And what Allen describes has been confirmed by a number of
other players who saw Worst play themselves ...
This according to Jay Helfert: "In the last years of his life, he was generally
acknowledged by his peers as the best player alive. He only seemed to play
better at each succeeding event. He was the dominant force in pool, the equal of
any man at any game ... I personally think he would have kept right on winning
until he chose to retire. That's how good he was. Worst was unique; a man with
great ability, a great work ethic, no bad habits, highly motivated to win,
unsharkable, and even likable. I never saw another player quite like him. Buddy
Hall may be the closest, but even he had his weaknesses. I never saw a chink in
Harold Worst Trivia: If anyone plays Harold Worst in a movie, it should be Kevin Spacey!
Johnny Ervolino said that he was in awe of only three players: Ralph
Greenleaf, James Evans (the great black player who was not allowed to
participate in segregated tournaments, but would challenge and beat the winners) and Harold Worst. Ervolino said that as good as Worst
was, he was still improving at one-pocket at the time of his death.
Artie Bodendorfer: "Nobody was in Harold Worst's class. He is all by himself. Greatest all around player in life; not even Efren could win. Pool, three
cushion and snooker. Harold Worst all by himself. And for his own money!"
[That's an important point. Ronnie Allen by his own admission was being backed
by Bobby Nichols. Harold Worst was playing on his own money. The hustlers had a
team of undercover agents. Harold Worst had only himself and never tried to
hustle anyone. But even with the deck stacked against him, Worst was the best.]
This from Freddy "the Beard" Bentivegna: "Who would I bet on against Harold,
playing every game except bank pool? Exactly nobody ... Eddie Kelly confessed to
me that Harold Worst was the only guy in the world that he knew he couldn't beat
playing nine-ball. At that time Kelly had just played Lassiter to a one-week
draw at Wimpy's home room in Elizabeth, NC."
The comment above may explain why Lassiter refused to play Worst, even at
his best game, nine-ball. According to Ronnie Allen and Minnesota Fats, Worst had beaten Don Willis, the "undercover
monster" who was Lassiter's road partner
and in his opinion the best money player of them all. So if Kelly played Lassiter even and Kelly
knew that he couldn't beat Worst, and if Worst had beaten Willis, it seems quite
possible that Lassiter deduced that he couldn't beat Worst either. It was Lassiter
who famously said that if he watched a man play for an hour, and he saw him miss
more than once, he knew he could win. But at the height of his
powers, Worst didn't miss. Ronnie Allen confirmed this, by saying that
the first time Worst showed up, he beat Cowboy Jimmy Moore and Wimpy Lassiter in three
sessions, and never missed a shot.
Freddy "the Beard" Bentivegna confirmed in an online post that Lassiter dodged Worst at nine-ball.
The Beard also said that
Eddie Taylor dodged Worst at one-pocket. So the best players were avoiding Worst
at their best games. That's quite an endorsement for Worst as the best! Other hustlers would only play Worst with the nuts, and even then they
didn't have to like the game. I remember reading somewhere that Worst would roll out to an impossible shot, mock the
other player for not taking
it, then make it himself. (I remember watching Keith McCready do the same thing
at Oak Valley in Nashville, playing golf on a snooker table; it's an interesting
intimidation technique that leaves the victim wanting to crawl under a rock and
hide, or curl up and die.)
This also from Freddy "the Beard" Bentivegna: "As far as pool players go, we
were all earthlings and Harold was from another planet. I watched Harold give
Baby Face 130 to 100 [i.e., a 30-ball spot at straight pool] and win every game. I watched him shoot his way out of a Weanie Beanie trap when Worst gave Sonny Springer 8 to 6 and the break ...
Harold had to be experienced to be believed. Harold had plenty of money and
would play anybody, anything and bet all you wanted. So in my time at Johnston
City, how many players picked on him to play even? Jacksonville's Sammy
Blumenthal was the only one; they played snooker and Harold assassinated him.
