Fred Davis (snooker player)
14 August 1913|
|Died||16 April 1998
|World Champion||1948, 1949, 1951|
Fred Davis, OBE (14 August 1913 – 16 April 1998) was an English professional player of snooker and billiards, being one of only two players ever to win the world title in both, along with his brother Joe. He was one of the most popular personalities in the game. His professional career spanned from 1929 to 1993. He was born in Chesterfield, Derbyshire.
Davis was originally a billiards player; he called billiards 'his first love' and he won the British Boys Under 16 Billiards Championship in 1929. He turned professional automatically under the rules of the Billiards Association and Control Council in 1929. By the time that he was ready to play competitive billiards, the sport was in sharp decline, although he did beat Kingsley Kennerley for the United Kingdom Professional Billiards Championship in 1951. Davis remarked that once snooker had come to the fore he assumed that he would never play another billiards match.
Forced to concentrate on snooker, he first played in the World Snooker Championship in 1937 but lost 17–14 to Welshman Bill Withers in the first round, a defeat that Davis put down to ignoring his worsening eyesight. His brother, Joe, considered this defeat an affront to the family honour and hammered Withers 30–1 in the very next round. Joe's fury with his brother's performance persuaded Fred to consult an optician who devised a pair of spectacles with swivel lens joints. He reached the semi finals in 1938 and 1939 and lost only 37–36 to Joe Davis in the 1940 final (although the winning margin was reached at 37–35 as 'dead' frames were still played out. This was the only time they met in the World Championship final. A short clip of the match and a mention of Fred's impending World War II service is caught on a Pathe news clip. Davis in fact was called up on 20 July 1940, only five days after his marriage to Sheila.
He was the younger brother (by twelve years) of Joe Davis, who dominated snooker from 1927 to 1946; they are no relation to later champion Steve Davis. Joe retired from the World Snooker Championship after his 1946 victory, leaving the way open for Fred to win three times, in 1948, 1949 and 1951. Fred would have the distinction of being the only player to beat Joe on level terms (albeit outside of the world championship as Joe retired from championship play in 1947) a feat he achieved four times from 1948–1954. Such victories were especially sweet as Joe had told Fred that he would never beat him. Following a disagreement between some of the players and the governing body Davis played in an alternative tournament—the World Matchplay—which he won on five consecutive occasions, 1952–1956. From 1947 to 1954 Fred's great rival was Walter Donaldson, and they met in eight consecutive finals. Donaldson's 1947 victory over Davis by 82–63 was a huge shock and Davis put down his defeat to a mixture of over-confidence and Donaldson's solid practice regime ahead of the championship which gave him a huge edge in his long potting.
Snooker remained a huge attraction at this time and crowds duly filled Blackpool Tower Circus to see Fred beat Donaldson 84–61 in the 1948 final and 80–65 in the 1949 final. However,times were changing and from 1950 matches became shorter. Donaldson beat Fred for the last time for the 1950 title 51–46. When Fred won the 1954 event with a 39–21 victory over Donaldson, it was clear there was a decline in interest as only 5 players entered the championship and Donaldson then retired.
After defeating John Pulman in two close finals in 1955 and 1956, Davis chose not to play in the 1957 Championship, held in Jersey and featuring just four entrants, for financial reasons, leaving the path clear for his rival John Pulman. After the War Davis and his wife had invested in a hotel in Llandudno and this gave them some financial security away from snooker. This proved a wise move, by the early 1960s Davis was playing exhibitions in aid of cancer charities, but soon even this limited amount of snooker activity dried up. Following tours of Canada and Australia (where Davis won an international tournament in 1960), Davis went into effective retirement, following an exhibition in Pontefract in front of only a handful of people. Davis hardly played for four seasons before contacted by Rex Williams, keen to restart interest in snooker.
When the official World Championship was resumed in 1964 on a challenge basis, Davis had lost his edge and was defeated on each occasion by Pulman, in 1964 (by 19 frames to 16) 1965 (by just 37 frames to 36) and 1966 (5–2 in matches).
