Frank Torres: In Memoriam

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Frank Torres, 4-time USBA National Champion who passed in April of 2024.

            As the USBA began its 2024 National Championship in Modesto, California, word leaked that Frank Torres, four-time national champion, had died after a brief illness. He had planned to play the 2024 tournament but withdrew on its eve. Frank was a true gentleman, with a sly smile and a soft voice. At the table, he was a fierce competitor with a steady stroke and a keen eye.

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            Born 1945 in San Antonio, Texas and named Francisco, Torres was known to everyone in the billiards world as Frank. More recently, as his hair turned grey then silver, he was affectionately called, The Silver Fox. Soon after his birth, his family moved to Mexico City. At the age of 14, he picked up a cue at the Club de Los Intelectuales and began his life at the table. In his early 20s, he moved back to the United States and eventually settled in a suburb of Las Vegas.

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            He was at the top of his game from 1974 to 1991, winning the US three-cushion title in 1974, 1978, 1985, and 1987, and taking silver in 1982, 1983, 1988, and 1991. On the world stage, Frank and Allen Gilbert finished third in the world team tournament in 1985. Frank made it to the finals of the 1987 World Championship in Cairo, but he fell short to a young Swedish player named Torbjörn Blomdahl. The same year, in the team world championship competition in Madrid, Frank and Gilbert took home the silver, losing to that nettlesome Swede and his father, Lennart. Frank paired with Sang Lee for another silver medal in teams in 1992, this time in Viersen, losing to the Japanese squad.

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            In more recent years, at the age of 77, Frank finished 9th in the US national tournament in 2022 with a 1.028 grand average. The same year, when the World Cup returned to the United States, he charged through the qualifications, from PPPQ to PPQ to PQ and to Q, before finally falling short of the final grouping. In 2023, he finished 16th in the USBA National tournament.

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            Since Willie Hoppe’s retirement in 1952, a common discussion among railbirds concerns the best America-born player of the pocketless game. Since 1990, the debate has become more acute as naturalized citizens have dominated the US three-cushion nationals. The last American-born player to win the national championship was Allen Gilbert in 1988. If you ever find yourself in this debate, you might venture Harold Worst as a candidate, though that name is for the old, old timers. Gilbert, with his five national titles from 1968 to 1988, or George Ashby, with his three from 1976 to 1984, deserve consideration. But don’t forget Frank Torres, the Silver Fox, born in San Antonio, Texas.

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Frank Torres (second from right) was still a contender advancing to the Final 8 of the 2018 USBA National Championship alongside some of the current crop of players who now dominate the sport in the USA.

Text: Andrew Janquitto. Images courtesy Andrew Janquitto and Paul Frankel.