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War Stories, None by Oliver North

INDEX

1. “RIP – Grady Mathews Memorial Video
2. “Hubert Cokes, AKA Daddy Warbucks
Pool’s most dangerous player.
3. “Brooklyn Jimmy Cassas, one of the 711’s finest
My visit with the great Brooklyn Jimmy
4. The Last “Westie” More with Brooklyn Jimmy
5. “Titanic Tales,
Titanic Thompson by San Jose Dick McMorran
6. “George McGann: Gambler, Con man, Hit Man, Kennedy Assassin?
by Johnny Hughes
7. “A Bad Day in Dallas
More George McGann, by San Jose Dick McMorran
8. “The Easiest and Also the Worst Job in the World
Sammy Eubank and Dale Smith, hustler’s extrordinaire
9. “Ronnie, Richie and Fats
Ronnie Allen, Richie Florence, and Minnesota Fats
10. ” Benny Conway
The fabulous “Goose.”
11. “ClydeChildress 1985 tournament accu-stats isssue – Big win for Earl Strickland
12. “Efren Reyes(Caesar Morales) his 1st win at Reds in Houston accustat issue 1985

CaliRed, Greg Koch has prepared a beautiful memorial video of our departed friend, Grady Mathews. Clik this link to see more about our old pal, Grady.

Grady and I were great friends but that never stopped us from being fierce competitors against each other. Whenever we played neither side would ever give an inch. After the games we would often go out together for drinks, or go partners gambling in the Casinos. Grady was an avid craps player, and often hit for big scores. Late in life we found an internet gaming site that caught our attention. Partycasino.com. It’s a virtual casino with all the bells and whistles, just like Vegas except you can play from your desktop.
The link to the spot is: http://www.partycasino.com

