Rudolph Wanderone was known to many by possibly the greatest nickname ever in the world of sports. He was known to many as “Minnesota Fats” and had no problem living up to the name that originated from a movie in the early 60s. Fats was originally from the great state of New York and born in 1913. Fortunately for Fats, it did not take long for him to find his groove and begin hustling the unfortunate folks of the city making quite a name for himself before moving to Illinois where he kept up his ability to agitate people on the felt. Fats was not known as Minnesota Fats until the early 60s when the movie The Hustler came out. The movie portrayed a young pool shark having to beat the greatest pool player in America who went by the name “Minnesota Fats.” Now Wanderone, up until this point was known as New York Fats because of his larger-than-life attitude, physical appearance and his birthplace. Fats decided to change his name to Minnesota Fats after the movie to take on the real-life role of the best player of all time. While Fats is the most successful pool player of all time he did not let that stop him from living a normal life. Fats was a huge lover of animals and at one time it was reported that he had dozens of both cats and dogs. Fats always was a huge advocate for helping stray pets find their homes as well and was often seen returning lost pets to their homes on his days off from hustling.
Now hustlers are by nature liars and tricksters and Fats did have some trouble with this later in his life. If you are under the age of 50 you have probably never heard of the second greatest pool shark by the name of Willie Mosconi. Fats and Mosconi held a televised event on Valentine’s day in 1978 and drew in almost 11 million viewers on ABC’s wide world of sports. That event came second only to the great Muhammad Ali vs Leon Spikes rematch for the whole year. Yes, pool was second to a match with possibly the two greatest boxers ever to step into the ring.
Fats was inducted into the Billiards Hall of Fame in 1984 and credit him to helping popularize the game of pool and helping it reach gain credibility as a reputable sport and not something that drunks just play in a bar and use its sticks for weapons in said bar when they lose. Fats left behind an amazing legacy both on and off the felt. His techniques are seen in bars all across the nation and I’m sure have created many trips to the hospital by angry losers.
Fats’ greatest legacy is perhaps written on his tombstone. His tombstone reads “Beat every living creature on Earth. ‘St. Peter, rack ’em up. — Fats'”. He lived by that up until he died. Without Fats, I don’t see the game of pool as popular as it is now. He revolutionized the sport and in many ways is the godfather of the sport. The things that Fats was able to do with a pool que was simply out of this world.