Williams shook his head. "I don't think they've drawn as many as 100 people a day here. I remember one match Eddie and I played in Sydney. We drew 11,000 fans in six days, and they had to turn away a few thousand more because there wasn't any more room."
Perhaps not as unprofessional as Williams and Charlton believe, the promoters tried to juice up their crowd appeal by importing a bunch of Bunnies from the Playboy Club. They began with two, dressed in miniskirts and blouses, but for the final night, when ABC's Wide World of Sports arrived for the climax, the Bunnies had multiplied to eight and had stripped to the legal minimum. "What they are going to do," said Joe Richards, the impish dean of billiard writers, "is give pool a bad name." Someone else suggested that instead of the Bunnies, they should have brought in Minnesota Fats.
" Minnesota Fats!" yelled Cueball Kelly. "I could go out on the street right now and grab the first five people I see, and Minnesota Fats couldn't beat any of them. Hell, he couldn't beat you. Besides, don't call him Minnesota Fats. He's New York Fats. He just grabbed that name after Jackie Gleason made that movie. He don't even know where Minnesota is."
On the final night Crane, who had been among the leaders from the first day, needed a victory over Steve Mizerak Jr. to wrap up his championship. A loss would throw him into a three-way tie with Mizerak and Balsis, who was growing stronger with each game he played, and would mean a playoff that could last until the next morning.
"And I don't need that," said Crane.
"Playing all night?" someone asked.
"Playing Balsis again," said Crane, grinning. "He's already beaten me once. He had me 94-12, but I got up to 136 and I left him with one heck of a tough shot. When I sat down I was thinking that he'd never make it. Then I was thinking, 'My God! He made it.' And he ran 56 balls and out. All I could do was sit in that chair and watch. You can't win when you're sitting."
"What's your strategy for Mizerak?"
"Keeping him in the chair," said Crane.
For Mizerak, the day had begun normally enough. He was up at 7 a.m., and half an hour later he was on his way to the Grammar School in Perth Amboy, N.J., where he teaches seventh grade history and geography. "I was going to take the day off," he said, "but I chickened out. I had quite a time, yelling at the kids."