Rudolph Walter Wanderone, Jr. (1913 - 1996)

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Nicknames: "Minnesota Fats"
Birthplace: Manhattan, Washington Heights, NY, USA
Death: Died in Nashville, TN, USA
Cause of death: Congestive heart failure
Managed by: Geoffrey David Trowbridge
Last Updated:

About Rudolph Walter Wanderone, Jr.

Are you a long-lost family relation of a famous pool player? Have a story to tell or old photos? Write me at hustlerdays@yahoo.com and I’ll post it up at www.poolhistory.com. You can check out the blog section there for documents, photos and expanded versions of earlier editions of Untold Stories.

AKA- Rudolph Luther "Minnesota Fats" Wanderone, Jr., a.k.a. "New York Fats"; "Fatty", " The Bank Shot Bandit", "The Fat One", "Triple Smart", "Dean of the Green" - http://billiards.about.com/od/halloffamegreats/p/09_04_13fats.htm

Did he acknowledge being her (Etta James) birth father? "He never denied it and just about admitted it," she said. "And when he died [in 1996], his very close friend sent me this gold pocket watch on a chain. And he sent me a letter along with it. So I took it for granted. If it's true, it's wonderful." If it's not true, she's still "really glad" about meeting him.

http://www.startribune.com/entertainment/music/137918958.html

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Disdained by the top tournament players but loved with a wink by nearly everyone else, Rudolph Wanderone, known for much of his life as "Minnesota Fats", was America's billiard character of the century.


He was fat, at 300 pounds, but he wasn't from Minnesota. In like fashion, much of his life was lived in half-truth. So, when Wanderone died last week of heart failure, he left many fans and not a few journalists wondering whether he was really the vivid "Minnesota Fats" character of Walter Tevis's atmospheric novel The Hustler, portrayed on the screen by Jackie Gleason in the 1961 film.

He wasn't, but in a stroke of marketing genius, when the motion picture was released he immediately proclaimed himself to be that fictional player. He possessed just enough skill, the correct girth and more than ample swagger to convince audiences that he was the genuine article. So persuasive was his story that Tevis was forced to add a note denying it in later editions of The Hustler.

Born, by the most reliable accounts, in 1913 to a Swiss family in the Washington Heights section of New York City, Wanderone (nicknamed "Roodle" as a child and later "New York Fats") was exposed to pocket and three- cushion billiards at the age of four and claimed to have started playing for money two years later. His was not the polite world of English billiards and snooker, but the basement society of fast nineball games and proposition bets. He avoided employment his entire life, preferring the anxious existence of the "road player", an itinerant cueman whose lone objective is the separation of opponents from their life savings. This life suited his first wife, Evaline, to whom he was married for nearly 44 years. When aged 70 Wanderone finally took a job promoting pool tables, she promptly won a divorce.

He was a good shooter, excelling at the money games of One-Pocket and Bank Pool, but his surpassing talent was in "making a game", figuring just how much of a handicap he had to give his victim to keep the cash flowing. Wanderone long eschewed tournaments, since he couldn't see the point in playing for three weeks for a chance at $2,000 when he could win more by hustling in a single night. His lack of refereed public victories hinders any genuine critical appraisal of his prowess with a cue, but in his prime, in 1948-55, he was among the best in private money games.

In the 1960s, he hosted a billiard television programme in Chicago and later played a televised series of challenge matches against Willie Mosconi, who since 1941 had been regarded as the best pool player in the world. Mosconi had the better of these contests, but Wanderone attracted a large following with his exaggerated tales of hustling (he once estimated in mock seriousness that his lifetime winnings had totalled $100m) and was credited with keeping American billiards thriving for almost two decades at a time when it might otherwise have died out.

