George Balabushka

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George Balabushka
Born Gregori Balabushka
December 9, 1912
Russia
Died December 5, 1975(1975-12-05) (aged 62)
Brooklyn, New York

George Balabushka (December 9, 1912 – December 5, 1975) was a Russian-born billiards (pool) cue maker. He may have been the most important cue stick maker.[1] He is sometimes called "the Stradivarius of cuemakers". His full name or last name alone is often used to refer to a cue stick made by him.[1] He arrived in the U.S. in 1942. He worked at different carpentry and toy and furniture making jobs. He loved playing pool and bought a pool room with a business partner in 1959. Then he started making cues as gifts for friends. This soon became a business when others wanted to buy them.

Balabushka made about 1,200 handcrafted cues during his 16 year career from 1959 to his death in 1975. His cues are highly valued collectors items. They appeared in Martin Scorsese's 1986 film, The Color of Money. Original Balabushka cues may sell for tens of thousands of dollars at auction.

 Photograph of upright pool cue with written labels naming the technical term for each part of the cue and lines drawn from each label to pinpoint the part described.
A pool cue and its major parts.

Life and career[change | change source]

Early life[change | change source]

George Balabushka was born in Russia on December 9, 1912 and immigrated to the United States in 1924 at 12 years of age.[1] His family, parents Anton and Natalie and younger sister Mary, settled in New York City.[1] Although originally named Gregori, according to Balabushka he was given a new first name, George, by emigration officials when he was processed through Ellis Island.[1]

Employment[change | change source]

Balabushka's first job was as a wooden toy designer and maker[1] at the Educational Equipment Company.[2] in Manhattan,[3] The company made building blocks for nurseries and schools.[2] Later, he built children's furniture for the Playtime Woodworking Company in Greenwich Village.[2] While working, Balabushka lost his middle finger to a band saw.[2] Using a wooden mold, he made himself a replacement plastic finger. It was very realistic so that even his friends did not realize his loss until long after the incident.[1][4] As Balabushka's carpentry skills improved he began building accordions and other detailed carpentry pieces on his own time.[5]

Balabushka worked hard on playing ability and fine craftsmanship in his cues.[1] He created new methods of cue construction, cue finishes and cue design.[1] Most Balabushka cues look simple.[4] Many of his construction techniques have become standard in the industry.[1][5]

George Balabushka died in 1975 at the age of 62. He was named the first member the American Cuemakers Association Hall of Fame in February, 1993.[6] In 2004, he entered the Meritorious Service category of the Billiard Congress of America's Hall of Fame.[7]

References[change | change source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 1.9 Bachmen, Martyne S. (April 2004). "Balabushka: One of a Kind". Billiards Digest: 60–63. ISSN 0164-761X.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Stein, Victor; Rubino, Paul (1996) [1st ed. 1994]. The Billiard Encyclopedia: An Illustrated History of the Sport (2nd ed.). Minneapolis: Blue Book Publications. pp. 315, 321–31, 333–35. ISBN 1-886768-06-4.
  3. J.W. Alicoate, Joseph Darmenberg, M.D. Kann, ed. (1927). The Film daily year book of motion pictures. J. W. Alicoate. p. 791. OCLC 1569196.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Kowalick, Vince (November 26, 1994). "No Matter How You Cue Up, It's Tough to Beat a Legend". Los Angeles Times. http://articles.latimes.com/1994-11-26/local/me-1664_1. Retrieved May 2, 2009.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Simpson, Brad (1996). Paul Rubino & Victor Stein. ed. Blue Book of Pool Cues (first ed.). Blue Book Publications. pp. 103–4, 412, 422. ISBN 1-886768-02-1.
  6. "ACA Awards, ACA Hall of Fame". American Cuemakers Association. 2003. http://www.cuemakers.org/hall-of-fame.php. Retrieved November 16, 2006.
  7. "BCA Hall of Fame Inductees: 2002 - 2006". Billiard Congress of America. 2006. http://www.bca-pool.com/industry/hof/ind02-06.shtml. Retrieved November 16, 2006.

Other websites[change | change source]