Ralph Greenleaf did wonders for the sport of billiards. He was a true showman, and made strides to keep the sport from fading in to obscurity by increasing it's popularity.
Ralph Greenleaf won his first world title in billiards in 1919, and defended it nine times in a row. Married to Princess Nai Tai Tai, a beautiful woman who was in show business. He dazzled audiences with amazing trick shot shows and exhibitions. He made those events more spectacular and enjoyable for the spectators by suspending a huge mirror over the pool table to give a better view.
Essentially untouchable in the sport, Ralph Greenleaf won fourteen world titles by 1937. With a charismatic personality and a showman's natural flair, more than anyone else Ralph Greenleaf rescued the game of pool, by casting it into the spotlight when it was on the brink of obscurity. The first real "billiards celebrity", Ralph "The Showman" Greenleaf was really pool's first charismatic superstar. Akin to baseball's Babe Ruth, he stirred public interest in his sport with skill and pizzazz.
As good as Ralph Greenleaf was at the billiard table, he was just as bad when it came to drinking alcohol. Many billiard players or were around during the Ralph Greenleaf era claim that Ralph Greenleaf frequently hit the bottle, causing a premature end to the growing potential of his amazing but short billiard career. There are stories of Ralph Greenleaf cracking under pressure of the big matchup and running to the men's room for a quick one in order to calm his nerves and help them play better.
This alcoholism and drug addiction became excessive Ralph began falling down and using heroin at a rate that killed him.
Eventually the addiction and substance abuse issues got him banned from the world billiard tour at the end of his career. In 1946, he sued his sponsor, Brunswick Balke Collender for $100,000 in retaliation.
Ralph Greenleaf died at the age of 50, drunk, and broke.
Initially Ralph Greenleaf had an unmarked generic gravestone due to lack of funds for a proper one. Pool and Billiard Magazine printed the Ralph Greenleaf story and asked folks in the billiard industry to contribute funds to provide Ralph with a proper gravestone worthy of his legacy.
Also, in his hometown of Monmouth, IL, there is nice sign in front of the building where he learned to play pool at his father's pool room on the 2nd floor. The pool room is long gone.
Ralph Greenleaf - Billiard Player
The book "Hustler & The Champ: Willie Mosconi, Minnesota Fats, And The Rivalry That Defined Pool" tells some of the stories of the great billiard players of the Ralph Greenleaf era, and may be of some interest if you are interested in the history of the sport and in Ralph Greenleaf's short career.
Headshot photo of Ralph Greenleaf:
Photos of Ralph Greenleaf playing billiards:
Ralph Greenleaf - Biography
- Date of Birth: 1899-11-03
- Place of Birth: Monmouth, Illinois, USA
- Country of Residence: United States (USA)
- Ralph Greenleafs Nickname(s): The Showman, The Aristocrat of the Billiard Table, The King of Billiards, Magic, Ole Boogie
- Ralph Greenleafs Sponsors: Brunswick Balke Collender Corporation
- Inducted into the BCA Players Hall of Fame:
If you know of any other interesting information about the life of pool player Ralph Greenleafs, send us an update using the contact form below.
Ralph Greenleafs Cue Sports Records and Accomplishments
Ralph Greenleaf achieved many titles during his short run at professional cue sports.
- December, 1919 vs. Bennie Allen
- November, 1920 vs. Arthur Woods
- October, 1921 vs. Arthur Woods
- December, 1921 vs. Arthur Woods
- February, 1922 vs. Thomas Hueston
- May, 1922 vs. Walter Franklin
- October, 1922 vs. Bennie Allen
- December, 1922 vs. Arthur Church
- January, 1923 vs. Thomas Hueston
- April, 1924 vs. Bennie Allen
- November, 1926 vs. Erwin Rudolph
- March, 1928 vs. Frank Taberski
- May, 1928 vs. Andrew St. Jean
- December, 1929 vs. Erwin Rudolph
- December, 1931 vs. George Kelly
- December, 1932 vs. Jimmy Caras
- May, 1933 vs. Andrew Ponzi
- April, 1937 vs. Andrew Ponzi
- November, 1937 vs. Irving Crane
- December, 1937 vs. Irving Crane
These are, of course, just a few of the formal titles Greenleaf has been awarded. This does not list, however, the massive amounts of cash he earned money matches throughout the great depression.
Recent news on Ralph Greenleaf:
- Title: Ralph Greenleaf
- Author: billiardsforum (Billiards Forum)
- Published: 12/9/2006 4:24:25 PM
- Last Updated: 1/14/2017 12:25:23 PM
- Last Updated By: billiardsforum
Ralph Greenleaf Comments
- Gary Winebright from Monmouth, IL on 5/30/2009 8:42:18 AM
Your comment "he was thrown into an unmarked pauper's grave" is nonsense.
There was a funeral for him in Monmouth, IL. In fact Ralph Greenleaf 's pool cue was at the funeral.
It is true that he originally had an unmarked headstone, but pool players later chipped in and now he has a fine headstone whose etchings show Ralph Greenleaf shooting on a pool table.
I have visited the grave and have researched Ralph Greenleaf in the local Monmouth newspaper archives adjacent the Monmouth Public Library.
- Jim Lavite from IL, United States on 11/7/2009 9:09:14 PM
What was Ralph Greenleaf's personal high run in straight pool e.g. 14.1 Continuous?
- Roger Garnsey from Monmouth, IL on 11/18/2015 2:42:37 PM
It is somewhat true that pool players chipped in for Ralph Greenleaf's headstone.
The funds did come from those in the cue sport industry, but not so much from "players".
It was Pool and Billiard Magazine that was instrumental in the fund raising effort. They ran the Ralph Greenleaf story and asked the cue sport industry to support the cause.
- billiardsforum from Halifax, NS on 1/14/2017 11:25:08 AM
@Gary Winebright, @Roger Garnsey - You are correct and I have updated the biography accordingly.
@Jim Lavite - According to a list on hypertexts of "Pool and Billiards: Record High Runs and Averages", Ralph Greenleaf had a personal high run of 287 balls.
Ralph Greenleaf, straight pool, 287 balls (he also had runs of 272, 267, 206 and 155 from 1919-1935)
Also came across a funny story about Ralph Greenleaf (as told by Grady Matthews) about how he talked his way out of jail for public intoxication:
Ralph is in jail for public intoxication. He asks the guard if he knows who he is. The guard says no. Greenleaf tells him, and says 'If you let me out I'll prove it. There's a table across the street.'
Ralph picks up a house cue, and with a full 15 ball rack he makes a ball on the break and runs a 134. The guard lets him walk.
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