The Greatest Ever, Ralph "The Aristocrat" Greenleaf

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Ralph Greenleaf strikes a pose. Photo (c) All About Pool


Ralph Greenleaf, aka "The Aristocrat". Have you heard of him? He was, at his most sober, the greatest pool player of all time.

Claim to Fame

Widely considered the greatest pool player ever, and handsome to boot, he was also famous for playing superbly well while inebriated. And he was indeed drunk often.


Ralph Greenleaf was pool's brightest star from the turn of the century through the Great Depression.

Willie Mosconi, Paul Newman and Jackie Gleason used many trick shots Greenleaf first invented, as seen in the classic pool film, The Hustler.

Before the advent of Willie Mosconi, Greenleaf was dominant in Straight Pool, a game requiring precision touch, mastery of side spin and extensive banking and kicking knowledge. Straight Pool is the supreme test of a supreme champion. Pocket 14 balls of the rack and the 15th stays on the table and the other 14 rack--now you just have to keep going by playing the balls as they are while calling every shot. And Greenleaf could run hundreds of balls on a ten-foot giant pool table!

Old timers swear Greenleaf could even run 50 or more balls in Straight Pool, without having his cue ball touch a single cushion along the rails.

Livin' La Vida Pool Loca

Greenleaf lived in a high style, hobnobbing with celebrities during the era when pool and billiards tournaments vied with the Yankees and Dodgers for front page headlines.

He married a beautiful flapper who everyone referred to merely by her stage name, "Princess Nai Tai Tai".

Minnesota Fats once said Greenleaf was "one of the handsomest men I have ever seen." As one result, several Hollywood moguls offered Greenleaf starring film roles (but Ralph was too busy partying to participate).

Simply the Best

Ralph Greenleaf and Willie Mosconi stand as the two greatest pool shooters in history. Like Rachmaninoff at the piano, Greenleaf used his massive hands with their long, tapering fingers to perform his calling marvelously.

Willie Mosconi, who dominated pool for decades, and publicly on television, is known by many Americans as the greatest, but he gave the nod to Greenleaf as his mentor and superior! When Mosconi was a boy, he toured with Greenleaf, who taught him exquisite positioning with the cue ball and built in him the competitive edge to win.

His Flame Extinguished Too Soon

Some old-timers state that Ralph's frequent bouts with liquor crippled the potential of his brilliant career. Still others swear that when a big match's pressure began to take its toll, Ralph's frequent trips to the men's room for a "quick one" not only calmed his nerves considerably, but helped him play his best!

Certainly alcohol and wild living brought this pool giant to an early grave in 1950 at the age of 50.

What They'll Say 100 Years From Now

Ralph Greenleaf redefined pool style and the game of his era, Straight Pool.