Previously, Sammy was undefeated in snooker for 20 years. U.J. Puckett had for
years dazzled the crowd with his specialty shot, a five rail draw with the cue
ball at least five diamonds away from the object ball ... Harold Worst watched Puck
do the shot and then asked him if he could try it. Worst got down on the shot
and got seven rails on the first try! Puckett never showed that shot at Johnston
City again. I seen that with my own eyeballs. There was no stroke shot that
Worst couldn't execute."
Freddy "the Beard" Bentivegna again: "At Johnston City Harold Worst challenged
everybody to play anything―except banks, for whatever anybody wanted to play
for. That included one-pocket and snooker. They installed a snooker table just
for Sammy Blumenthal. They removed it after Worst annihilated him."
Jay Helfert: "Harold was the Efren of his era, a notch above the rest of the
world. Like Freddie said, when Harold played you KNEW he was going to find a
way to win. And his opponents knew it too. I saw him play maybe 8-10 times in
the 60's, including at the Michigan State Fairgrounds in 1963. He won the
one-pocket title, beating Cornbread [Red]. He also won the straight pool, beating Babyface
in the finals. And he won the nine-ball. Cornbread actually beat him in the snooker
finals, with Worst claiming that this was his first time playing the game
competitively. It was a close final match by the way. I was also there when he
won the nine-ball, the straight pool and the all-around
title at Johnston City in
1965. You could see he was sick, but no matter. He dominated anyway! He never
got a chance to defend these titles. To this day I have never seen his equal on
a pool table. I hesitate to say this, but he is the one American who would have
gotten Efren weak in the knees."
Jay Helfert again: "I still think the best player I have seen in my lifetime was
Harold Worst. He had it all: ability, heart, fearless, and lots of game! He
wasn't afraid to take on any man at any game, with no spot! Plus he was a man's
man, no BS came out of his lips. His words meant something."
Jay Helfert: "Worst had this winner's quality that is hard to define. You just
didn't feel like anyone could really beat him, if they played for a while.
Harold Worst was a quiet, strong man. He did not boast or brag. He had an aura
about him. And believe me when I tell you, ALL the pool players could feel it!"
Jay Helfert: "Harold Worst never went looking for anyone. He had successful
businesses in Grand Rapids. And no one really wanted to go looking for him.
After he tore up a couple of the top players in Johnson City (Jimmy Moore,
[Boston] Shorty and Detroit Whitey), no one cared to challenge him. He beat all
the great players from around the Midwest like Babyface, Joey Spaeth, Johnny
Edwards, Cornbread and Al Miller. He didn't just beat these guys either. The
story always was he annihilated them (won 20 games, won 30 games etc.). And
these were good players."
Freddy again: "I seen Worst bark at Lassiter to play some $200 a game nine-ball
at Johnston City. The consensus was that Wimpy, who was the standing world
champion, didn't want to risk his title, and perhaps risk his exhibition tour
money. Weanie Beanie had offered to stake Wimpy for 5k, but said Wimpy was happy
getting his $150 a day for an exhibition. It wasn't so much that Wimpy was
scared, but more like that he knew Worst was capable of beating anyone at any
time. Especially since he knew Worst had barbequed his road partner, Don Willis.
Cornbread asked Eddie Taylor, when he was going to play Worst some one-pocket
and shut that loudmouthed Dutchman up. Taylor responded, 'I'm gonna git to him,
Red, I'm gonna git to him.' But he never did."
From The GosPool According to the Beard: "Harold Worst would look
around disdainfully, trying to make eye contact with whomever may have had
doubts that he would bring the shot. Everyone would usually look away. Then he
would get down on the table, his bald forehead a shade of beet red, give the
object ball a laser-look as if daring it to stay out of the pocket, and then
blast it home. Nobody hit the game-ball harder than Harold Worst." [This
reminds me of Ronnie O'Sullivan on a snooker table, slamming in balls as acts of
Artie Bodendorfer: "The best and most powerful three-cushion player I
[have] seen was Harold Worst ... I believe Harold Worst would have averaged
around 3 billiards an inning with the different [i.e., modern] tables and balls.