The revival of the World Championship as a tournament in 1969 saw Davis beat future world champion Ray Reardon by 25 frames to 24 (the final frame not ending until 1.33am), before losing 37–24 to Gary Owen in the semi-finals. Fred's epic match with Ray Reardon would earn a place in the Guinness Book of Records (as the longest recorded snooker session) and Reardon would later note that he learnt more from that match than he had in the previous 20 years.
That same year BBC TV started their Pot Black series. A one frame format could hardly have been more removed from the epic finals of the 1940s and Davis was quick to admit he was a slow starter in matches. Nevertheless, he would be runner up in the 1970 series (to John Spencer) and achieved the highest break in the 1970, 1971 and 1975 series.
Soon after winning the Professional Snooker Association of Canada's Invitation Event (beating Rex Williams and Paul Thornley in the last two rounds) Davis suffered the first of two heart attacks in May 1970 and did not journey to the November 1970 World Championship held in Australia and won by John Spencer. He lost 31–21 to Spencer in his first match in the 1972 championship, but beat David Greaves 16–1 in the second round in the 1973 championship before losing to Alex Higgins 16–14 in the quarter-finals. It was in this match, played at the City Exhibition Halls in Manchester, where a leak in the roof forced rain to stop play whilst a cover was found and the position of each ball marked. He gained his revenge however in the 1974 championship when he beat Higgins 15–14 in the quarter-finals (having earlier dispatched Bill Werbeniuk 15–5). This return match with Higgins also contained a notable incident when referee Jim Thorpe called a 'push-shot' in frame 25, a decision to which Higgins so vehemently denied that he ended up swearing at the referee. Higgins blamed his subsequent defeat on the incident. Higgins never blamed Davis for any part of this incident (indeed he praised him over it) and clearly stated his admiration for Davis for playing so well following a second heart attack. Davis for his part also praised Higgins for his 'sportmanship' in his autobiography 'Talking Snooker' first published in 1979. However, Davis' 1974 World Championship campaign ended with a 15–3 defeat to eventual champion Ray Reardon in the semi-finals.
In 1975, Davis travelled to Australia to compete in the World Championship, where in an ordinary club billiard room in which a large number of one-armed bandits were in constant use he played Dennis Taylor. Against such conditions an unhappy Davis lost by a single frame 15–14. The 1975 Watney Open, held in Leeds, provided some consolation, and Davis beat Patsy Fagan 13–9 and John Spencer 13–12, before losing 17–11 in the final to Alex Higgins. Davis stated that a win over Spencer convinced him that he could still compete at the highest level of tournament play.
World rankings were introduced in 1976. Davis's abilities had peaked long before this, but he was still ranked number 4 that season. In 1977 Davis was ranked 9, rising to 6 during both the 1978 and 1979 seasons, he was still ranked 8 in 1980.
Although Davis lost 15–13 to Eddie Charlton in the quarter-finals of the 1976 World Championship, having beaten Bill Werbeniuk 15–12 in round one, he came very close to a major prize when he lost 10–9 to Ray Reardon in the final of the Pontins Professional tournament. Davis missed a crucial brown in the final frame, having made a break of 107 during the match. This game would be described at the 'Pro Match of the Season'.
He reached the semi-finals of the World Snooker Championship in 1978 at the age of 64 having defeated John Virgo 9–8, Dennis Taylor 13–9 and Patsy Fagan 13–10. His defeat by South African Perrie Mans saw Davis miss a crucial pink from its spot on the verge of pulling up to one frame behind at 15–16. This incident is of great note as Joe Davis was following each ball intently, swaying in his seat and almost falling into the gangway when his brother missed this key pot. After this frame Joe was taken ill and rushed for a six and a half-hour operation and died a few weeks later. Indeed so dramatic was the missed pink that it became known as 'the ball that killed Joe Davis'. Davis closed out 1978 with a quarter-final appearance in the United Kingdom Professional Championship. He defeated veteran Yorkshireman John Dunning 9–2 before losing to Alex Higgins 9–4.
In early 1979, Davis met Alex Higgins in the final of the Castle Open (an event hosted at Bernard Bennett's club in Southhampton). Davis would lose 5–1 in the final having defeated Willie Thorne 4–3 and Cliff Thorburn 4–1, but clearly won over the crowd at the event.
