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Strickland’s Hall of Fame Speech Filled With “Pearls”

“Where are my friends?” demanded Earl Strickland, discussing the lack of respect given to pool players by professional athletes in other sports during his acceptance speech as the 50th inductee of the Billiard Congress of America Hall of Fame.

The fact is, Strickland was surrounded by friends during the well-attended induction banquet held on April 6, 2006 in conjunction with the BCA International Billiard & Home Recreation Expo in Houston.

Earl was introduced by longtime sponsors Janet Shimel, CEO of J-S Sales Company, Inc., and Lou Sardo, of Lou Sardo Products. Both shared stories of the volatile pool legend that were far more “pearly” than surly, and highlighted Strickland’s passion for the game.

“His heart is really much bigger than his mouth,” Shimel said.

“I have a passion for pool and it still burns and I’m still going to be playing, and I’m starting to get healthier. I had some kidney problems, and some back problems, and some marital problems, and some others. I’ve kind of fallen off the horse in the last few years, but I’m getting over it now, and when I get my game back, you better watch out Johnny [Archer]!” he said.

Strickland’s speech was peppered with many “pearls” of his own. “Finally, I have your undivided attention. That’s all I ever wanted,” began the 44-year-old, who has commanded attention in the pool world since his first pro tournament at age 15.

He expressed his desire to continue playing pool for as long as he’s capable. “I don’t know how much longer I got, to tell you the truth. Pool players live in dog years. When you’re 40, you’re like 80.”

Strickland is a five-time winner of the Billiards Digest “Player of the Year” award, and his career highlights include multiple world championships, five U.S. Open titles and nine Team U.S.A. victories at the annual Mosconi Cup. He has also gained the title of “Million-Dollar Man” after he ran an unbelievable 13 racks. Most recently, Earl won the World Pool Masters Trick Shot Challenge in 2003, took fourth at the U.S. Open in September 2005, second at the UPA Atlanta Open in October 2005 and another Mosconi Cup victory in December 2005.

Strickland’s bad temper is well-known and documented in the pool community, but he asserts that it always in the name of a deep adoration and reverence for the game. He compared pool to “the worst drug on earth.” “I would nearly want to kill someone to play a game. I stole from my own mother to play pool,” he admitted to a roaring audience.

His speech took a serious tone, however, when he spoke of his new distinction. “I’m a Hall-of-Famer now, I’ll be walking in another pair of shoes.”

IPT Announces Long-awaited Tour Dates

The International Pool Tour has released its 2006 calendar of events, some of which conflict with the game’s most established tournaments, including the U.S. Open, the World Pool Championship and the Mosconi Cup.

The IPT announced that its first event — the North American Open 8-Ball Championship — will be held July 22-30 at the Venetian in Las Vegas. The IPT World Open 8-Ball Championship is slated for Sept. 2-10 at the Reno Hilton, in Reno, Nev., the same dates as the U.S. Open 9-Ball Championship in Chesapeake, Va. The IPT Players 8-Ball Championship is slated for Oct. 29-Nov. 4 in the United Kingdom, dates already earmarked for the WPA World 8-Ball Championship in the United Arab Emirates. The final day of the IPT’s UK event also overlaps the opening day of Matchroom Sports’ World Pool Championship in Asia. The IPT Masters 8-Ball Championship will be staged Nov. 26-Dec. 3 at the Hyatt Hotel in Rosemont, Ill. The year-ending IPT 2006 King of the Hill 8-Ball Championship (and the concurrently run 2007 Tour Card Qualification Tournament) is scheduled for Dec. 12-17 at the Wynn Las Vegas, which conflicts with Matchroom’s Mosconi Cup.

“We really did try to work around other promoters’ dates,” said Deno Andrews, tour director for the IPT. “But all of the UPA, WPBA, WPA and Matchroom events, as well as the U.S. Open, took up a lot of weeks. We knew there would be a few problems.”

The Winners, And Still Champions

It didn’t take long for Team USA to finish off Team Europe on the final day of the 2005 Mosconi Cup at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

Entering Day Four, Team USA, winner of nine of the previous 11 US vs Europe team challenges, needed a single win from a possible six singles matches.

As was expected, Team Europe, needing a clean sweep, sent out its strongest player and captain, Mika Immonen of Finland first Sunday morning. The US, with the luxury of being able to save its top players for later in the day, answered with Mosconi debutante Shawn Putnam. Putman had lobbied with US captain Johnny Archer for the chance to play first on the final day, with hopes of sending home the title-clinching 9 ball. But a missed opportunity prevented Putnam from breaking Immonen’s serve in the alternating-break, race-to-five match, and was forced to watch Immonen post a clean runout from the break in the deciding game for a 5-4 win. Immonen’s win narrowed the US lead to 10-6.

