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McCready in action at the 2003 US Open Nine-ball Championship

Keith McCready (born April 9, 1957, Elmhurst, Illinois) is an American professional pool player, nicknamed "Earthquake".

At one time considered among the top players in America,[1] McCready has been a traveling tournament competitor and notorious hustler since the 1970s. From 2003 to 2006, McCready was a contributing writer to InsidePOOL Magazine[2]and remains a pro competition contender,[3] known for comedically interacting with the audience. He also had a supporting role as the boorish hustler "Grady Seasons" in the 1986 film The Color of Money.

An energetic and aggressive player, he has a distinctive side-arm stroke and, despite his unusual form, is well known for strong shot-making offense skills, often executing extremely difficult shots that most other players would not attempt.

Contents

Early days

Young Keith McCready.JPG

McCready realized he had billiards talent at the age of nine, after his father introduced him to bumper pool, and he soon began hustling his two older brothers out of their allowance money. He initially had to stand on a box to reach the height of the table, and developed his unusual stroke while still a boy.

He was reportedly habituated to gambling by his divorced father when, during custodial visits, Keith and his brothers would each be given US$20 and required to play various games with him, "usually until he had won his money back."[4][5]

According to McCready, as a student in Trident Middle School in Anaheim, California, he asked his gym teacher to hold his money for him while he attended the first-period class. An established gambler at a young age, McCready had won a large amount gambling the night before at the horse racetrack. He was afraid to leave the monies at home, for fear that his two older brothers would help themselves to it, and he did not want to leave it in his school locker for the same reason. When the instructor saw that it was the sum of $14,000 in gambling winnings, McCready was suspended from school, "for having too much money". Danny Diliberto was living in Bellflower, California, during this time. He learned about the incident when he asked why young McCready was hanging in the pool room instead of attending school.[6][7] The school officials contacted the State of California Social Services to investigate his home environment, which had deteriorated after the death of his mother. His father had developed problems with alcoholism. Placed in foster care, Keith was removed from his family home and made a ward of the State. The owner of his neighborhood pool room, Bob's Billiards in Anaheim, liked McCready and successfully petitioned to adopt him, providing him a permanent home until he reached legal age.

While growing up in Bellflower, he acquired a proficiency in many pool games from legendary players such as Ronnie Allen, Richie Florence, Allen Hopkins, Jimmy Reid, Buddy Hall, Irving Crane, Larry Lisciotti, Jimmy Mataya, Luther Lassiter, Billy Incardona, Joe Balsis, Danny Diliberto, Larry "Boston Shorty" Johnson, Lou Butera and "Champagne Eddie" Kelly.

McCready as a young boy was inspired by the grandiose spirit of Rudolf Wanderone Jr., also known as "Minnesota Fats", when he made an unexpected visit to his neighborhood pool room. Upon departure, Minnesota Fats, sharply dressed in a three-piece suit, flashed a large wad of cash and said to the patrons, "Boys, the only difference between me and everybody else is that everybody else drives around in a Volkswagen, and Minnesota Fats drives around in a Duesenberg." A decade later, after several tournament wins in California, McCready traveled to St. Louis to compete in a pool tournament, and Minnesota Fats was in attendance. When he recognized McCready as the young up-and-coming player from California, he began to woof at him, and the two of them put on a show and entertained a packed house of onlookers.[8]

McCready acquired the nickname "Keither with the Ether" as a teenager, but was considered an old-school player who was fast and very accurate at the table. "Nobody beat Keith...He was a terrific young player...the most perfect pool you ever saw," says Grady Mathews, "one of those pool phenoms that comes along every now and then."[9]

Professional career

Banner at The Golden Cue in Albany, New York, Joss Northeast Nine-Ball Tour, April 2006 [10]

In an era in American pool when gambling was a norm, "hustling...was a way of life."[11] When McCready was in his prime and on top of his game, he spent the better part of the 1970s and 1980s traveling throughout the United States as a tournament competitor and hustler. Sometimes the tournament venues would be a gathering place for pool hustlers, and the main action would take place outside of the tournament. With his raconteur style, McCready eventually became a legendary road player [12], attracting large crowds to his designated table when his appearance was known.

