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Player Profile Joe Davis OBE
joe davis

Born: 15 April 1901. Whitwell, Derbyshire
Died: 10 July 1978
Professional Career: 1919 - 1964
Highest Break: 147 (Exhibition Match 1955)

Joe Davis was, without doubt, the father of modern snooker. Although he did not possess all the skills of the modern players, it must be remembered that the balls were different, the cloth was different and many of the shots made today were just not possible with the old equipment. You can only be the best of your time and Joe was certainly that. He was never beaten in the world championship winning it 15 times in succession. He was a great billiards player but taught himself to play snooker before most people even knew of the game and brought the game to the attention of the masses.

 Born in Whitwell, Derbyshire in 1901, Joe was the local amateur billiards champion by the time he was 13 and turned professional at 18. In 1922 at the age of 21 he played in his first world championship, at billiards, and lost to the great Tom Newman. He would later win that championship four times.

He began to take an interest in snooker and helped to organise the first world championship in 1927, This was staged in Birmingham and he beat Tom Dennis in the final to win £6.50. He then won every world title until 1946 when he decided to retire from that event. The nearest he came to defeat was in the 1940 final, when he beat his brother, Fred by just the odd frame 37-36.

 Joe’s classic cue action is still the basis of that used by most of today’s players and it was also he who developed modern break-building methods using the black as the key.

 He made his first snooker century in 1928 and by 1953 had made 500 of them. He set new record breaks five times, 137 in 1937, 138 (1938), 140 (1947), 146 (1950) and finally, in 1955, he achieved the first officially recognised 147 against Willie Smith at London’s Leicester Square Hall. He also made the first century in the world championship in 1935.

 His exhibitions drew large crowds and he was one of the most popular sportsmen of his day. He turned his exhibitions into show business occasions and played at theatres like the Palladium with a large mirror set up over the table so that the audience could see what was going on.

 Joe eventually retired from all play in 1964 with 687 snooker centuries to his name and 83 billiard breaks of over 1000. Only one person ever beat him on level terms and that was his younger brother, Fred. Some would cynically say that this was due to the fact that he rarely played anyone, outside of championships, without giving them a few blacks start and that this was to ensure that, if he lost, his record was still intact. 

He continued to follow the game as it developed through the late 1960s and in the 1970s and it was while watching Fred in the 1978 world semi-final at the Crucible that he collapsed and he died some two months later on 10 July 1978. He was awarded the OBE in 1963.

In 2011 Joe was the first name to be inducted into the Snooker Hall of Fame.

Career Highlights

These must be viewed with the understanding that there were very few tournaments played during his time.

World Professional Snooker Champion 1927 - 1946 (15 times)
World Professional Billiards Champion 1928, 1929, 1930, 1932
Empire News Tournament champion 1948
News of the World Tournament champion 1950, 1953, 1956
News of the World Tournament runner-up 1954, 1955, 1959

© Chris Turner 2009
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