Okay, you guys are killing me with all the old names and places of my youth.
On Bob "the giant killer" Curtain (so named because he invariably beat Fury in singles every time they played), I ran a Michigan State Championships for Tornado in 1996 and he showed up (not to compete, but just to socialize/reminisce) and we had a great trip down memory lane even then. In fact, several of the regulars from late 70s/early 80s Dolphin Coin tournaments showed up that weekend. (Dolphin Coin -- I loved those Mt. Pleasant tournaments and college bars!)
On John Smith -- that was partially true. He and Daniel played regularly within their local area, but didn't ever "tour" except for the big ones and even then they mostly kept in the south/southwest of the USA. The first time I ever played them was at a Tornado Nationals in Oklahoma around 1984 or so, and they torched Spear and me. Then again, we had never played against "real" Tornado players until that tournament (we were still trying to play TS/Dynamo-style). But at our best we might not have beat them as they had apparently amassed a record number of consecutive tour match wins (something like 78 at the time) going into our match. What I do remember most about that match was that John pretty much molested my defense in goalie and Spear's defense at the five-row with a style we in Colorado later came to call "sudden-impact, instant hammer." His pull shot was by no means a long raging deadman like I saw Wiswell do so many times on TS but an instantaneous take-off. My bait defense -- usually quite effective on the smaller-goal TS and Dynamo tables) was useless because the instant I showed him any hole the ball was gone before I could close it up. His five-bar series was the same in that he brought the ball to a stop next to his second man, ever so slightly edged into it to make Spear either hesitate or commit, then slam -- he seized the first hole he saw with a power lane or lightning wall before Spear could react (at the time you could slam passes better than now because the balls were softer and easier to catch).
Anyway, Curtain had a blister of a pull, John Smith had one, and Wiswell was out of this world. I remember at '79 Worlds in Minneapolis: when his matches were called he would go to a nearby table (in view of his opposing goalie) and slam in two or three racks consecutively on an open goal seemingly as hard as humanly possible. On those TS Browntops, most solidly hit longs would go in and back out of the goal but in Wiswell's case they flew back out of the goal and up into the air and down the row of tables to his left. Add in the recoil he threw in for maximum effect on those already shaky, lightweight tables and it was truly scary. The net result was, however, that the opposing goalies lived on the long whole, and Wiswell would proceed to eat them alive with straights and splits. (There was a young kid there who seemed to learn a lot from that, named Dave Gummeson...)
Another great pull-shooter from the same era was Ronny Nevois, whose techique at the time was to start the match with his first pull shot being literally the hardest split you've ever seen or imagined. Then once both your defense (and butt cheeks) were totally locked up on the split, he'd pick you apart with straights and longs.
Back to the original subject of this thread, my favorites (besides myself
) for "best players I haven't heard of" (but some of which you all might remember) might include Colorado's Erwin Burke, Dan Brack, Doug Moe, Lee Roley, Eric Baumgartner and Sergio Trevino (Gus Trevino's older brother, who took second in Super Singles to Dan Kaiser); Wisconsin's Aaron Gilmore (Amedio's older brother) and Ron Greenwald; Vermont/Oregon's Shaun Irish (who in the late 1980s went to a Tornado Worlds and videotaped it, went home to Essex Junction Vermont and practiced everything he saw until he could duplicate it exactly, came back the next year and whupped on a bunch of Pros but got overrun 'cause he had no defense); Ohio's Frank Garbuglio; Buffalo's stunningly good looking brother and sister team of Jeff and Sharon Clark (anyone remember "Bob-B-Q's"?); and Chicago's Jerry "JK" Knowles, George Petroheleos, and Don Becker (seen on the cover of "The Complete Book of Foosball" playing against Johnny Lott). If I really think about it I'm sure I could come up with a list of many more (especially from Colorado), but in my view these were all amazing, sometimes even extraordinary players who for various reasons either never toured or never really followed up on their total foosball potential. (You know the usual list of silly "distractions" or excuses, like having a real life, work, school, family, other obligations/other sports, bankrupt pro tours/manufacturers, etc).
Well, that's my food for thought for now...
"There's a fine line between 'hobby' and 'obsession' and I... I crossed that line many years ago."