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    Consigned to auction by Fats' widow, with her letters of provenance

    1930's-90's Minnesota Fats (Rudolf Wanderone) Used Pool Cue--His Favorite.

    "Beat everyone on Earth," read his 1996 epitaph. "Now, St. Peter, rack 'em up."

    Lives like Minnesota Fats' simply don't exist anymore. They couldn't. He marked the end of an era, the extinction of a special breed. The America of smoky dive bars and gin joints, of pool halls populated by sharks and their rubes, has faded into history, supplanted by a landscape of strip malls and chain restaurants. The rough edges have been filed smooth by the homogenizing tide of modernity, leaving no quarter for the American hustler.

    Today we can only look back fondly on that time, and its most celebrated denizen, a man who wore one hundred dollar bills for pocket squares, who was so accomplished in his trash-talking that even Muhammad Ali himself admitted he was no match. "Boys, the only difference between me and everybody else is that everybody else drives around in a Volkswagen," the iconic hustler once told the residents of a pool hall as he exited with their bank rolls, "and Minnesota Fats drives around in a Duesenberg."

    It was Oscar Wilde who opined in his 1889 essay, "The Decay of Lying," that "Life imitates art far more than art imitates life," and Fats, one of Wilde's few equals for quotable witticisms, took this statement as a guiding principle. Born Rudolf Wanderone, the famed pool shark was known as "New York Fats" until the 1959 novel and subsequent 1961 film adaptation of "The Hustler" entered the public consciousness. Author Walter Tevis denied any connection, claiming, "I made up Minnesota Fats-name and all-as surely as Disney made up Donald Duck," but Wanderone was conditioned to play every angle perfectly, and claimed the moniker for himself to augment his own growing fame.

    He served as the perfect foil to renowned billiards champion Willie Mosconi, who famously defeated Fats in a series of matches for ABC's Wide World of Sports in the 1970's, but it was no matter. Tournament pool was never his style. "You judge a king by the size of his wallet and his palace," he explained. "You can leave the crown in the toilet."

    We direct interested parties to the footage of that Mosconi battle, narrated by the great Howard Cosell and easily found on Youtube. While the forty year-old footage is grainy, the double stripes at the center of Fats' cue perfectly match the offered model. The letter of provenance from our consignor, Fats' widow Teresa Wanderone, explains why:

    "This is to certify that I, Teresa Wondron [note: Fats' "official" surname had multiple spellings], widow of Minnesota Fats, verify that Minnesota Fats owned this cue stick. 'Fats' purchased this cue stick in the late 1930's from an Italian man who lived in New York City. This is one of the first original Rambo cues, the only cue Fats ever purchased for himself and the only one he used during his professional career. He had been given many cues in the past, only to give them away. Fats and only Fats used this cue. He never let it out of his sight."

    A second signed letter from Fats' widow confirms authenticity of the case that contains the cue, ending, "This original reptile case was purchased by 'Fats' circa 1940."

    Both cue and case exhibit the wear and tear of a thoroughly eventful life, the former autographed in black marker on the grip just two years before Fats' passing at age eighty-three. Certainly the cue remains a functional tool, though we suspect the new owner will not enjoy quite the same degree of success as its original master.

    Not even Babe Ruth, with his healing of sick children and his "Called Shot," so deftly walked the tight rope between fact and folklore as Minnesota Fats, and certainly the Bambino was never so faithful to anyone or anything as the legendary pool shark was to this tool of his trade. For those collectors nostalgic for that gritty bygone era of bets and boasts, this lot serves as its foremost historical relic. Letter of provenance from widow of Minnesota Fats.



    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    February, 2016
    20th-21st Saturday-Sunday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 13
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 10,142

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