Gray and Diggle
The actual conditions prevailing in the Gray-Diggle
matches are quite simple. Diggle, in endeavouring to win,
is up against a mathematical impossibility, and this would
be equally the case with Roberts, Stevenson, Inman, Reece,
and the rest of them. One has only mentally to revive
Peall in the heyday of his powers and practice as a spot stroke
specialist, and to imagine his being pitted against
players who had given little or no attention to his particular
stroke to find a parallel case.
What happened, for example, in that memorable week in
the middle of March, 1888? Every day except one Peall
scored a break of over 1,000 (2,031, 1,498, 1,203, 1,192, and
1,125), whilst two years later he astounded the world with
a break of 3,304, figures which make even the recent 1,000
to 1,300 Gray breaks appear almost puny.
As The Billiard Monthly pointed out two months ago,
the Gray of to-day is the Peall of years gone by, the only
difference being that Peall chose the shortest range pots on
the board, whilst Gray has elected to practise and play the
shortest range in-offs.
The only possible chance that any of our players have of
beating Gray is to challenge him to the spot-in game. There
would then be a very different state of the scoring
board, and not many weeks would elapse before the unaccustomed
phenomenon was witnessed of Gray holding a
watching brief, whilst Diggle, Stevenson, and other top-of-the-table experts were reeling off hundreds and thousands,
by means of the spot stroke.
“Why cannot they do it without the spot stroke, by
means of ordinary top-of-table play?” someone may ask.
The reply is sufficiently obvious. With the spot stroke
there is no covering of the balls, and only one ball to consider.
Nothing has to be done beyond steering the cue ball
at each stroke to the rear of the spot in as nearly as possible
a straight line with the corner pocket. The strokes necessary
to accomplish this are few and comparatively simple,
just as are the strokes necessary to retain the red ball, in
the sister losing hazard stroke, in the central line of the
Not that we are endeavouring to belittle in the slightest
degree the skill and the qualities that are involved in the
compiling of big breaks by means of either stroke. But
what we do say is that, given scrupulous care with each
individual essential of every stroke, the wonder is rather
that the spot stroke and middle pocket specialist ever breaks
down than that he makes thousand breaks.
There could be set up on a billiard table two spring-controlled
mechanisms which would do the middle pocket in-offs
or the corner pocket pots all day long and for 365 days
in the year, until things began to wear out and the running
conditions ceased to be perfect. For the in-offs the mechanism
would be set for the half-ball contact from an end spot
of the D with the object ball two feet or a shade less up
the central line of the table, and for the spot stroke the
propelling point would be in a dead straight line for the
corner pocket, and a trifle below centre to ensure the
straight recoil, by means of which alone G. J. Sala once
made 186 consecutive hazards.
The equivalent of this last-named performance in middle
pocket play would mean the bringing back of the object
ball 186 consecutive times in a dead central line to absolutely
the same distance from baulka feat which Gray
(who has always the choice of two pockets denied to the
spot stroke performer) has not yet, we believe, effected.
DIGGLE TO GRAY
I’ve finished my break and they’re waiting for you:
The red in the middle, your ball in the D,
So in off, and in off, and never mind me.Punch.