When McCready was 21 and embarked on competing in professional pocket billiards in his homestate of California, he made an impression when, coming from behind, he ran nine straight racks of nine-ball in the finals, defeating Larry Hubbart, 11-6, to win the Sacramento Open Nine-ball Tournament. [13]

On St. Patrick's Day in 1984, McCready won the Clyde Childress Memorial Nine-ball Tournament at The Maverick Club in Richmond, Kentucky, which had a star-studded field consisting of pool phenoms Earl Strickland, Buddy Hall, Ronnie Allen, Allen Hopkins, St. Louis Louie Roberts, and Terry Bell. Handing "Earl the Pearl" an 11-to-2 thrashing earlier in the double-elimination pool tournament, McCready faced him in the finals. Earl Strickland had been a dominating force on the American pool tournament trail, and racing to 11 games for the win, the score became tied, 9-9. McCready triumphed, running out the next two games to claim the victory. [14]

McCready scored his first professional win, in October 1985, undefeated at the then-annual B.C. Open in Binghamton, New York, pocketing $25,000, which was considered a large purse for a pool tournament at that date. The venue featured capacity audiences each day. "A worthy champion and a colorful, exciting player, he deserved to win," writes pool veteran Grady Mathews.[15]

Pool players go through definite streaks, according to Bruce Venzke of The National Billiard News, the oldest existing pool, billiard, and snooker publication in America: "Who can forget the one for Keith McCready."[16] When the lines on the 1983 Lake Tahoe Classic were made on which players were the "Tahoe Favorites," McCready was described as "Mr. Cool, the Ultimate Nine-ball Player."[17]

At the 5th Sands Regent Open nine-ball tournament in Reno, Nevada, June 3-7, 1987, won by Earl Strickland, McCready was documented in the "Notable Matches" category by Accu-Stats because of his "brilliant and entertaining" performance, defeating Paul Brienza and Mike Sigel in the event. [18]

In September 2003, the final match, Filipino Francisco Bustamante versus American Keith McCready, drew the largest crowd yet of the Falcon Cue Tour in Sterling, Virginia, where over 100 fans witnessed McCready defeat the Filipino pool champion, 9-7. [19]

In April 2005, he took a Joss Northeast Nine-ball Tour event at the Golden Cue in Albany, New York, winning the final match of the double-elimination format event against Canadian pool player Danny Hewitt. The first set was completely one-sided with Hewitt cruising to a 9-3 win over McCready. The second set was a complete turnaround for McCready as he took an early 7-4 lead and help off a late charge from Hewitt to win the match 9-7.[20][21]

While records dating back to McCready’s prime as a tournament player are scarce, according to Pool & Billiards magazine, dated December 1998, he was ranked 10th on the men's professional pool tour. Keith won about a half-dozen pro events, mostly in the 1980s. However, it is was his high-stakes gambling that earned him the lion’s share of his reputation as one of the most feared nine-ball players. With his charisma and gift of gab, he has been heralded as "pool’s ultimate entertainer"[22] McCready plays for the crowd and believes that when there is audience involvement, it creates a better atmosphere. [23]

Danny Diliberto (now an Accu-Stats Video Productions commentator) has stated: "I like Keith McCready, he's entertaining all the time; he's colorful to watch, because he's going to shoot at a white flag. He doesn't play the score; he could be winning 7 to 1 and he's still going to shoot at a crazy shot that he could lose with. But he's a colorful person, so I like doing commentary on him."[24]

McCready lives on the East Coast today and continues to compete professionally as well as putting on exhibitions for charity events.[25] His recent triumphs include back-to-back wins in 2004 and 2005 of the Virginia State Nine-Ball Championship, held in Richmond.

Filmography

Keith McCready (left) as "Grady Seasons", with Tom Cruise as "Vincent Lauria", in The Color of Money

In 1986, McCready starred as the character "Grady Seasons",[26] a fictional infamous, sharking hustler and top money-winner in all of pool, with Paul Newman and Tom Cruise in Martin Scorsese's Academy Award-winning film The Color of Money,[27] [28] loosely based on the novel by Walter Tevis (the sequel to The Hustler). In 1985, Martin Scorsese, Tom Cruise, and Scorsese's casting director, Gretchen Rennell, had come to Norfolk, Virginia, to the US Open Nine-ball Championship in search of actual pool personalities to play character roles. McCready was engaged in a stakes game with Filipino pool champion Efren Reyes and was selected to be in the movie because of his entertaining style of play.[29]

After the film's release, there was a boom in the pool industry.[30] One of McCready's more memorable lines, "It's like a nightmare, isn't it? It just keeps getting worse and worse", as he runs the table on Vincent, Cruise's budding hustler character, inspired the name of one of the top amateur eight-ball teams in the US, Like a Nightmare. In his earliest scene in the film, McCready also demonstrates an intimidating hustler trick: He literally throws the balls at once into the rack, and they land in proper position for a legal rack of nine-ball.

