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John Spencer, 71; Won World Snooker Title Three Times

From Times Staff and Wire Reports

John Spencer, 71, a three-time world champion of the game of pool known as snooker who also helped popularize the sport in Britain, died Tuesday of stomach cancer at a hospice in Bolton, England.

Known as “Gentleman John” for his gracious manner and smart appearance, Spencer won the world title in 1969, 1971 and 1979. His rise paralleled the growth of color television, which also contributed to the game’s popularity, because viewers could follow the colored balls in play.

“John was one of our greatest champions,” said Ronald Walker, World Snooker chairman. “With his wonderful playing style and charismatic personality, he was a key figure in dragging snooker into the limelight in the 1970s.”

Spencer quit playing in the early 1990s after being diagnosed with myasthenia gravis, a muscle condition that causes double vision. He became an analyst for the British Broadcasting Corp., which had introduced a professional snooker tournament in the 1970s.

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“Spenny was a special player, who brought something different to the game,” Terry Griffiths, a former world snooker champion, told the BBC. “He never complained when he lost, like some players. He just shook your hand and said, ‘Well done.’ ”


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