In 1984, in a gesture of appreciation, the Billiard Congress of America inducted him into its coveted Hall of Fame, an honour so rare it has been bestowed on barely 30 individuals since 1966. Yet even this prize rankled, since he was honoured in the "Meritorious Service" category rather than the exalted wing reserved for "Greatest Players". After his divorce in 1985, Fats took up residence, rent-free, in a Nashville hotel, where he held court each day at a pool table especially installed for his use. Ever seen in the company of attractive young women, he married Theresa Bell, 50 years his junior, several years ago.

Wanderone lived to see pool's second modern renaissance, spurred by the 1986 film The Color of Money, a sequel to the original Hustler, and knew that he had a substantial hand in bringing it about.

Mike Shamos

Rudolph Walter Wanderone, billiards player: born New York 19 January 1913; twice married; died Nashville, Tennessee 18 January 1996.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/obituary-rudolph-wanderone-1325523.html

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Untold Stories: In Search of the Real Rudolf Wanderone

Fats likely grew up in this tenement building in New York City's Washington Heights neighborhood. Plenty is known about what happened next: He made appearances on "The Tonight Show" with Johnny Carson; he hosted his own television programs; and he appeared in a series of highly rated and highly hyped challenge matches with Willie Mosconi. In 1984, Fats left his wife, Evelyn, and moved from southern Illinois to Nashville, Tenn., where he lived at first in a posh hotel, and then later at the suburban home of his second wife, Theresa Bell.

He died at Bell's house on Jan. 18, 1996.

But getting a handle on Fats' life before 1961 is a bit trickier. You can look to Fats' own statements in his autobiography, "The Bankshot and other Great Robberies," as well as those he made to various newspaper and magazine writers. The problem with this, of course, is that everything Fats said was suspect. Everything. So one must make a judgment as to why Fats said what he said, and whether he made specific claims in the service of entertainment and self-aggrandizement, or whether he made them to convey real and true information. Then you throw back the fishy facts and keep the good ones.

For instance, take Fats' claim to have played the Shah of Iran before there was an Iran - throw it back. But his claim to have been born and raised in Washington Heights in New York City - that's the truth.

http://www.billiardsdigest.com/untold_stories/therealfats_3.php

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Obit:

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/obituary-rudolph-wanderone-1325523.html

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http://www.myheritage.com/matchingresult-da5dd49033fdc3581ccc96bd7006359d?trn=partner_Geni&trp=match_button_profile#record_matches

Record Matches (9)

The Post-Standard - Syracuse, New York - Jan 19 1996 The Post-Standard - Syracuse, New York - Jan 19 1996 Newspaper Archive WOW

Text: "...on the When a youngster in New York 1972 Ills MinnesotaFats born dolf WalterWanderone Jr. died Thursday of congestive heart once asked him how he got the name Minnesota he didn't miss a I got that name ... dismissed Moscom as couldn't beat a Fats once played him 100 and I've beat him 100 whose real name was dolf WalterWanderone did not claim that he never lost a pool He always said he never lost one with money ... Gleason trayed him in the 1961 film died Thursday of con- heart failure in who never let facts get in the way of a good was sive about his Some friends said he was bom Jan. but a 1966 Bank Shot and Other ... Great listed his date of birth as Jan. 1913. he's..."

Date: Jan 19 1996

Publication: Syracuse, New York, United States Of America

Adds: story View record

Logansport Pharos-Tribune - Logansport, Indiana - Jan 19 1996 Logansport Pharos-Tribune - Logansport, Indiana - Jan 19 1996 Newspaper Archive WOW

Text: "...blustered his way out of smoky barrooms to become the most famous play er ever to pick up a cue stick died Thursday Fats died of congestive heart failure said his wife Theresa Bell Wanderone who already had ... how old I ph Born Rudolf Wanderon he was known as New York Fats early in his career Jackie Gleasons character in the 1961 Paul Newman movie The based on Wanderone was called Minnesota Fats So Wanderone ... reflex Heenan stuck out his left arm and snatched an 8 yearold girl from the air saving her from a fall that could have killed her Four people died and at least 60 were injured in the early morning blaze ... of watching helplessly from his ladder as the parents of the girl ignored his pleas and jumped..."