Because he had more heart, more ability and he was also very knowledgeable. And
he had a great mind for three-cushion billiards. And when Harold Worst was in
his prime nobody could beat him or wanted too play him. He annihilated
everyone. Nobody wanted to ever play him. That's why he started playing pool.
And Harold Worst had more gamble than the three-cushion billiard players. Harold Worst in my opinion was the greatest, Willie Hoppe second and Raymond
Artie Bodendorfer again: "The two best nine-ball players would be Wimpy and
Efren. Harold Worst would be the underdog against both players playing nine-ball. But he could still win. And playing three cushion billiards or snooker it
would be all Harold Worst. And balkline and straight rail and so on. But if
Harold Worst would have keep playing, he would have been number one. And Worst
was a great shooter ... Worst was a complete monster. And he was fearless to go
with it. And Everlino had a good opinion of players. And I think Ronnie would
have taken Worst too. You can ask him if he is at the Hall of Fame dinner."
Artie Bodendorfer: "The players back then were better and Efren would not have
won 5 in a row. We have to give him credit for his great accomplishment. But
even back then a lot of the best one-pocket players did not play in the
tournaments. And I would like to ask just for myself. Did Efren win 5 one-pocket
tournaments in a row? And it's always hard to pick out the best player and
people go by their record and their performance. Did Efren bet his own money
against the top player and why not? And Harold Worst was way more talented in
all the pool games and billiard games and snooker; he played everything world
class. It sure would have been great to watch Harold Worst and Efren play all
those games against each other. And if they both had to bet their own money, I
would make Harold Worst a 2 to1 favorite."
Artie Bodendorfer: "Harold Worst was the greatest all around player in life,
playing nine-ball, one-pocket, cushion billiards and snooker."
Artie Bodendorfer: "Playing nine-ball, three cushion billiards and snooker,
Harold Worst would be stealing. Nobody in the world would have a chance at those
three games. Harold Worst would be in a class by himself. And he would have
robed Efren. And Harold Worst played good enough nine-ball to win at all three
games. He was my favorite. And he could shoot and even all those great players
like Taylor, Bugs and Ronnie, they all feared him, and for the coup de grace
he bet his own money. Harold Worst was all by himself number ONE. And he was an
intelligent classy man. And he won the all-around at the Star Dust the last two
years of his life. With Cancer. And he is the most talented player I ever seen.
World champion class player in all games. Even straight pool. And he would have
been the best in one-pocket. If you don't believe me ask that little rascal
Ronnie. No player ever got the respect that Harold Worst got from the top
players. He could make the balls talk. Nobody is close to him. And if he would
have been around in today's world, he would have been another Tiger Woods. And
he would have played 7 or 8 games world class. And there is no debating. Harold
Worst was like Joe Louis or Sugar Ray Robinson. And He had enough balls for 20
people. He is the best ever in life!"
Jay Helfert: "I have a lot of respect for Artie when he talks about Harold
Worst. I've always said, when asked who the best player I ever saw was, that it
was HAROLD WORST! My stock answer all these years was: Worst was Best! Everything Artie says is true. No top player of his era wanted to even discuss
playing a money game with him. Even Lassiter drew the line playing Worst nine-ball
for money. He was afraid that he might lose his rep as the best nine-ball player.
Worst was unique, kind of like Efren in a way. If you showed him a game with
sticks and balls, he would master it fairly quickly. If he wanted to be the best
one-pocket player in the world, Ronnie would have been in trouble. And you know
how strong I think Ronnie was. Harold Worst was a unique man, a real man's man.
