Ralph Greenleaf was one of the best American pool players of all-time. He won his first world title in 1919 and continued to play through 1937. His last championship title was in 1937 when he defeated Irving Crane by a score of 125 to minus one. He was married to beautiful vaudeville acctress Amelia Ruth Parker, known by stage name “Princess Nai Tai Tai.” Greenleaf himself was a handsome man who received a number of offers to star in films but he continually denied the offers.
Greenleaf suffered from severe alcoholism and many from his era remember his frequent trips to the men’s room for a quick drink to calm his nerves. Many believe his drinking helped him play his best. In 1935, Greenleaf vanished before a tournament in New York. He had been arrested in Oklahoma as a vagrant and in order for him to be released, he had to prove his identity by going to a pool hall across the street from the jailhouse and running 87 balls consecutively.
His heavy drinking and lifestyle took a toll on his health, resulting in an early grave in 1950 at the age of 50. He died suddenly in the waiting room of a hospital in Philadelphia from acute internal hemorrhage. He had been ill for several days but had refused medical treatment because of an upcoming match he was to play in New York.
His hobby was raising chickens and turkeys for a profit on his farm in Chesapeake Bay, Maryland
Greenleaf is said to have invented many of the shots used by Paul Newman and Jackie Gleason in The Hustler.