Date: Jan 19 1996

Publication: Logansport, Indiana, United States Of America

Adds: story View record

New Mexican - Santa Fe, New Mexico - Jan 19 1996 New Mexican - Santa Fe, New Mexico - Jan 19 1996 Newspaper Archive WOW

Text: "...Stadium Minnesota Fats dead at NASHVILLE Tenn Minne sota Fats the pool shark who blustered his way out of smoky barrooms to become the most famous player ever to pick up a cue stick died Thursday Fats died ... movie The Hustler based on Wanderone was called Minnesota Fats So Wanderone started calling himself Minne sota Fats and his fame and for tune began to rise He probably did more for the sport of pool than ... League as an sion team Under terms of the agree ment Autry 88 will continue to own a portion of the club until his death and the team will con to be run by Autry and his wife Jackie until the deal is fi ... When the deal closes Disney would purchase 25 percent of the teams stock and become managing general partner of the team taking over its operation Upon ..."

Date: Jan 19 1996

Publication: Santa Fe, New Mexico, United States Of America

Adds: story View record

Syracuse Herald Journal - Syracuse, New York - Jan 20 1996 Syracuse Herald Journal - Syracuse, New York - Jan 20 1996 Newspaper Archive WOW

Text: "...ders He doesn't to himself or anyone This has been his way for Even when Babe goes to play MINNESOTA the stage name of billiards celebrity Rudolf Wanderone died Thursday of heart at Cap's Cue Club in he ... 's unusual t referee would call those kin penalties so late in a It a but knew better DAVID BAMSEY Rudolf WalterWanderone always enjoyed telling Babe Cranfield about his many pool Rudolf told Babe he hustled ... company as often as Cranfield he was always You like horse Cranfield gives the man his Nobody beat Rudolf Fats when it came to selling The show ended day when who somehow be- came Minnesota died at his home ... isn't there to fool He's there to test He bemoans the fact that Rudolf Fats died as a man known to millions while Ir- ving a..."

Date: Jan 20 1996

Publication: Syracuse, New York, United States Of America

Adds: story View record

Syracuse Herald Journal - Syracuse, New York - Jan 20 1996 Syracuse Herald Journal - Syracuse, New York - Jan 20 1996 Newspaper Archive WOW

Text: "...Fats died as a man known to millions while Irving a masterful player from Tho Associated Press MINNESOTA the stage name of billiards celebrity Rudolf Wanderone died Thursday of heart remains Rudolf Fats ... and Ndur for hooking at It's unusual that a referee would call those kind of penalties so late in a It's Page B4 a but knew better DAVID RAMSEY Rudolf WalterWanderone always en- joyed telling Babe Cranfield ... refused to be in as often as I he was always You like horse Cranfield gives the man his No- body beat Rudolf Fats when it came to ing The show ended Thursday when who somehow became ta died at his home ... the loser walk away with always left him with was Fats ..." Date: Jan 20 1996 Publication: Syracuse, New York, United States Of America Adds: story View record Daily News Record - Harrisonburg, Virginia - Jan 19 1996 Daily News Record - Harrisonburg, Virginia - Jan 19 1996 Newspaper Archive WOW

Text: "...died Fats died of congestive heart said his Theresa Bell Wanderone Various accounts listed Fats as anywhere from 82 to 95 years but as he boasted in a 1988 inter No one on this Earth knows how old I Born ... Rudolf Wanderone he was known as New York Fats early in his Jackie Glea sons character in the 1961 Paul Newman movie The based on was called Minnesota So Wanderone started calling himself Minnesota ... on urging each staff member to design his or her own staff develop ment It also provides individuals with a choice of time to par in Staff Reports Obituaries BREAKFAST BUFFET Featuring Fresh V j 4 T Sausag ... has been named to handle suits against the Waynesboro First..."