But Jeremy Jones, who had struggled through the first days of the four-day event, found himself in a familiar position against Germany’s Thorsten Hohmann. With a chance to repeat his Mosconi-ending shot at the MGM in 2003, Jones took advantage of Hohmann’s empty break shot in the case rack, forcing the German to kick at the 1 ball, then ran out from the resulting position to nail down Team USA’s 10th win in 12 tries.

“We’re changing Jeremy’s nickname to “The Closer,” said Earl Strickland, who earned the Mosconi Cup Most Valuable Player trophy for his perfect 5-0 record.

“Nobody on either team played exceptionally well this week, except for Earl and Rodney,” said Archer. “But it’s weeks like this where you play with heart and do what you have to do to win. And this team showed a lot of heart.”

Team USA Puts the Hammer Down

Team USA captain Johnny Archer couldn’t wait for the action to commence on Day Three of the 2005 Mosconi Cup in Las Vegas. With his team holding a 6-4 lead in the 12th annual edition of the transatlantic 9-ball clash, Archer knew he could stack his line-up for the three doubles and two singles matches.

The only Americans who had yet to play singles were heavy-hitters Rodney Morris and Earl Strickland. They would be matched up against Holland’s Alex Lely and Sweden’s Marcus Chamat, the only Euros who’d yet to see singles action.

“We set today’s line-up to sweep all five matches and end this tournament right now,” Archer said of the race-to-11 format. “As long as we were ahead during the first two days, I wanted to save Rodney and Earl for today. And I could put them in the doubles match between their two singles matches. The Europeans will have to face them three matches in a row. Then, we’ll close the day with me and Jeremy (Jones). We’re going for the kill.”

Archer’s plan almost worked to perfection, as Team USA , despite dropping the first match of the day, rolled to four wins and now teeter on the brink of their 10th Mosconi Cup title in the 12-year history of the event.

Having lost five of the first six doubles matches, Team Europe juggled its pairings for Saturday’s action. Captain Mika Immonen of Finland paired the Dutch duo of Alex Lely and Neils Feijen, and placed newcomer Raj Hundal of England with Germany’s Thorsten Hohmann.

The move paid immediate dividends when Lely and Feijen topped the American duo of Charlie Williams and Shawn Putnam, 5-3, to narrow the US’s overall lead to a single match, 6-5.

Things continued to look promising for the Euros when Lely, playing flawlessly after a shaky opening day, opened a 3-1 lead over Morris. But a positional error and miss allowed Morris to tie the match at 3-3, and a scratch on the break when leading 4-3 signaled Lely’s last trip to the table. Morris cleaned up that rack, and ran out from the break for a 5-4 win to give the US another two-match cushion.

From there, the US floodgates opened. Strickland and Morris continued their unbeaten streak as teammates with a convincing 5-2 beating of Immonen and Chamat, and Strickland raced through a 5-2 pounding of Chamat in singles. The team of Archer and Jones then pushed the US to the hill with a solid 5-3 win over Hundal and Hohmann.
The final day of the Mosconi Cup will consist solely of single matches, with the US needing just one win to secure the trophy.

A Day On The HIll At Mosconi Cup

On a day filled with tight matches, Team USA gained a two-match lead over Team Europe, 6-4, Friday at the 12th Annual Mosconi Cup in Las Vegas, although both squads will likely spend a restless night reliving missed opportunities that could have impacted the match score.

Bucking the trend of previous Mosconi Cups, Team USA won all three of its doubles matches on Day Two of the race-to-11 transatlantic 9-ball clash, while dropping both of its singles contests. And in both instances, American players all but handed the match to their Euro counterparts. Shawn Putnam, fresh off an opening match doubles win, squandered numerous opportunities and a 3-0 lead in dropping a 5-4 match to England’s Raj Hundal. And Jeremy Jones, coming off a doubles win with US captain Johnny Archer, bungled his way out of four elementary run-outs in a heartbreaking 5-4 loss to Germany’s Thorsten Hohmann.

But the Americans swept through doubles play, with Putnam and Charlie Williams besting Hohmann and Holland’s Neils Feijen, and Jones and Archer topping Euro captain Mika Immonen and Sweden’s Marcus Chamat by identical 5-4 margins.