Minnesota Fats and Hubert Cokes
January 1966 issue with an article about Hubert Cokes and Harold Worst
Daddy Warbucks
By Tom Fox
Hubert Cokes is one of those larger than life mortals who seem to step off the pages of history onto the wide, wide screen of life.
When Hubert Cokes was a rambling gambling man in the rowdy 20s, the guys and dolls of that romantic era called him The Giant. It was a simple, almost childlike endearment and yet it implied singular distinction. It wasn’t that Hubert Cokes was a massive hulk of a man, although he was, nor that he performed Himalayan feats, albeit sometimes he did. They called him Hubert Cokes The Giant because of his indomitable scorn for protective cults. The only protection Hubert Cokes ever needed was Hubert Cokes.
Stories of the derring-do with which the freelancing Giant defied powerful gang lords are legend and they are retold, and perhaps embellished, wherever floating crap game alums gather. Once they say, Cokes was running a rich dice game somewhere and a benevolent arm of a protection society announced it was muscling in. Cokes looked down his leathery nose at the ultimatum and when a couple of dockwallopers were dispatched to his tables, The Giant whipped hell out of the toughs with his bare fists. Hubert Cokes was always the master of his house. Then there was the Southwest Incident: Cokes was operating a posh gambling casino in a booming oil town. The handle was a robust $40,000 a day but in the same town Pretty Boy Floyd was knocking off banks and post offices for $800. Floyd, the aficionados claim, thought the law offered better odds than The Giant.
You hear all sorts of stories about Hubert Cokes. He is one of those larger
than life mortals who seem to step off the pages of fiction onto the wide,
wide screen of life and some of his intriguing stirrings have been dramatized
with exaggeration. In truth, the man’s image is part myth.
The Hubert Cokes I know is a gentle, brown-eyed man of 67 who wouldn’t harm a miller moth. He is a huge, bald man of 6’2 and 220 pounds and he has cold, piercing eyes that might frighten lesser men but he smiles easily and he walks softly and dignity is his big stick. He has tone, as they say. He likes the simple things in life. He enjoys playing golf with his wife, Frances, a former nurse, and he delights in teaching kids, and sometimes women, how to shoot pool. Once I saw him up to his ears in housewives in one of those carpeted billiard rooms in suburbia. He was instructing les girls on the proper technique in making a bridge. A salty old sandbagger like Texas Guinan, who knew Hubert Cokes when he had hair, would have laughed out loud.
Hubert Cokes is a wealthy Evansville, Indiana oilman-sportsman who takes the sun in Florida in the winter and spends the summers golfing in the Midwest. He shoots in the low 80s (“In the fall when the ground is hard”) and he’ll wager on his drives and putts on the drop of a tee. He was, for the record, one of those country club hustlers who had a hand in sending ex-heavyweight champion Joe Louis to the poorhouse just beyond the 19th hole. Hubert Cokes also loves to bet on his pool game because he is an excellent pool player, in fact, one of the best around, bar none. When he is in the dashing, chancy world of the pool hustlers, Hubert Cokes is known as Daddy Warbucks, a nom de guerre that needs no explanation. He looks like Daddy Warbucks — the bald head, the big ears, the tiny deep set eyes, the taut mouth, and the ever present cigar. He is also very rich and extremely generous and so he is a soft touch for the luckless, down and out pool hustler. Of all the picturesque pool hall sobriquets, Daddy Warbucks, perhaps, is the most poetic.
When Hubert Cokes is in Evansville, almost any night you can find him in the game room of the Elks Club, a stately old ante bellum mansion that stirs thoughts of another day. It’s a massive beige brick building with large white columns jutting up from the front porch and in those hand fan days of the late, late, 30s, the Elks used to sit out there in their big rocking chairs with the stiff starched white slip covers and watch the oil men come and go at the old McCurdy Hotel on the other side of First Street. The Elks have long since retired to the clubhouse, now air-conditioned, thank you, and the oil men still stop at the McCurdy but it’s not like it was when Hubert Cokes first came to town.
He was younger then, fortyish and newly wed, and had just made a strike in the oil fields around Centralia in Southern Illinois and he was thinking about a place with a mailbox and a lawn and a flower garden. For 25 years he had been a rambling, gambling man, a rover with the soul of a gypsy and the roots of a sparrow. Life had been one glorious high roll after another and for a quarter of a century Hubert Cokes had been running to where the action was — In Joplin, or Tulsa, New York or Chicago, Miami or New Orleans. But in 1939 the action was around Evansville, IN where new found oil spilled over like a spring flood and riches awaited the free soul with the bankroll and guts to dare chance. It was a gambling man’s Brigadoon, a big lusty wheel of fortune with no sheriff to fade, and as legal as the Bill of Rights. And so they came from all over — storied Ray Ryan, the highest roller of them all; fabled Titanic Thompson, the prototype of all proposition men; solemn Preacher Du Buford, who wore dark suits and spoke softly like a man of the cloth but bellowed invectives when he struck a dry hole; crafty Jimmy the Greek Castras, who made book on anything, once on how many cups would break at a DAR party; and a carload of other blithe spirits, Hubert Cokes among them, with nerves honed over crap tables and the daring to risk it all on one more roll. They were all out of Runyon, by gosh, an they checked into the old McCurdy and fortunes were made and lost right there on the marble floor of the lobby; and out on the sidewalk this flamboyant new breed did things with money that had the Elks holding hard to their rocking chairs across the street.