Courteous, humble, but proud. And like Artie said, he wasn't afraid to bet his
own money. In fact, he wouldn't consider having a backer. That would have been
demeaning to him. Probably the closest to Worst was Rags Fitzpatrick from the
50's. ALL the players said he was unbeatable. I'll never forget the final year
(1965 I believe) that Worst won the Stardust tourney. He looked anemic to me,
having lost so much weight from his once healthy and robust frame. No one knew
how sick he was. He was not one to complain or make excuses. He won anyway. And
only a few months later he was gone."
Freddy "the Beard" Bentivegna: "I've got ninety stories about The Dutchman,
Harold Worst, but I'll keep it brief and say this, nobody wanted to play him
even―anything! Every game he made he would bet all the money anybody wanted
to bet. Everybody who played him―I watched―their back hand would tremble!"
Bill "Mr. Three Cushion" Smith: "Harold Worst
was the BEST all around player ever, for cash or tournaments!
George Fels: "I believe we have to consider Harold Worst as one of the greatest
natural pool players who ever lived (it wasn't even his first game; caroms was).
Also, his winning world-class tournaments while he was literally dying on his
feet ranks as some of the most courageous play we've ever seen. I met a guy who
served with Worst in the Navy, and he said, 'His powers of focus were
unbelievable. I saw him watch some men swab the deck once, for FOUR HOURS...and
he didn't change a thing, not his posture, not his expression.' While stationed
in Korea, Worst claimed he won so much playing pool and billiards at the
servicemen's clubs that he could actually afford a triplex apartment!"
Steve Price: "All around? I gotta go with Harold Worst."
James "Salt" Duval: "He was the most versatile player that ever lived. Ronnie
Allen and I have both said the same thing. I have never paid to see a pool
tournament in my life, ever. Any place in the United States, Iíve never paid to
go in to see a tournament; Iíve always got in for free. But the one tournament
I would pay to see would be Harold Worst and Ronnie Allen at the top of both
their games playing one-pocket."
Deeman: "I only saw Harold play once in Blytheville, Arkansas but it is a great
memory, the way he shot and beat everyone ... He was hitting spot shots while
talking to a few of us. He must have hit 30 or so with one of the kids
re-spotting it each time. He didn't miss but the amazing thing was the
casualness with which he shot, like he was not paying attention and hit/slammed
every one in the heart of the pocket. He reminded me of a great guitar player
strumming away with his attention elsewhere, never missing a note."
Terry "Loop Lock" Ardeno mentioned Worst's "fierce demeanor" when engaged in
money matches, and that he was a "stone cold gambler with an extra talent for
making the most minute & difficult cut shots. To say he was a confident player
is akin to saying that water is wet."
Jay Helfert: "Worst was probably the only American ever, who could have gone to
Great Britain and challenged the Snooker stars too. If he had been alive when
Snooker got big, I suspect he would have gone over there. In six months he would
have been contending for titles. That's just my opinion. He just had a stronger
mind (and will) than anyone else. And he had better control of his body, the
best self discipline ever. He would have taken those little balls and shoved
them up all their asses. Just kidding, just kidding! One last thing, and it's
important I believe. The two men who had the most solid stance at a table that
I've ever seen were Raymond Ceuelmans and Harold Worst. Both were solid as a
rock. Buddy and Mizerak would be distant thirds to these two guys." [According
to Ronnie Allen, shortly before he died Harold Worst did play in a professional
English snooker tournament, on 6 x 12 tables. Allen said that Worst won the
tournament, despite never having played that brand of snooker before.]
There are rumors about Cornbread Red taking Worst on
the road and setting traps by having him give balls to top players. But Worst
shot his way out of the traps. This seems plausible because in an interview
Ronnie Allen said that he wanted to shoot Cornbread Red for setting
a trap that cost him and Ed Kelly $1,200. Ronnie calls the story "The lamb
leading the butchers to slaughter."
