The University Record, February 22, 1999

Calling all bottle pool players

By Joanne Nesbit
News and Information Services

Olin Broder, who has enjoyed playing ‘bottle pool’ since arriving on the U-M campus in 1953, is looking for a new partner for the challenging game. The 85-year-old retired law professor has been a regular since the days when the Men’s Faculty Club was located in the basement of the Union and had its own pool table. Now, he says, “I’m just the only one who’s left.” Ernest Brater is another long-time player, but no longer is able to participate. About half the law faculty used to play pool, Browder says, and many of those were proficient at bottle pool, a game that takes 50 points to win.

Those points can be won by tipping over a leather bottle in the middle of the table with the cue ball after hitting another ball or a cushion. Ten points could be earned for hitting the bottle and causing it to flip over and back onto its neck. While a consistent rumor claims that the game and its rules originated at Indiana University, there are still some aficionados who swear that the rules for bottle pool were made up as the game went along in the Union’s Billiards Room.

Recently the Billiards Room dedicated one of its tables to all the professors who have played the game over the years and installed a plaque honoring the Michigan faculty, friends, and family who have kept the Michigan Bottle Pool tradition alive since 1911.

Browder, a U-M graduate who is considered one of the nation’s most respected authorities on the law of property and who once was an FBI agent and an attorney for the Tennessee Valley Authority before joining the U-M faculty, still plays golf and enjoys long walks.

He refers fondly to the game of bottle pool as being ‘a great little niche in my life.’ ‘If you get hooked on it,’ Browder says, ‘you don’t want to play anything else.’