In those freewheeling days before World War II, Evansville was a lethargic little river town on the northern shores of the beautiful Ohio and back then, as it does today, the scene suggested the best of two worlds — the tranquil grace and charms of the Old South, coupled with a bustling, yet cautious and prudent Yankee enterprise. There’s a special grace about Evansville, a low-keyed horse and carriage pace that makes the living relaxed and easy. A visiting Elk might miss it but it’s there and you feel it after you’ve been there a while. And there’s a devilish, almost Janus-like fascination about the town at night, around the witching hour when the old wildcatters like The Preacher and The Colonel and Ladies Man Louie and Young York and Abie The Oakie stroll into the McCurdy lobby for the morning paper and a cup of coffee and a slice of nostalgia; and the past becomes the present when these Night People weave stories about the Runyon crowd that swept onto the scene and loved and sinned and hoodwinked and lived high and hard and put a splotch of rouge on Evansville’s haughty old face.
In 1939 Hubert Cokes, with a new stake and a new bride, took it all in and liked the odds. Evansville, indeed, was his kind of town. So he settled there and after a few more gushers poured in he went into the oil business on Main Street. He built an elegant home on the fashionable East Side and joined the Elks Club and the Petroleum Club. He might have been a pillar of the community too, except that in Evansville, Indiana pillars of the community come from a select circle of old-line families, the old rich, as it were, as opposed to the new rich, who are mostly oil people like Hubert Cokes who stayed on after the boom.
He is one of them now but after 26 years he is still a heavy who sits below the salt at the dinner table. And that’s how it will always be with Hubert Cokes, for as he defied the town bosses and their strond boys, so too, has he stuck out his tongue at the Sunday social mores of the Midwest. He remains the gambling man because it is in Hubert Cokes’ blood to take odds and give odds and protect himself in clichés.
Because of his wealth, Cokes is constantly singled out for the big hustle and sometimes the propositions, not to mention the stakes, are staggering. Several years ago on a sabbatical from the oil derricks, Cokes was vacationing in Las Vegas and between visits to the roulette wheels and blackjack tables he got to playing a “little money pool — just for kicks.” He had not picked up a cue in eight years (“it felt like a broom,” he remembers) and his stroke and his eye showed it. The Giant looked ripe for a toppling. Word spread quickly and overnight hustlers seemed to walk right off the desert. Everybody came to get a piece of Hubert Cokes, including one of billiards’ all-time legitimate champions who flew west to propose a $50,000 summit meeting on the Vegas Strip. The cunning Cokes smiled and said he was, indeed, interested providing of course, he could name the games — left-handed, one-handed and jacked-up. Indignant, the champion termed Cokes’ proposal “debasing” and grabbed the next plane East. Cokes chuckled all the way to Evansville but the hustlers, sensing a bonanza, trailed him like bloodhounds. “They knew my game had fallen into a rabbit hole,” Cokes said, “and they all wanted odds, even the ones who could play me straight up.”
Nonplused at having to sidestep such action, Cokes bought a second hand pool table and moved it into a vacant room above Joe Larvo’s Restaurant in Evansville and for a few months he worked at his rusty game, honing it to a stiletto sharpness. Then he took on all comers and took might be too mild a word. “I busted one of the country’s best players, smack down to his car and then I won the car, too.” Cokes said. “I thought about getting in the used car business for a while.”
A few years ago Larvo’s Restaurant was gutted by a pre-dawn blaze and Cokes’ table was lost in the mound of rubble. Since then he’s switched his training camp to the game room at the Elks Club and there he and his “sparring partner” play five nights a week to see that Daddy Warbucks’ game remains respectable.
