As the World Snooker Championships begin in Sheffield this weekend, Retro contributor Ray Hill has written the story of a remarkable Rotherham snooker talent.
“About 70 years ago a young man of 15 years walked into the Dalton Progressive WMC with his father.
“He had been given a special one-day membership so he could play snooker against the then world champion Walter Donaldson who had taken over from Joe Davis who had relinquished the title.
“The young man was Jimmy Sansome and he beat the world champion 3-0 .
“He was given a bottle of pop and a packet of crisps and then he had to leave the club, such were the rules back then.
“He also in the following years beat four other world champions, Fred Davis, John Pullman, Ray Reardon and John Spencer, and narrowly lost to Joe Johnson who later went on to become world champion.
“Jimmy was also one of the top local players and won many titles .
“He won the double of open and handicap titles in 1966.
“It was thought he was the first to do this feat but it was discovered that the wellknown ‘Staffy Brittle’ had done it previously.
“In the early 60s I played against Staffy because he wanted some practice before he played a match. If he had given me 50 start he would have easily beaten me.
“Jimmy feels if he had been born a few years later he could have been appearing on TV with other famous names of the sport. Jimmy is an active 86-year-old who likes his horse racing on TV.”
Ray said that Jimmy had just celebrated his birthday and is as fit and lively as a man many years younger.
These days someone 0f Jimmy’s talents would probably be a household name, well known for competing at the Crucible .
The Sheffield theatre has hosted snooker’s greatest tournament since 1977, when John Spencer won the title.
Top players like Steve Davis and Alex ‘Hurricane’ Higgins started in the amateur ranks before making the move to the increasingly lucrative professional game.
They were boosted by the sponsorship money coming into the game and its huge television audience.
The Crucible has also seem a huge rise in international stars who compete for their moment of glory.
For 17 days a year, the Crucible’s world-class theatrical drama gives way to real-life thrilling moments on the green baize.