Accu-Stats Video Productions recorded a match when McCready defeated Filipino Champion Jose Parica at the 2003 US Open Nine-ball Championship and describes it as: "The most entertaining match that Accu-Stats has ever offered. Keith steals the show and the audience approval."[31]

References

  1. ^ The Philadelphia Daily News (June 17, 1985). The Breaks of the Game in Pro Pool by Stuart D. Bykofsky. Retrieved May 15, 2007.
  2. ^ Contributing Writer to InsidePOOL Magazine
  3. ^ "Keith McCready Player Profile", InternationalPoolTour.com, International Pool Tour]
  4. ^ The New York Times Company (February 3, 1992). Books of the Times; On the Road With a Hustler of an Elegant Game by Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, quoting David McCumber's nonfiction book, Playing Off the Rail: A Pool Hustler's Journey. Retrieved May 15, 2007.
  5. ^ McCumber, David. Playing off the Rail: A Pool Hustler's Journey, 1996, page 263; ISBN 0-679423-74-5, ISBN 0-517307-10-3, ISBN 0-380-72923-7
  6. ^ ProPoolVideo.com (2007). "Old Schoolin' with Danny Diliberto", at ProPoolVideo. Retrieved May 13, 2007.
  7. ^ "Road Player," by Jerry Forsyth
  8. ^ "Fatty," InsidePOOL Magazine, April 2006
  9. ^ Onepocket.org (2006)Mathews Interview, by Steve Booth, at Onepocket.org Retrieved May 18, 2007
  10. ^ Earthquake Rolls Through Golden Cue
  11. ^ "Johnston City Hustling with Minnesota Fats", by Dick Kay, (1972) News 5, Chicago, Illinois
  12. ^ "Notable Real-Life Hustlers," Hustling, Wikipedia
  13. ^ "Pot Shots," by Bruce Venzke, page 17, The National Billiard News," June 1980. Retrieved May 19, 2007
  14. ^ "Mind Games," InsidePOOL Magazine, December 2005
  15. ^ "McCready Has Hot Stick at B.C.," October 1985, The National Billiard News, page 12
  16. ^ "Venzke's View," September 1985, The National Billiard News, page 4
  17. ^ "Tahoe Favorites," by Jay Helfert, page 5, National Tavern News, November 1983. Retrieved May 18, 2007
  18. ^ "Notable Matches," Accu-Stats, Volume 3, No. 3, July 1987
  19. ^ Staff writers ("2003-09-29). "McCready over Bustie". AZBilliards. http://www.azbilliards.com/2000storya.cfm?storynum=1266. Retrieved 2007-05-14.  
  20. ^ Staff writers (2005-04-17). "McCready Holds Hewitt Off for Joss Tour Win". AZBilliards. http://www.azbilliards.com/2000storya.cfm?storynum=2648. Retrieved 2007-05-14.  
  21. ^ Player Information, TotalPool.info. Retrieved June 18, 2007
  22. ^ Billiards Press (2002-present). "Keith McCready, Rebirth of a Legend", by Phil Capelle, Billiards Press. Retrieved May 14, 2007.
  23. ^ "Keith McCready Speaks Out" by Phil Capelle, Billiards Press
  24. ^ OnePocket.org (2004). "Rack 'em Up with Danny Diliberto" by Steve Booth at OnePocket.org. Retrieved May 13, 2007.
  25. ^ Third Billiards for Benefits, Carlisle, Pennsylvania, February 28, 2004
  26. ^ Internet Movie Database Inc. (1990-2007). "Keith McCready, Actor", at IMDb. Retrieved May 13, 2007.
  27. ^ Internet Movie Database Inc. (1990-2007). "The Color of Money" at IMDb. Retrieved May 13, 2007.
  28. ^ "Critic's Pick", New York Times, October 1986
  29. ^ "Split the Wicket," InsidePOOL Magazine, December 2003
  30. ^ "Most Significant Event: The Color of Money", Billiards Digest, October 2003, page 72.
  31. ^ Accu-Stats Video Productions (2007). Accu-Stats Film of McCready vs. Parica, 2003 U.S. Open. Retrieved May 13, 2007.
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