During the World Championships that year Fred beat Kirk Stevens 13–8 to progress to the quarter-finals. This match was to be his last victory at the Crucible Theatre, but Fred had the satisfaction of compiling the first century of the championship – 109 in the sixth frame, an effort even applauded by the referee. In the quarter-finals Davis played Eddie Charlton and admitted he inadvisedly played an attacking game and soon fell 5–0 behind. Although he made a break of 110, he lost the match 13–4.
During the first World Challenge Cup in 1979 Davis acted as England's captain (the team were completed by John Spencer and Graham Miles). He won his first seven frames which meant that he was instrumental in England's 8–7 victories over Northern Ireland and the Rest of the World. England were however defeated 14–3 in the final by Wales whose team included the then current and previous world champion.
Although Davis lost 13–5 to David Taylor in his first match in the 1980 World Championship, Davis did reach the quarter finals of the United Kingdom Professional Championship that year with a 9–6 victory over Mark Wildman before his 9–6 defeat by Alex Higgins.
In 1981, at the age of 67, Davis played in his last snooker final, the Raffles/Sheffield Shield Tournament, played at the Sheffield Snooker Centre. Davis beat Mike Watterson 9–6 (having trailed 5–1) and Dennis Taylor 9–5 (having trailed 5–3). In the final he led Terry Griffiths 4–1 but eventually lost 9–5. Earlier in the season he played in his last Masters, beating Kirk Stevens 5–4 in the first round before losing to Terry Griffiths 5–2 in the quarter-finals.
Davis won the World Billiards Championships in June 1980 beating Rex Williams 5978-4452 and in so doing became the only player, aside from Joe Davis, to have lifted the World Snooker and World Billiards title. However, he was quick to point out that standards differed markedly from those of the 1930s when the top players made such large breaks that they killed the game as popular entertainment. He would receive £1500 plus a cheque for £500 for the highest break (583), presented to him by 94-year old, Willie Smith, World Billiards champion in 1920 and 1923. Davis also retained the title later in November the same year, when the championship was restored to a knock-out basis for the first time since 1934. Davis beat Paddy Morgan 1907-978, John Barrie 1253-1153 and Mark Wildman 3037-2064 in the final to pocket £4000, then a record for a Billiards event.
The modest billiards revival continued during the 1980s and Davis continued to play in events during the decade. In March 1982 he was defeated by a record narrow margin of six points in the semi-finals whilst defending his world title, as eventual champion Rex Williams beat him 1500-1494. In the 1983 event he beat Clive Everton and Eddie Charlton en route to the final where he lost to Rex Williams 1500-605, but at least took the highest break prize for an effort of 427. Also revived (from 1979) was the United Kingdom Professional Billiards Championship. Although Davis lost the title 1548-1031 in the semi-final of the 1979 event (to John Barrie) Davis looked likely to reclaim the title in 1983 when, having dispatched Ian Williamson and Ray Edmonds he led Mark Wildman 750–477 after the first session of the final. However, Wildman recovered to take the title by 1500–1032.
In the 1984 World Billiards Championship Davis lost to Eddie Charlton 1436-829 in the semi-finals. After this time billiard events increasingly changed structure to a series of games of 400 or 150 points. Davis was always less happy with this structure and coinciding with advancing years, Davis fared less well after this time. In the 1985 world championship he did defeat Clive Everton 3–1 in round one, but fell 3–0 to Australian Robby Foldvari in the quarter-finals. The following year (still seeded 3) he lost to 3–0 to Bob Close, who was making his professional debut. In 1987 he reached the quarter-finals of both the UK Billiards Championship and the World Championship, but lost on both occasions to Robby Foldvari. Fred's last entry in the World Billiards Championship came in 1992, but with the main competition to be played in India, he did not play his first round match against David Barton. Davis did enter the 1993 UK Billiards Championship, but did not play his first round match against Ian Williamson and he also scratched from the Radiant Grand Slam Second Leg where he was due to play David Edwards that same month.