His partner is tall, slender, blondish and 32 year old Larry Meyer who grew up in Louisville, KY and moved to Evansville a few years ago. By ordinary standards Larry is a good pool player but he doesn’t belong on the same table with Cokes. “I’m Mr. Cokes’ punching bag,” says Meyer. Cokes gives outrageous odds in the game room sessions, yet, he says it’s necessary. “I’ve got to protect myself from those rascals (the hustlers),” he explains. With a $5 wager on each game, the Elks Club training sessions go something like this: (1) eight or no count one-pocket, meaning Cokes must drop eight straight balls in one pocket without a miss or start again from scratch. (2) one-pocket even, Cokes shooting left-handed. (3) one-pocket even, Cokes shooting WITHOUT his glasses. (4.) One-pocket even, Cokes shooting with one hand. (5.) Banks even. Despite the la Russian Roulette rules under which Cokes chooses to play, over a nine-month stretch, Daddy Warbucks led the long series by 24 games going into September.
Like most men his age, Cokes is myopic. He reads the newspapers, even the fine print on the stock market page, with the naked eye, but on a pool table he is helpless without glasses. He tried bifocals but cue ball and object ball never seemed the same size and Cokes’ game suffered markedly. “That’s when I got these,” he said, picking up what he called his “pool cheaters.” The glasses are extra large. The black frame and prescription treated lenses are about the size of a cue ball and when Cokes puts them on they cover his eyes, his eyebrows and a goodly portion of his forehead. They arouse memories of old fashioned racing goggles, the kind Sunday drivers used to wear at the wheel of the old open touring cars, and when Cokes stares out of the thick lenses he looks more like a Mad scientist than a tired businessman relaxing at the club.
The game room is one of those long, narrow, masculine looking clubrooms where cigar smoke and spilled beer are part of the “men only” decor. Four outmoded ceiling fans hang overhead and although they haven’t been used in years they are part of the decor too, fossils of another age. The six pool tables get a good play from the membership and so does the bar which is on the other side of a swinging door at the far end of the room.. There is nothing special about the bar except that it doubles as the music room for the regular Monday night vocalizings of the 23 voice Elks Club Chorus and on occasion the assorted tenors, altos and baritones provide amusing background music.
One night last summer Cokes, in deft stroke, ran a quick eight balls to win an eight or no count version of one pocket and as he pocketed the last ball, as if on a prearranged cue, from the bar the chorus sang out lustily:
“Be my little baby bumble bee… “Buzz around, buzz around, buzz around and ’round.”
Tenors: “Baby…baby…baby…baby…”
Baritones: “….Buzz…buzz…buzz…buzz…buzz.”
“The maestro out there,” said Cokes, acknowledging the musical salute, “must have bet on me.”
Later, when Cokes’ game was less stimulating, the chorus burst forth with a solemn, throaty version of the old tent revival hymn, “Were you there when they crucified my Lord.” Cokes smiled and Meyer, shooting surely, ran out another game.
“Damn,” said Cokes, “this boy’s getting good enough to take on the road.”
The road…the road…the road. Any pool player who has broken a rack in a serious money game has at one time or another found himself on the road. It’s the only place to go when the action slows down, which is the way it was for Hubert Cokes in 1913. He was 16 and attending high school in Hot Springs, AR, and during a long hot summer things were slow, even in Hot Springs. Young Cokes had heard tall tales about the “money action” up in St. Louis and one night when things were slower than usual. Cokes and his pal Hubert Bray, the police chief’s son hopped a freight train for St.. Louis.
“We told them we came from Hot Springs and we wanted action,” Cokes said. “And we got it –nine ball at 25 cents a game. We played all day and all night. We were $22 ahead when we hopped a freight back home. After that I was a rolling stone.”
The hobo ride to St. Louis convinced the teenage Cokes that a cotton farm was no place for a young gambling man and soon the took to the road for good. His wanderings were to last for 25 years and take him across the country a dozen times, living out of suitcases and earning his keep in grubby horse parlors and chandeliered casinos. When he ran short of capital he headed for the nearest pool room. His game was always good enough for eating money.
“I played pool as a boy in Hot Springs and I thought I knew the game,” he said. “But I was educated in 1916. That’s when I met Jack Hill in Tulsa. He originated one pocket out there around 1912. He liked me and took me on as his protégé. He taught me the fine points. That was my college education in pool.” And Cokes graduated with honors for today, almost 50 years later, he remains one of the best one pocket players in America, especially if the stakes are high.
“I never felt like a complete player until 1925,” Cokes says, “and I think I played my best around 1945. I was 47 and at my prime. I could have handled anybody in the country back then. I busted everybody who came through Evansville, everybody but Willie Hoppe but he was out of my class in cushions. I played him an exhibition at the Elks Club and he gave me a good lesson. But 20 years ago I owned the hustlers. I broke ’em all.”
Cokes insists he was never a hustler himself. “I never said I was a bus driver or a traveling salesman,” he says, “They always knew who I was. Today if somebody calls me a hustler I say, “No, I’m a producer of hustlers.” This hustler image came out of Hollywood hustlers and I’m their producer. I back ’em all with cash is the proposition looks good.
