It is with the deepest regret and sorrow that I announce the passing of Harry Crabtree. He passed away after the article below was written. The old pool warrior died on July 17, 1996 at approximately 8:30 pm following a brief , but serious illness.
His name is Harry Crabtree. He was raised in Lynchburg, Virginia and even as a child had an adventuresome spirit. His spirit of independence and curiosity eventually found its way into a pool hall, and Harry was hooked.
Harry became a road player during the second world war, and over the ensuing years he traveled all four corners of the country looking for games. He found them, and in the process became known to the best players in the country. Names like Luther Lassiter, U.J. Puckett, Deacon Crane, New York Fats (later Minnesota Fats), and others who became world champions, knew Harry Crabtree. Willie Joplin, who still lives in Lynchburg, mentions Harry in his pool articles from time to time.
Harry was best known as a one pocket player. It was a very popular game before coin tables made it impossible to spot balls. It is still popular among better players. Although official national rankings were virtually non-existent, Harry was considered among the best.
I don't know enough about Harry to offer a biography. I see him every week at the Obelisk in Newport News, where until just recently, he still played regularly. At 75 years old, Harry was still the odds-on favorite to win the tournaments at the Obelisk. Most of the top players there have taken instruction from him, and he still watches over his students, ready with a reprimand if he spots a serious infraction.
When I can, I get Harry to tell me stories about his road playing days. He has a million of them, each funnier and more entertaining than the last. He recalls "propositions" from the past as if they occurred yesterday. He can recall details about a particular pool hall, player or game in remarkable detail.
It became very obvious to me, after hearing Harry describe his road experiences, that I would never have had the courage to face that kind of lifestyle. He slept many nights in his car, having failed to win enough money for a hotel room. Most of the time his winnings barely covered meals. Of course he had his good days, winning enough to see him through several weeks of travel and lodging. Road players lived a rough life, and they helped each other. I envy his courage as well as his skill.
But Harry's past is not what sets him apart from other people. What he is today does set him apart. Harry is a gentleman in every sense of the word. He is a teacher who shares his love for the game with a twinkle in his eye. He has a pleasant greeting for everyone who passes, and he takes an genuine interest in those he meets.
I chose Harry to be the first on my "Pool People" page, not only because of my personal acquaintance with him, or because he is a good and faithful player; but because Harry Crabtree is simply a very special guy.
Happy Shooting, Jim and Pat
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