Weenie Beanie once had a nine-ball player (Don Willis?) and a pro golfer lay a
trap for Worst in Grand Rapids, his hometown. According to an inside source
named Leonard: "I was near Beanie when he made the call and it went like this:
"He beat you playing nine-ball? Well, how 'bout so and so? Did he play him golf?
You're kidding! He beat the pro playing golf! How much did that cost me?"
Such stories about Worst being hustled have been confirmed by Jack Olsen: "Years
ago I did a piece for Sports Illustrated on Harold Worst, the world's
pocket billiards champ at the time (you can guess the title: WORST IS BEST). He
told me that he was frequently hustled in his home pool hall in Grand Rapids
even after winning the championship in Argentina, and had recently been given a
bath by a guy in a Shell gas station uniform who shot out the lights when the
bet got high enough."
Ronnie Allen: "In my professional opinion, Harold Worst was the greatest pool
player who ever lived, or ever will live ... He's got my vote."
So there is a strong case for saying that Worst was actually the Best of all time!
Harold Worst Timeline/Chronology
1929: Harold Worst is born on September 29, 1929, in
Grand Rapids, Michigan, to Harry J. Worst and Lavina Worst.
1946: According to a Chicago Tribune article dated February 13, 1950,
Worst never picks up a cue until age 17, when his father installs a junior-size
billiards table in the basement.
Around this time, Harold Worst
meets Tena Huisman, his future wife. She later recalled in an interview that
even as a teenager, he always wore a suit.
Worst begins to hang out at Chinnick's,
a famous poolroom frequented by celebrities like
heavyweight boxing champions Jack Dempsey and Gene Tunney.
Worst's billiards tutors
include Walter Brundage and oilman Joe "Red" McDevitt, an amateur champ who moved
to Grand Rapids from Ohio in 1946.
Worst has a great eye, strong
wrists, a cool temperament, and tremendous powers of concentration. He soon
surpasses his mentors.
1949: Roy Deak "the Deacon" Nichols, who managed Chinnick's poolroom, contacted
Brunswick-Balke, the sponsor of Willie Hoppe, about the "boy wonder."
As a result of Nichols'
inquiry and a last-minute cancellation by another player, Brunswick-Balke
agrees to pit Hoppe against Worst in a Detroit exhibition.
Although Worst loses (albeit by
just one point), Hoppe is impressed, befriends Worst, and begins to tutor and
At age 21, Worst becomes the
youngest player ever to qualify for the world three-cushion billiards
Worst places second in the
U.S. National Three-Cushion Billiards Tournament, then places fourth in the world championship.
1950: Worst marries Tena Huisman, then gets drafted and is deployed to Korea.
According to "Champion of
Obscurity" by George Fels, Worst makes over $500 per week playing servicemen who
"lined up" to give him their money, not believing he could be so good.
Worst snags a furlough to play
in the U.S. National Three-Cushion Billiards tournament, where he places second
(with a 7-2 record) after Mexico's Joe Chamaco, the defending champion.
Worst is called "the baby of
the show" by the Chicago Daily Tribune.
Worst still has hair at this
time, as the Chicago Tribune describes him as "blond."
Willie Hoppe predicts that Worst will emerge as "the next world champion,
providing he can practice as much with a cue as he can with a rifle."
Worst then spends nine months
in Korea as a member of the Army graves registration unit (an assignment that
weighed on and depressed him).
On a brighter note, Worst is
allowed to give billiards lessons and put on exhibitions at military recreation
1951: Worst again participates in the U. S. National Three-Cushion Billiards
tournament, representing the Army.
1952: Willie Hoppe wins the last of his 51 world titles, then retires at age 64.
Many experts consider him to be the greatest three-cushion billiards player of
Hoppe presents Worst with
his personal billiards table, after retiring.
begins to die on the vine, in terms of popularity with the public, after Hoppe's
Worst is discharged in
November 1952, and returns to competitive billiards five months later.