Among the early hustlers backed by Cokes resources was a roly-poly, nonstop talking fat boy the oil man met on Broadway in 1930. His name — Minnesota Fats (nee New York Fats) is a household word in any pool room today but in 1930 the Fat Man (Rudolph Wanderone, of Dowell, IL) needed backers. “Fatty looked the same as he does now, a little lighter perhaps, and he talked, talked, talked, the way he babbles now. I backed him in some $500 nine ball in New York. He was walking all over the place, talking to everybody, spilling powder all over the floor and not paying attention to what he was doing. I walked up to him and said, “Look Fatty, that’s my money you’re playing for. Concentrate on the game.” He laughed and said, “Don’t worry Hubert,” and without looking at the table he shot and pocketed the nine ball. If Fatty couldn’t run off at the mouth he wouldn’t run six balls.”
One of Cokes’ inseparable road companions was the incomparable Titanic Thompson, a legend himself. Thompson once won $10,000 by throwing a peanut atop a Chicago building (the peanut was filled with mercury). He gathered a fortune shooting golf right-handed, losing a small bet on a close game and hiking the wager by boasting he could beat his score left-handed. Thompson a natural lefty, was a par golfer from the port side and his list of pigeons was long and impressive. He once propositioned Cokes out of a tidy sum, though not on a golf course.
In the 30s, when hard times fell on everybody, Cokes worked as a pharmaceutical salesman. In writing endless order, the spelling of medical and drug terms became routine and when the foxy Titanic wagered Cokes couldn’t spell asafoetida, Hubert plunged heavily. “Hell, I know how to spell asafoetida,” says Cokes, “but I lost the bet. There are actually four different spellings so any way I spelled it Ty said it was wrong and showed me a different spelling in an old dictionary. I paid off but later I found out Ty had hustled me good. I can laugh about it now but back then I felt like a sucker.” Cokes laughed. He likes to laugh and does often. There’s a Katzenjammer side to his personality. He likes a good joke, even if it’s on him, or on his father for that matter. His father was once an unsuspecting victim of the son’s levity.
The father was from Arkansas and Hubert’s mother was a Mississippi farm girl. The elder Cokes, a barber by trade, put down his clippers and tried his hand at cotton. But both marriage and the crop were failures and when Hubert, an only child, was still a toddler, his father quit the farm and opened a barber shop in San Antonio, TX. The years raced on and Cokes was a grown man before he saw his father again. It was in 1921, when Cokes was 24, that he wandered into San Antonio. He found his father’s shop, walked in and said he would have a shave.
“The old man,” said Cokes, “was a pleasant, easy going sort but he was very proud about his trade. He claimed he was the best barber in the whole state of Texas. Well, he started shaving me and I drew back. I made a face and said,” Damn man, can’t you sharpen that razor?” He made all sorts of apologies and tried another razor and I yelled, “That’s worse than the first one– are you trying to slit my throat?” Now he didn’t know me from a load of hay but he gave me a cold look and said, “Sir, please get out of my shop, I don’t care to serve you.” I jumped up and hollered, “Well Mr. Cokes, you’re not only a bad barber, you’re not much of a father either — don’t you know your own son?” He was so glad to see me he shut up the shop and we had dinner together.”
Cokes, laughing heartily, took a long pensive draw on a cigar. “That was a long, long time ago,” he said, “a long way back.”
Hubert Cokes looks back on 67 years filled with vigorous, hard-nosed, no- holds- barred living It would make a hellova novel but there are too many blank pages and that’s the way Hubert wants it. “I did a lot of brawling and scrapping,” he says. “I don’t know if I could take it again. I’m just sure of one thing — I’m a lot wiser than I was when I left the farm.”
The knuckle-dusting Giant who captivated the myth-makers of the 20s has mellowed and sweetened with age. He has acquired the poise of a diplomat and the soft tenderness of a doting grandfather, yet beneath the lordly, dignified demeanor resides the jugular instinct of the Giant of old. Hubert Cokes can still be a ruthless brawler is someone pushes him
You hear all sorts of violent sagas about Hubert Cokes but when you sit over a late cup of coffee with the man and he smiles softly and tells sentimental stories, somehow the twains don’t meet. Some people have a let down when they meet him because there is a vast grey area between Hubert Cokes the Man, and Hubert Cokes the Myth.
“When I first met Hubert I was terribly disappointed, “say Evelyn Wanderone, the tall strikingly beautiful wife of Minnesota Fats. “I had heard all those stories about the Giant and I expected to meet someone nine feet tall.”
“Evelyn,” said Cokes, sounding very much like Daddy Warbucks lecturing Little Orphan Annie, “your trouble is you’ve been married to Fatty so long that you believe everything he says.”