Date: Jan 19 1996

Publication: Harrisonburg, Virginia, United States Of America

Adds: story View record

Frederick News-Post - Frederick, Maryland - Jan 19 1996 Frederick News-Post - Frederick, Maryland - Jan 19 1996 Newspaper Archive WOW Text: "...the pool shark who blustered his way out of smoky barrooms to become the most famous player ever to pick up a cue stick died Thursday Fats died of congestive heart failure said his wife Theresa Bell ... Fats So Wanderone started calling self Minnesota Fats and his fame and fortune began to rise He probably did more for the sport of pool than any other human being pool wizard Fast Eddie Parker said Tt ... at a news conference at the medical center He's not going to play for a game or two or three Dr Gerald Steinberg chief medical officer of the hospital said Camby who did not attend the news conference ... will carry the U S 500 live ABC will carry the Indy 500 Rahal of Team Rahal They and other drivers and owners appeared at a news con- ference Thursday with race organizers to release..."

Date: Jan 19 1996

Publication: Frederick, Maryland, United States Of America

Adds: story View record

Syracuse Herald Journal - Syracuse, New York - Jan 20 1996 Syracuse Herald Journal - Syracuse, New York - Jan 20 1996 Newspaper Archive WOW

Text: "...The Associated MINNESOTA the stage name of billiards celebrity Rudolf Wanderone died Thursday of heart at Cap's Cue Club in he isn't there to fool He's there to test He bemoans the fact that Rudolf died as a man ... penalties called on Nichol for holding and Ndur for hooking at It's unusual that a referee would call those kind of penalties so late in a It's Page B4 a but knew better Rudolf WalterWanderone always enjoyed ... The show ended day when who somehow be- came Minnesota died at his home in To the Rudolf Fats story is a simple The man wasn't much of a pool but in the end it didn't Cranfield public loved How can you fight ..." Date: Jan 20 1996

Publication: Syracuse, New York, United States Of America

Adds: story View record

Rudolph Wanderone Rudolph Wanderone

Social Security Death Index

Birth: Day Month 1913

Death: Day Month 1996

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http://www.myheritage.com/matchingresult-e4ee6c0107f1b1b77338d78916d51762?trn=partner_Geni&trp=match_button_profile#record_matches

Record Matches (2) The Post-Standard - Syracuse, New York - Jan 19 1996 The Post-Standard - Syracuse, New York - Jan 19 1996

Newspaper Archive WOW

Text: "...on the When a youngster in New York 1972 Ills Minnesota Fats born dolf WalterWanderone Jr. died Thursday of congestive heart once asked him how he got the name Minnesota he didn't miss a I got that name ... dismissed Moscom as couldn't beat a Fats once played him 100 and I've beat him 100 whose real name was dolf WalterWanderone did not claim that he never lost a pool He always said he never lost one with money ... Gleason trayed him in the 1961 film died Thursday of con- heart failure in who never let facts get in the way of a good was sive about his Some friends said he was bom Jan. but a 1966 Bank Shot and Other ... Great listed his date of birth as Jan. 1913. he's finally in heaven shooting it out again with Theresa Bell said Willie who died..."

Date: Jan 19 1996

Publication: Syracuse, New York, United States Of America

Adds: story View record

Rudolph Wanderone Rudolph Wanderone Social Security Death Index

Birth: Day Month 1913

Death: Day Month 1996

Last residence: Place

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Rudolph Walter Wanderone, Jr.'s Timeline

1913
January 19, 1913
Manhattan, Washington Heights, NY, USA
1938
January 25, 1938
Age 25
Los Angeles, CA, USA
1941
May 7, 1941
Age 28
1985
1985
Age 71
1996
January 15, 1996
Age 82
Nashville, TN, USA
????
Nashville, Davidson, Tennessee, United States