Upper Darby, PA – Jimmy Caras may not be a household name today in the Greek community, but in his ninety-three years he literally “racked up” a set of accomplishments few have achieved.
A native of Scranton PA, Caras grew up in Wilmington DE, where his father, an immigrant from Greece, owned a pool hall. He became a teenage hustler. ”I’d come home from high school with books under my arm,” Caras told Ira Berkow of The New York Times in an interview in 2001. ”I’d walk in and dad would say, I want you to play someone for $100. One time he lined up this $100 match and I peeked in the cash register and saw only $35. I said, Dad, what if I lose? He said You won’t lose. Talk about pressure.”
Jimmy Caras, who began playing pool at age five and went on to win four world championships, and the United States Open, was a four-time World Champion and was inducted in the Billiard Congress of America Hall of Fame in 1977. Born in 1909, Caras had forsaken tournaments in the early 1960s in favor of teaching and traveling for Brunswick, the sporting goods manufacturer he had represented since the 1930s. Then in 1962, Caras defeated Willie Mosconi at the New York Athletic Club in a match taped for Wide World of Sports. He returned to the sport at a top level in 1967 winning the United States Open in St. Louis. Caras lived in the expanding Greek community from the 1940s into the 1980s and became ranked by Billiards Digest as the 10th greatest pocket billiards player of the 20th century.
Caras won world titles in 1936, 1938, 1939 and 1949, then returned from twelve years in semi-retirement to win the Open in 1967 in a field of forty-eight. His name is connected to billiards giants like Willie Mosconi, Luther Lassiter, Irving Crane, and Ralph Greenleaf, a champion Caras beat in a match when he was just seventeen years old. Later in life, he beat Wimpy Lassiter in eleven straight victories after losing the initial game.
Caras’ main hangout in Delaware County was Drexeline Billiards Club, still one of the top billiards parlors in the Philadelphia area. After his wife Marjorie died, Jimmy moved into an apartment in Drexel Hill near the club and showed up nightly. Later in life, he moved to Jacksonville, Florida, and lived with his daughter Linda. She said he played a game or two of the pool every day until he died in 2002.