New-York Historical Society's Bill Shannon Dictionary of New York Sports

Minnesota Fats

Minnesota Fats (Billiards.  Born, New York, NY, Jan. 19, 1913; died, Nashville, TN, Jan. 16, 1996.)  Rudolph Wanderone (originally Wanderon) was a unique American original.  He was perhaps the most famous billiards player in the world, even though he never won a formal world championship.  Yet he was almost solely responsible for the resurgent growth of interest in the sport over the last 30 years of the 20th century.  Born in Manhattan, Wanderone began at a very tender age a career as a pool player.  He acquired the nickname of “Brooklyn Fats” as a youngster owing to his size.  As his orbit increased during his jaunts around the world, he became known as “New York Fats.”  Married in 1941, Fats went into a retirement of sorts in 1951.  Ten years later, “the Hustler,” a movie he claimed was based loosely on his adventures, was produced, starring Jackie Gleason as “Minnesota Fats.”  He became a major television celebrity and returned to his familiar haunts in pool parlors around the world, hustling and promoting non-stop.  Billiards received its biggest boost when Fats engaged former world champion Willie Mosconi in a match on national television in 1978.  While he was never a tournament champion, no other individual did as much to promote and popularize billiards as “Minnesota Fats.”

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The Bill Shannon Biographical Dictionary of New York Sports is an open database of sports biographies maintained by Jordan Sprechman and Marty Appel. We welcome public and scholarly contributions and suggestions.

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A prolific author, wire service sports reporter, long time Major League Baseball official scorer, football statistician, sports museum founder, theatrical agency owner and public ... read more

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