I’m going to NY to see an old pal, Brooklyn Jimmy Cassas. For those who don’t know the man, he is an original alumnus from the old legendary7-11 poolroom in NY. His contemporaries included, Boston Shorty, Jersey Red, Richie from the Bronx, NY Blackie, Johnny Ervolino, etc. As slick as that crew was, Jimmy was the 8 ball smarter than anybody else. I intend to have a great time cutting up all the old jackpots from yesteryear. See ya in a coupla days.

…Fri. 8/24 2007. It was great in NY, spent time with Brooklyn Jimmy Cassas, a member of the original 7-11 poolroom crowd. Jimmy was a top player who could run a hundred balls, but was content with tricking weaker players into thinking he was a pool retard with a bankroll. Even though he was blessed with extraordinary pool skills, his real passion was betting on the horses. He only played pool to finance his race track “jones.” Eventually discarding his pool career, he went on to become probably the finest, and most successful handicapper in the country, winning millions.

This is one of many wonderful stories about my pal, the great Brooklyn Jimmy. I was in Miami Beach in 1963 watching Jimmy “lemon hustle” a stone sucker in a local joint. The guy was totally helpless, and naturally didn’t know Jimmy or Jimmy’s real speed. Jimmy was about 20 games ahead at $3 a pop, when he suddenly quit. “What’s wrong?” The sucker queried. “You think I don’t know what you’re doing.” Jimmy replied. “You sluff a few games off to me for cheap money, and then you get me to raise it to like $15 or $20 a game, and then take me off. I’m from NY, we know about guys like you. I ain’t going for it.” With the guy now denying it all, and begging Jimmy to keep playing, Jimmy finishes him off with, “Ok, I’ll give in and do what YOU want. I’ll let you win a few back at $15 a game, but then I’m gonna quit. I’ll let you get close, but you ain’t gonna get all the way even.” The bet is now $15 a game, and naturally Jimmy goes ahead and busts the guy. The guy couldn’t make a ball in the ocean to begin with. Jimmy could’ve spotted him the five through the nine.Friday, May 30, 2008

