The ball that killed Joe Davis
Features, On This Day

On This Day in Crucible History: April 26 – The Ball That Killed Joe Davis

During this year’s World Snooker Championship, we’ll be recalling some of the most memorable moments that took place at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield.

The surname Davis has become synonymous with snooker over the last century.

Most present-day fans will be familiar with six-time world champion Steve Davis, who dominated the 1980s, and more recently Mark Davis – who triumphed three times in the Six Red World Championship.

But before all that, there was a pair of brothers by the names of Joe and Fred Davis who trail-blazed the game in its early years before the glitz, glamour, and fame of the TV lights.

Joe Davis was practically unbeatable and won every single World Championship from the first in 1927 to his last appearance in one in 1946.

The beautiful trophy that is lifted every year at the Crucible hasn’t changed since Joe first got his hands on it 89 years ago.

When the elder brother decided to retire from the professional game after his last triumph in 1946, up stepped younger sibling Fred to the mantle and he duly etched his name on the trophy eight times.

By the time the 1978 World Championship came around, Fred was 64 but still playing to a high level and went on an unbelievable run to the semi-finals of the second staging at the Crucible.


En route to the last four, he beat John Virgo, Dennis Taylor, and Patsy Fagan before coming up against South African Perrie Mans.

On Wednesday, April 26th, Davis trailed 14-8 in a race to 18 but managed to reduce his arrears to just one behind at 16-15.

With brother Joe in the crowd living every shot, Fred missed a straight pink in the 32nd frame when it appeared certain that he was going to draw level.

Fred lost the frame and soon after the match, later to be told that his brother had taken ill and been admitted to hospital for an operation.

Joe never recovered, dying a short period later, and snooker journalist Clive Everton later wrote in Snooker Scene magazine that Fred’s miss was so dramatic that it was “the ball that killed Joe Davis.”

This article has been updated and was originally published on April 26th, 2018.

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