Davis played professionally well into old age, making his last appearance in the World Snooker Championship at the Crucible Theatre in 1984 aged 70, where he lost to Bill Werbeniuk 10–4. The following year he trailed Canadian Bob Chaperon 7–2 in the fourth qualifying round, but remarkably came back to win the match 10–9. (He would go on to lose 10–6 to Rex Williams in the final qualifying round, having led 6–5.). Davis showed similar resilience in the 1985 UK Championship qualifying to survive 9–8 against John Rea. He then went on to beat Bill Werbeniuk 9–7 in the first round, having trailed 5–3 at the interval. Davis then lost to Alex Higgins 9–2 in the second round. That same month Davis defeated Billy Kelly and then Kirk Stevens in the Mercantile Credit Classic, leading to Stevens amusingly asking Davis not to retire until Stevens had finally defeated him. Davis would be defeated 5–3 by Eugene Hughes in the fourth round.
In the qualifying rounds of the 1988 World Championship Davis beat Jack Fitzmaurice 10–8 and Jim Bear 10–4 before losing to Australian John Campbell 10–3 in the final qualifying round. This gave Davis a cheque for £3,117, which was his highest ever in a professional snooker competition. The following year he beat Bernard Bennett 10–4 in the second round of qualifying for the World Championship, it would be his last ever victory in a championship he had first graced 52 years earlier.
During the 1989/90 season Davis recorded wins over Jimmy Van Rensberg and Mike Watterson, but a 10–6 defeat by Ian Brumby in the World Championship, second round qualifying, meant that he was forced into a 'play off' to maintain his full professional status. Davis opted to play and was defeated 10–5 by Jason Prince. Suffering from arthritis of the knee, Davis literally limped from the arena to the press conference during which he was given an emotional standing ovation from spectators, players on other match tables and even those on the practice tables, who all ceased playing to acknowledge the moment. At the press conference, Davis announced he was now retired from competitive snooker but would keep playing in UK based billiard tournaments. Ironically however, snooker threw its doors open to all-comers and Davis resumed his snooker career, but played little competitive billiards thereafter.
During the 1990/91 season he recorded his final professional snooker victories at the Mercantile Classic. In the preliminary round he beat veteran Southampton professional Bernard Bennett 5–1 and Tony Wilson (a new professional from the Isle of Man) 5–4 on the same day. In the next round he lost 5–2 to Rex Williams in a match which saw 99 years of professional experience between the two players.
As a former World Champion Davis was invited to compete in Barry Hearn's World Masters in 1991 where he lost to Steve Davis (then ranked number 2 in the world) 6–0. It would be Fred's last ever TV appearance in a competitive match.
At the end of 1988 Davis spoke out against the governing body and its running of the game. His comments followed the convening of disciplinary action against him following his withdrawal from the Mercantile Credit Classic qualifying competition the previous May. Davis withdrew because of intense discomfort caused by his arthritis and confirmed his withdrawal twice with the tournament director, David Harrison. Davis was furious that his unblemished 60-year career had been called into question via a disciplinary board and took up his case via association member Ian Doyle. Doyle offered an apology, but no official apology was given. Davis stated that the WPBSA was more interested in thinking of ways to get at Barry Hearn, rather than acting in a constructive manner and accused the WPBSA of trying to buy off lower ranked players to 'get them on their side against Hearn'.
Davis only retired in 1993, aged 79, having lost to future world champion Ronnie O'Sullivan (62 years his junior) 5–1 in the Grand Prix qualifying during his last season. Davis lost 10–1 to Peter Daubney in the first round qualifying of the 1992 World Championship, an effort which still netted him £500. Just four months later he would lose 6–0 to Mark Davis in the sixth round qualifying of the 1993 event, it would be Davis' last World Championship match. His last ever competitive snooker match came in August 1992 when he lost 5–1 to Neil Tomkins in the European Open (he did not play his next scheduled match against Tom Finstad in the International Open).
On 14 August 1993, Davis turned 80 and still held a ranking of 259. Even then Davis stated he would have loved to continue playing, but was prevented from doing so by the severe arthritis in his left knee which made it painful to walk. Indeed, it was Davis' attempt to redistribute his stance which contributed to such heavy defeats in his final snooker matches.