In the day’s final match, Earl Strickland played the perfect gentleman with partner Rodney Morris in a convincing 5-2 win over Hundal and Holland’s Alex Lely. The Euros held an early 2-0 advantage, and threatened in game three, before a miss by Lely opened the floodgates for a five-rack US assault.

Strickland, who had battled fans during his Day One match, and unleashed an expletive-laced barrage during a live on-air interview, explained his change of heart.

“I need to stay more under control,” Strickland said after the match. “Because my emotions hurt my teammate. But I just think every player here deserves equal respect when they’re playing. These are the best players in the world.

“But I’ll tell you,” he added, “There will never be another one of me. I guess that’s why I’m always introduced as ‘The One and Only,'”

Comeback, Blowup Highlight Mosconi Day One!

After dropping the opening two matches on the first day of the 2005 Mosconi Cup, Team USA charged back with three consecutive wins, highlighted by a contentious 5-4 doubles victory, to earn a 3-2 lead at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

The transatlantic team event features two new twists for 2005, a 30-second shot clock and alternating singles-doubles matches. Because the event is carried live throughout the United Kingdom on Sky Sports, the format features one five-hour block of matches each day. The shortened TV window forced promoter Matchroom Sport to cut the 2005 Mosconi to a race to 11. To assure each player opportunities for singles play, Matchroom is running a three doubles matches, with two singles matches sandwiched in between.

The event opened with Thorsten Hohmann of Germany and Neils Feijen of Holland thumping the American duo of captain Johnny Archer and Jeremy Jones, 5-1. Euro captain Mika Immonen then beat Archer in singles, 5-2, to give Europe a quick 2-0 match lead.

But the Americans stormed back with Cup newcomer Shawn Putnam and Charlie Williams bouncing 24-year-old Raj Hundal of England and Alex Lely of Holland, 5-3. Williams, not traditionally a strong performer in the Mosconi Cup, continued his powerful Day One performance with a convincing 5-3 singles win over Feijen to draw the Americans even, 2-2.

As if scripted, the day’s finale, pitting the U.S. duo of Earl Strickland and Rodney Morris (unbeaten in 2004) against Immonen and Sweden’s Marcus Chamat, evolved into drama-filled cat fight. The Americans free-wheeled to a 4-0 lead, then withstood a furious Euro rally that knotted the match at 4-4. During the match, the pro-Euro and pro-American fans took turns pushing the good-taste envelope, and Strickland got into one of his patented verbal sparring matches with several fans.

The Euro pair had a chance to complete the comeback, but found themselves hooked shooting at the 5 ball. With their extensions used up (each team is allowed two per rack), Chamat appeared to foul by not attempting his shot before the clock expired. Referee Micheala Tabb awarded the Euros a second chance after ruling that the clock had not given Chamat fair warning. Chamat fouled on his attempt, and the Americans ran out to earn the 5-4 win and a 3-2 match lead at the close of action.

In the post-match interview, aired live in the U.K., Strickland berated the European fans and engaged in a profanity-laced exchange with a female fan in the crowd.

With that, the 2005 Mosconi Cup was off and running. Play will continue Friday with another round of three doubles and two singles matches. For more information on the day’s action, log on to MosconiCup.com

Team Europe Gunning for USA at Mosconi Cup

One of the strongest European teams in years believes that it can dethrone Team USA at the 2005 Mosconi Cup, set to kick off Thursday at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nev.

The four-day international pool tilt will pit Americans Johnny Archer, Rodney Morris, Shawn Putnam, Jeremy Jones, Earl Strickland and Charlie Williams against a stacked European squad, featuring Mika Immonen, Niels Feijen, Thorsten Hohmann, Raj Hundal, Marcus Chamat and Alex Lely.

The Americans have won nine of the 11 previous Cups, including a 12-9 victory in 2004.

BD Publisher Mike Panozzo notes that, in previous years, Team Europe has been somewhat handicapped by the inclusion of snooker stars and unproven United Kingdom 9-ballers, often included to boost interest and television ratings in the U.K., home of tournament producer Matchroom Sports and primary TV partner Sky Sports. Team Europe has no such hindrances in 2005, and has, in fact, pieced together its most talented squad ever.

However, Panozzo has still picked the USA to win the event this year (and in the process has set off a firestorm of controversy in online chat rooms), based on its overall talent, experience and sense of entitlement.

For up-to-the-minute updates on Mosconi Cup action, go to the event’s Web site at www.mosconicup.com.

