On Thursday, June 8 the USBA paid tribute to one of 3-Cushion's legends - player, author and raconteur Bob Byrne. On hand at the event were all the players in the National Championship who were joined by Bob's wife Cindy and many friends who traveled to the Casino Del Sol Resort in Tucson to join in the gala. Pete Folsom served as Master of Ceremonies, and POVPool created a tribute video which was played on the big screen for all the guests to enjoy. Video links and pictures follow.
First off, here is the tribute video created by Daniel Busch and Geraldine Thibodeaux of POVPool. Some incredible footage of Bob and the many great players who knew him and loved him.
With Pete Folsom, a true professional at the podium, the crowd was entertained and informed with stories and memories from the past. Many in the crowd stepped up to say a word about their memories of Bob including his wife Cindy Byrne and USBA president Mazin Shooni. POVPool recorded the entire tribute and have made the video available for all. So enjoy the celebration and listen to the kind words of Bob's friends in loving memory of our great friend.
Paul Frankel (Professor-Q-Ball) was on hand to take pictures of the event. Here is a short photo gallery from the Professor's able hand along with some historic shots of Bob from the past:
- Pete Folsom Master of Ceremonies Pete Folsom Master of Ceremonies
- Banquet Dinner at Casino Del Sol Resort Banquet Dinner at Casino Del Sol Resort
- Cindy Byrne Cindy Byrne
- Two Greats Together: Raymond Ceulemans & Bob Byrne Two Greats Together: Raymond Ceulemans & Bob Byrne
- Mazin Shooni, USBA President Mazin Shooni, USBA President
- Old Friends Darrel Stutsman, Cindy Byrne and Bob Jewett Old Friends Darrel Stutsman, Cindy Byrne and Bob Jewett
- Bob Byrne at a pool event a very long time ago Bob Byrne at a pool event a very long time ago
- Bob & Cindy Byrne Bob & Cindy Byrne
And finally many thanks goes out to Mike Shamos who wrote a wonderful article about Bob which appeared in the official tournament program. We re-print it here.
If you’re a three-cushion player, give thanks to Bob Byrne
By Mike Shamos, Curator, The Billiard Archive
Bob Byrne, a long-time three-cushion player, billiard author, and entrant in U.S. National three-cushion tournaments, died at age 86 on December 6, 2016 in Dubuque, Iowa, the city of his birth. If you’re currently a three-cushion player, you owe a debt to Bob for helping to keep the game alive in the United States despite a rapid decline in the number of public tables from 1960 through the present.
Bob had an engineering background, and settled in San Francisco in 1954, where he eventually became editor of a construction magazine. During the 1950s and 60s, San Francisco was a beehive of three-cushion activity, largely centering on Welker Cochran, who was many times world champion and who operated a famous downtown room. Bob played there five or six times a week, and learned the game from Cochran, Masako Katsura, 1953 World Champion Ray Kilgore and Danny McGoorty. Bob was fascinated by McGoorty and wrote his first billiard book, McGoorty, The Story of a Billiard Bum, in 1972. It’s a funny, profane and fascinating look at a fine player whose life was totally dedicated to three-cushion.
Bob supplemented his income by writing books outside the field, including Memories of a Non-Jewish Childhood in 1970, which has been turned into a musical, and a series of techno-disaster novels, one of which was made into a TV movie.
You probably know that before 1978 there were very few instructional books on three-cushion in any language, especially English. Those that existed did not delve into the game in any real depth, but focused on simple diamond systems and key shots. In 1978, Harcourt Brace published Byrne’s Standard Book of Pool and Billiards, a comprehensive manual on both games up to the intermediate level. The book was brilliant on several levels. First, the larger audience consisted of pool players, but the book exposed them to three-cushion in a way that made the game seem interesting and approachable. Second, the book explained several critical ideas, particularly cue ball deflection (“squirt”), that other books had omitted completely. Third, even though Bob was a known quantity in the San Francisco three-cushion community, he had no national reputation as a pool player. Yet suddenly the title Byrne’s Standard Book was on everyone’s lips, and it became a best-seller, drawing in legions of casual players and reawaking an appetite in old-timers. At a memorial party for Bob held in Dubuque in May 2017, Mike Panozzo, publisher of Billiards Digest, noted that Bob’s decision to put his name in the title of an instructional book was a clever move that quickly made him famous.
It made him famous enough that Bob was hired as Contributing Editor of Billiards Digest, which began publication in 1978. I was honored some time later to join Bob on the banner as another Contributing Editor. Bob produced six more billiard books, the most recent in 2003 at age 73, starred in seven instructional pool videos and narrated numerous three-cushion match videos for Accu-Stats. I was his color man for a number of those tapes, and we had the greatest fun seated a few feet from the world’s greatest players, like Sang Lee, Torbjörn Blömdahl and Raymond Ceulemans, purporting to give the viewers some insight into their shot planning.
In 2001, Bob was inducted into the Billiard Congress of America Hall of Fame for Meritorious Service in the same ceremony that honored Raymond Ceulemans as Greatest Player. Bob wasn’t just a writer, but had substantial playing credentials. He first played in the U.S. Three-Cushion Nationals in 1968, coming in fourth behind Allen Gilbert, Bill Hynes and Bob Ameen. He finished seventh in 1973, 1975, 1977. He won two seniors tournaments in 1999 at age 69. His lifetime three-cushion high run was 16. He was also a fine pocket player and was able to run his age at 78
After retiring to Dubuque in 1996, Bob set about ensuring that three-cushion would live in that city also, and revived the Masonic Temple’s billiard room for local enthusiasts.
His prolific career would not have been possible without the love and support of Cindy Nelms, whom he married in 1991 after a courtship of several years. In a final act of support for the game, Bob left instructions for Cindy that a collection of unique billiard items, including cues and original manuscripts of his books, were to be sold and the proceeds donated to the USBA. So we can thank Bob yet again for his contributions to billiards.