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Minnesota Fats in CapePosted Wednesday, January 30, 2013, at 12:00 AM
Rudolph Wanderone, better known as Minnesota Fats, takes time out of a busy schedule to visit with old friends in Cape Girardeau over the weekend. Above, he affixes his stamp signature to a booklet at Colletti's Restaurant, for Mrs. Jerry Colletti. The Colletti's--Jerry and Rocco--are old friends of Minnesota Fats. (Fred Lynch photo)
Minnesota Fats: Pool player deluxe
by Ray Owen
What can you say that hasn't been said about Rudolph Wanderone?
World traveler. Humanitarian. Gambler. Billiards player deluxe.
So, who is Rudolph Wanderone?
Sports fans may know Wanderone by a more familiar name.
Reams and reams of copy has been turned out on Minnesota Fats, and his name became a household word more than a decade ago when Jackie Gleason played the part of the billiards "shark" in a movie, "The Hustler."
Minnesota Fats, who now makes his home in Dowell, Ill., was in Cape Girardeau Saturday evening.
"Just passing through," he said. "I've been participating in an "all comers" tournament in Little Rock, Ark."
While passing through, Minnesota stopped off for dinner at Colletti's.
"Rocco and Jerry (Colletti) are good friends of mine," he said. "I knew them when there were at DuQuoin, Ill."
Minnesota Fats, who is now 80 pounds under his regular weight of about 280 pounds, recently participated in the "Battle of the Sexes" sports competition, which will appear on national television.
He was paired against the top lady billiards player, Jean Balukas, a schoolgirl from Brooklyn, N.Y., who was played the game since she was four years old.
Miss Balukas won the women's U.S. Open Pocket Billiards championship for the first time in 1972.
"She's good," said Minnesota. "She's beaten Willie Mosconi."
Mosconi is a familiar name to billards fans. He has captured national men's billiards titles many times.
How did Minnesota fare against Miss Balukas?
"I've never lost a match I wanted to win," he said.
Minnesota Fats started playing pool at an early age.
"I was raised in a saloon," he said. "I started playing pool early, and at the age of eight was an accomplished gambler and pool player." Before he was 10, he had played pool in France, Germany and Spain.
"I was a tremendous eater, even then," he said. "I used to eat a whole turkey, then have dinner."
Besides his first love, pool and-or billiards, Minnesota Fats is an animal lover.
"I have about 100 cats and dogs at home," he said. "And, not a full-blooded in the bunch. Just a bunch of mutts and alley cats."
According to Wikipedia, Wanderone died Jan. 15, 1996. The epitaph on his tombstone reads: "Beat every living creature on Earth. 'St. Peter, rack 'em up. -- Fats'"
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Fred Lynch has captured images for the Southeast Missourian since 1975, in that time moving from black-and-white to color, from film to digital and to video. The blog title is a nod to an earlier era of news photography and the 4x5 Speed Graphic: It's more important to be there for the shot than to worry about technical details.