Good Morning Obots! Hope you have a relaxing and wonderful Memorial Day!
This week, let’s take a look at some ballers-shot callers..in the world of Pool…or Billiards, as it is properly known.
Cisero Murphy (1937 – 1996) was an American professional pool player. Murphy was the first African-American professional pocket billiards player to ever win world and U.S. national titles. He is also one of two players to win the world title on a first attempt, the other being Ray Martin who won the title in 1971.
James “Cisero” Murphy grew up in a rough-and-tough Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, one of eight children. His father left the family home when Murphy was a child, forcing his mother to go on welfare. At 15, he was a high school dropout. One summer, however, young James began playing pool at the Police Athletic League (PAL), and except for short-term jobs, he continued playing pool for the duration of his life.
He became city champion in 1953 and state champion in 1958. From 1959 to 1964, he was eastern state champion in the PAL. Later in life, Murphy participated in city programs in an effort to help young adults and children, such as Billiards in the Streets, which was sponsored by the Department of Parks and Recreation. He also would visit veterans hospitals, senior citizen homes, and mental hospitals giving trick shot exhibitions and teaching people how to play pool.
He won the New York City championship at age sixteen, and when he was in his twenties, he won the Eastern States 14.1 Championship six straight times. Because he was African American in an era when there were racial tensions in the United States, Murphy was not invited to compete in world title events until 1965 despite his skills as a player. Many other African Americans who were not accepted in the world title events avoided confrontation due to intimidation. Murphy won the Burbank World Invitational 14.1 tournament in 1965, defeating white players such as Joe Balsis, Jimmy Moore and Luther Lassiter. Pool players picketed outside the front of the Commodore Hotel in Burbank, California, which was the site of the tournament, to protest Murphy’s exclusion. He soon won the battle to compete the very next year. He triumphed convincingly, winning the Burbank World Invitational 14.1 tournament in 1965, defeating Luther Lassiter in the finals.
Some people have compared Cisero Murphy to Major League Baseball’s Jackie Robinson, breaking the racial barriers (including the baseball color line) in sports. Murphy was inducted in to the Billiard Congress of America Hall of Fame 1995. Cisero Murphy is the only player in the history of pocket billiards competition to win a world title on his first attempt. He continued to place near the top in straight pool events during the 1960s and, two decades later, had a winning record in the 1983 BCA US Open 14.1 Championship. During his career, he has had high runs over 250 balls.
In the Flatbush neighborhood of New York City, there is a mural painted of Cisero Murphy shooting pool, along with fellow New Yorkers and baseball players Joe DiMaggio and Mike Piazza and Joseph “Cyclops” Bouie III.