1954: Worst's journey to Buenos Aires, Argentina results in his first
three-cushion billiards world championship. The 10-day event draws 110,000
Worst is the youngest
three-cushion billiards world champion to date, at age 25.
Worst's overall record is
8-2 record, with a 60-45 victory over reigning champion Ray Kilgore and a 60-43
victory on October 25, 1954 over Argentina's Ezequiel Navarra, the hometown
Worst had to be protected
by a cordon of 25 policemen from an angry mob of Argentines who were unhappy
about Navarra being defeated by an outsider.
Worst turned down a
$15,000 bribe from mobsters, and was advised to leave the country immediately
by Juan and Evita Peron.
According to an article
by George Fels, Worst said that he never received the trophy.
The October 26, 1954,
edition of The Grand Rapids Press bears the headline: "Worst Brings City Second
World Title." (The first world title was brought by bowler Marion Ladewig.)
Accompanying the story is
a two-column photograph of Harold attempting a difficult massť shot, looking
dapper in a suit and polka-dot tie.
Worst will hold the world
three-cushion billiards title until his premature death at age 37.
1957: Worst defends his world title in Chicago, winning four blocks in a row
against Joe Chamaco.
Illustrated: "Harold Worst, nerveless pool shark from Grand Rapids and at 28
world's youngest international billiards champion, chalked up 1,200 points to
1,021 for Mexico's Joe Chamaco, to retain his three-cushion title."
Illustrated article: "Worst is the Best" by Jack Olsen.
1958: Worst participates in an exhibition in Chicago.
1959: Worst participates in a billiards exhibition with Masako Katsura, a
diminutive Japanese female player with world-class talent.
1960: Worst defends his world title.
1961: Worst defends his world title, defeating Masako Katsura in a challenge
match. Worst wins
six out of seven matches.
But American interest in
three-cushion billiards is at an all-time low. Fortunately the movie The
Hustler, starring Paul Newman and Jackie Gleason, stirs interest in pocket
Worst reads the
handwriting on the wall and decides to start cashing in, by changing games and
game plans ...
1962: Worst creates his own line of cues, and a company called Cues Inc. to
manufacture and distribute them.
Worst quips, "We could
hardly call it the Worst Cues Company, now could we?"
Worst also lends his name
to a line of inexpensive pool tables.
1963: At the Michigan State Fairgrounds, Worst wins the one-pocket
title, beating Cornbread Red, the straight pool title, beating Babyface
Whitlow, and the nine-ball title. Worst
finishes second to Cornbread in snooker.
1964: Worst wins the Michigan snooker and pool championships, according to a
Traverse City Record-Eagle article dated June 16, 1966.
Around this time, Worst
defeats the legendary big-money hustler Don Willis at his best game, nine-ball.
1965: From Sports Illustrated: "Harold Worst, 36, a cue manufacturer
from Grand Rapids, won the all-round title at the $30,000 Las Vegas Open, plus
$4,350 in prize money. Worst also took the one-pocket division."
In the star-studded Las
Vegas Open, Worst bests 100 players, winning the one-pocket division, then
defeating pool legends Irving "The Deacon" Crane and "Champagne" Ed Kelly in the
Worst also wins the
all-round title at the famous Johnston City hustler tournament, finishing first
in the nine-ball and straight pool categories, then defeating Larry "Boston
Shorty" Johnson in the finals.
The game's star hustlers
refuse to play Worst even. And even when they try to trap him by demanding
outrageous spots, he often manages to shoot his way out of their traps.
According to George Fels,
Worst gave other players the "tremors."
1966: Worst plays in the Straight Pool World Championship, held in the Windsor
Ballroom of the Commodore Hotel in New York City from March 19 to March 27,
Despite being close to
death, Worst wins six matches against formidable opposition and has a high run
of 85 balls.
Harold Worst dies on June
1970: Harold Worst is inducted into the Billiard Congress of America Hall of