U.S. Retains Mosconi Cup

In past years, it was the heavyweights who carried Team USA to victory in the annual Mosconi Cup. But on Sunday night it was the “support” squad that pushed the Americans to their ninth Cup title in the 11-year history of the tournament.

Wins by Cup rookie Gabe Owen and previously snakebitten Charlie Williams gave Team USA the wins it needed to seal the 2004 title, 11-9, over a game European squad.

Leading 10-8 entering the final session at the Grand Hall of the Hotel Zuiderduin in the Dutch seaside village of Egmond aan Zee, Owen, the 26-year-old winner of the U.S. Open, scored a critical 5-2 win over Germany’s Thomas Engert. The win pushed the U.S. to the hill in the race-to-12 Ryder Cup-style team tournament.

But fiery Euro captain Oliver Ortmann staved off elimination with a nearly flawless performance in a 5-1 drubbing of Earl Strickland.

With a capacity crowd of partisan European fans screaming for more, snooker legend Steve Davis squared off against Williams. The 27-year-old Floridian had ended his streak of six consecutive Cup match losses on Saturday, but was still considered an underdog against the seasoned six-time world snooker champion and Mosconi veteran.

Playing loose and smart, Williams took advantage of several Davis missteps to forge a 3-0 lead. Davis fought back to 3-2, but scratched on a kick attempt following a Williams safety. Williams ran out to put the Yanks a single game from ultimate victory. In the final game, Williams once again buried the Brit with a safety, and Davis’ miss on a 3-9 combination attempt gave Williams an open table. Williams eased his way to a dead-on 4-9 combination and whacked it in to seal the Cup for the defending champions.

“I’ve had nightmares about the final 9,” joke Williams when asked if he had dreams of pocketing the winner. “I had a chance to be the last player last year and blew it. And I knew then that I might never get that opportunity again.”

“I’m so proud of these guys,” gushed U.S. captain Johnny Archer. “Earl and I didn’t play well this week, and everyone else just picked us up and carried us home.”

Leading the way for the Americans were MVP Rodney Morris, who was unbeaten in five matches, and Owen, who won four of five attempts.

The Mosconi Cup will return to America in 2005, assured Matchroom Sport promoter Barry Hearn. Hearn said that the likely site would be the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

Far From Over

Once again it looked as if the Americans were poised to shut the door on the 2004 Mosconi Cup, and once again Team Europe wedged its collective foot in the way.

As was the case Saturday night in the ballroom of the Hotel Zuiderduin in Egmond aan Zee, Holland, Team USA posted a critical win in the opening match of the session to extend their advantage, then watched the Euros storm back with consecutive match wins. In what was then viewed as the most important match of the tournament, Rodney Morris continued his MVP play for the Americans, topping Euro ace Mika Immonen, 5-3, to give Team USA a 10-6 lead in the race-to-12 team tournament.

But Dutch national treasure Niels Feijen revived Team Europe’s hopes with a 5-2 win over mistake-prone Johnny Archer. And in a repeat of his Saturday night heroics, pint-sized Swede Marcus Chamat came through in the clutch, beating Tony Robles, 5-3, to pull the Euros to within two points at 10-8.

The Americans still have Earl Strickland, Gabe Owen and Charlie Williams for Sunday night’s session, with the Euros banking on Steve Davis, Thomas Engert and Oliver Ortmann. If the match reaches a 22nd and/or 23rd match, the teams will be allowed “Captain’s Choice” selections.

Team Europe Refuses To Surrender

Marcus Chamat

Marcus Chamat

Facing the stark reality of an early trip home, Team Europe sent a message to their American combatants by winning the final two matches of the night Saturday, and trimming Team USA’s lead to 9-6 at the Mosconi Cup in Egmond aan Zee, Holland.

Having swept the three double matches Saturday afternoon, the U.S. squad entered the evening’s singles matches leading 8-4. The defending champions extended their advantage to five matches when firecracker-hot Rodney Morris drilled Germany’s Thomas Engert, 5-1, in a sporty 30 minutes.

But Team Europe captain Oliver Ortmann stemmed the U.S. onslaught with a 5-1 win over struggling Tony Robles. Sweden’s Marcus Chamat then pulled off a stunningly easy 5-2 win over Earl Strickland, sending the packed partisan house into near hysteria and his Euro teammates to bed with visions of a comeback dancing in their heads.

The 11th running of the transatlantic Ryder Cup-styled team event will conclude with a maximum of eight singles matches on Sunday.