On 13 July 2011, an onyx and diamond dress set which had belonged to Fred Davis and which had been worn by him when he won the 1948 World Championship was sold at Bonhams for £2520 (including Buyer's Premium). This was around three times the initial estimate.
- World Snooker Championship 1948, 1949, 1951
- World Matchplay 1952–1956
- News of the World Championship (snooker) 1958, 1959
- World Billiards Championship 1980, 1981
- BBC News: Tributes to cue king Fred Davis
- Davis, Fred., Talking Snooker, A&C Black, Second Edition 1983, p. 12.
- Everton, Clive., Guinness Books of Billiards and Snooker, Guinness Publishing, 1982, p117.
- Everton, Clive., Black Farce and Cue Ball Wizards, Mainstream Publishing, 2007, p. 23.
- Everton, Clive, The Guinness Book of Billiards and Snooker, 1982, p. 52.
- Everton, Clive., (Ed.) Snooker Scene, February 1980, p. 11.
- Davis, Fred., Talking Snooker, A&C Black, Second Edition, 1983, p. 13.
- Everton, Clive (1993). The Embassy Book of World Snooker. Surrey: The Book People. p. 15.
- Everton, Clive, Guinness Book of Billiards and Snooker, pp. 58–59.
- 'Snooker Battle of the Brothers' Pathe News Clip. Issue Date 25 March 1940. Canister 40/25. Film ID 1039.39. Time in 01:42:45:00, Time Out 01:43:46:00. http://www.britishpathe.com/record.php?id=25081
- Everton, Clive., (Ed.) Snooker Scene, September 1976, p. 23.
- Everton, Clive., Guinness Book of Billiards and Snooker, 1982, p. 60.
- Everton, Clive., (Ed.) Snooker Scene, Feb 1980, p. 11.
- Davis, Fred., Talking Snooker, A&C Black, Second Edition 1983, p. 18.
- Everton, Clive., Guinness Book of Billiards and Snooker, 1982, pp. 62–63.
- Davis, Fred, Talking Snooker, A&C Black, Second Edition, 1983, p. 24.
- Everton, Clive (Ed.) Snooker Scene, September 1976, pp26/27. This issue has an extended retrospective on Davis.
- Everton, Clive., Guinness Book of Billiards and Snooker, 1982, p. 65.
- Davis, Fred., Talking Snooker, A&C Black, Second Edition 1983, p. 28.
- Reardon, Ray., Enjoying Snooker, St Michael Books, 1986, p. 70. Reardon also notes the record for the longest session was broken in 1983 by Cliff Thorburn and Terry Griffiths.
- Perrin, Reg., Pot Black., BBC Books., 1983, pp. 21–22. The breaks were 54 in 1970, 73 in 1971 and 87 in 1975.
- Billiards and Snooker Magazine, Number 592, June 1970, p16.
- Davis, Fred., Talking Snooker, A&C Black, Second Edition, 1983, p. 29.
- Everton, Clive., Black Farce and Cue Ball Wizards, Mainstream Publishing, 2007, p. 51.
- Higgins, Alex, From the Eye of the Hurricane: My Story, Headline, 2007, pp. 99–100.
- Higgins, Alex, From the Eye of the Hurricane: My Story, Headline, 2007, p. 99.
- Davis, Fred, Talking Snooker, A&C Black, Second Edition 1983, p. 34.
- Everton, Clive., Guinness book of Billiards and Snooker, 1982, p. 92.
- Davis, Fred, Talking Snooker, A&C Black, Second Edition, 1983, p. 35.
- Everton, Clive, Guinness Book of Billiards and Snooker, p. 93.
- Hayton, Eric, The CueSport Book of Professional Snooker, Rose Vila Publications, 2004, p. 339.
- Karnehm, Jack., World Snooker, Pelham Books, 1981, p. 12.
- Everton, Clive (Ed.), Snooker Scene, June 1976, p. 24.
- World Snooker. 2007. Past Players – Fred Davis. [Online] World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association (Updated 2009) Available at: http://www.worldsnooker.com/past_players-10018.htm [Accessed 11 October 2009]. Archived at http://www.webcitation.org/5kRuqKocd.
- Everton, Clive (Ed.) Snooker Scene, December 1977, p. 1.
- Everton, Clive., The Guinness Book of Billiards and Snooker, 1982, p. 96.
- Everton, Clive, Black Farce and Cue Ball Wizards, Mainstream Publishing, 2007, p. 67.
- Everton, Clive, Snooker Scene, April 1986, p. 19.
- Everton, Clive, Guinness Book of Billiards and Snooker, 1982, p. 96.
- Everton, Clive (Ed.) Snooker Scene, March 1979, pp. 10–11.
- Everton, Clive., (Ed.) Snooker Scene, June 1979, p 11) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ShWIhGy_CYo&feature=related
- Everton, Clive (Ed.) Snooker Scene, June 1979, p. 12.
- Everton, Clive (Ed.) Snooker Scene, December 1979, pp. 5–9.
- Everton, Clive, Snooker Scene, June 1980, p. 4.
- Everton, Clive., Guinness Book of Billiards and Snooker, 1982, p. 102.
- Everton, Clive, (Ed.) Snooker Scene, September 1981, p. 11.
- Davis, Fred., Talking Snooker, A&C Black, Second Edition, 1983, p. 49.
- Everton, Clive (Ed.)., Snooker Scene, July 1980, pp. 3–7.
- Everton, Clive (Ed.)., Snooker Scene, December 1980, pp. 12–15.
- Everton, Clive (Ed.) Snooker Scene, April 1982, pp. 12–13.
- Everton, Clive., (Ed.), Snooker Scene, May 1983, p. 9.
- Everton, Clive (Ed.) Snooker Scene, March 1979, pp. 7–8.
- Everton, Clive (Ed.) Snooker Scene, February 1983, pp. 23–25.
- Everton, Clive, (Ed.) Snooker Scene, May 1984, p. 8.
- Everton, Clive., (Ed.) Snooker Scene, April 1985, p. 20.
- Everton, Clive (Ed.) Snooker Scene, February 1986, p. 31.
- Everton, Clive (Ed.) Snooker Scene., March 1987, p25 and April 1987, p. 19.
- Everton, Clive (Ed.) Snooker Scene, October 1992, ISSN 02690756, p. 24.
- Everton, Clive (Ed.) Snooker Scene, March 1993, pp18, 20.
- Everton, Clive (Ed.) Snooker Scene, May 1985, p. 13.
- Everton, Clive (Ed.) Snooker Scene, May 1985, p. 15.
- Everton, Clive., (Ed.) Snooker Scene, January 1986, pp. 7, 11.
- Everton, Clive., (Ed.) Snooker Scene, January 1986, pp. 23, 24, 25.
- Smith, Terry., Snooker: The Players, The Shots, The Matches. St Michael's Press, 1989, p. 107
- Everton, Clive (Ed.) Snooker Scene, May 1989, p. 14.
- Everton, Clive (Ed.) Snooker Scene May 1985, p. 13
- Everton, Clive, (Ed.) Snooker Scene, July 1990, ISSN 02690756, pp. 10–11.
- Everton, Clive (Ed), Snooker Scene, October 1990, ISSN 02690759, pp. 12–13.
- Hendon, David., Past Masters (2) in Snooker Scene, September 2009, p. 22.
- Everton, Clive (Ed.) Snooker Scene, January 1989, p. 30.
- Everton Clive., (Ed.) Snooker Scene, May 1992, p. 5. See June 1992 issue for confirmation of prize money (p. 21).
- Everton Clive., (Ed.) Snooker Scene, August 1992, p. 19.
- Hayton, Eric., The CueSport Book of Professional Snooker, Rose Villa Publications, 2004, p. 340.
- Everton, Clive (Ed.) Snooker Scene, September 1993, p9.
- Everton, Clive (Ed.) Snooker Scene, May 1998, p. 22.
- Bonhams Sale 18882. Lot: 199. Sale Date 13 July 2011. See http://www.bonhams.com/eur/auction/18882/lot/199/
- "Official player profile of Fred Davis". worldsnooker.com. World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association. "Past Players" section.