More with Brooklyn Jimmy

August 5 2010

For all the venerable pool historians, I have a report on the legendary Brooklyn Jimmy Cassas, of 711 fame. I just spent the weekend with him up at Saratoga Race Track. Jimmy was a fixture of the old 711 NY poolroom in the days of Boston Shorty Johnson, Jersey Red Breit, and Brooklyn Johnny Irvolino. Often considered the smartest hustler of those smart hustlers, Jimmy was a terrific player himself, playing maybe the 8 ball under Shorty, when Shorty was Shorty; but Jimmy’s true love was horse racing.

He went on to become one of the best handicappers in the country, and of course won big money along the way. As good as he played pool, pool was just a means to drum up money to get to the track. For our short stint at the track, Jimmy came through again, winning about $3500 for the two days. He also treated all of us to about $1200 worth of fancy meals.

I was with my room mate, John Bosnak, and Jimmy brought along an old friend of his who had just been released from a 25 to life prison sentence up in Comstock NY. (He did the whole 25 years.) His name was Warren “Chief” Schurman, and he is the last of the “Westies.” For those who don’t know about the “Westies,” they were a wild, violent Irish gang from Hell’s Kitchen on the West Side of Manhattan. Some of their most famous (or infamous), adventures included kidnapping Carlo Gambino’s nephew, and the murder of Big Jim McBratney by John Gotti. Some other “Westie” notables include, Richie C (Chaisson), Mickey Featherstone, Jimmy Coonan, and Big Jim McBratney. All the old “Westies” are bye-bye, mostly murdered, except for the Chief. I guess that long 25 year stretch is a big reason why he is the last living “Westie.”

Chief turned out to be a personable, intelligent, fun-loving sort, and the weekend went by rapidly. For the pool connection to this story, Chief and Richie C spent a lot of time hanging out in Ames and 711 poolrooms, and Chief was good friends with Brooklyn Jimmy way back then.

Below is a letter the Chief composed and sent to the famous NY Post syndicated columnist, Cindy Adams in 2005. I read a copy of the letter and the Chief gave me permission to publish it on my site for posterity, and also for some false, “Westie” psuedo-history clarification.

October 18, 2005

Dear Ms. Adams,

My name is Warren “Chief” Schurman. I’m in the twenty-first year of a twenty-five to life prison sentence in the New York State Correctional System. Since you have a reputation for accuracy, integrity and fairness, I beg your indulgence with this letter. An old friend of mine recently sent me an excerpt from one of your columns (August 24, 2005), my misspelled name was mentioned by some kid named Joseph McBratney trying to hustle a buck by dishonoring his father, James McBratney; dead 32 years. Big Jim McBratney was never called “Mad Dog” when he was alive. This vaguely disrespectful posthumous appellation aside, I’m sure this is just the beginning of a fictive characterization of a man who was tough, close-mouthed and honorable — rare qualities now and in the past. Abasing his memory doesn’t serve a higher purpose.

With the resurgence of interest in the doings of West Side hoodlums of the 60s, 70s and 80s, there will come a spate of half-truths, untruths and outright fantasies. In the half-truth-bordering-on-fantasy category falls the “Westie” legend. In point of fact the “Westies” was a moniker made up by a NYPD detective named “Publicity Joe” Coffey and his partner, Frank McDarby. “Publicity Joe” was very media friendly and the media of the late 70s was hungry for underworld tidbits, so they ran with this nickname…really ran with it. It was a joke to everyone on the West Side who knew better. It sounded like a bunch of cattle rustlers from Wyoming. A name made up by a couple of NY cops over drinks entered the American crime lexicon. As a half-serious joke, our little crew tried to name ourselves. We were torn between, “The Tuna-Fish Mob,” which I favored, and, “The Egg-Salad Gang.” We figured you are what you eat, sandwich-wise, thus the name choice. It seemed perfectly logical and ridiculous at the same time. Fortunately nobody bit, not even Screw Magazine. We were probably too low key to be good copy. The cops didn’t have us targeted, didn’t know we existed probably, so they couldn’t pimp us to the media. A small group of crooks and hustlers hanging out in a few nefarious Times Square bars weren’t sexy enough to attract such attention from the law or the press. No underworld fame for us back then.

As you undoubtedly know, a sizable segment of the American public has a voracious appetite for bogus revelation. With the TV and movie world about to embark on a questionable foray into the West Side Kingdom-of-long-ago-criminality, we’re in for a tsunami of aberrant nonsense. Every self-promoting nitwit with a vaguely plausible story about a dead relative who may have walked down a street on the West Side will be coming forward; not necessarily with anything of historical veracity. Movies and TV shows attract hucksters like light attracts insects.

In the 60s, Tommy the Hat, the night houseman at Ames Poolroom on West 44th St., said this to me: “Kid, from 6th Ave. west to the Hudson river, every avenue is Gaff Avenue, every street is Swindle Street. After midnight any warm body roaming this neighborhood is working some kind of hustle, vice or scam. Know this and you will know the West Side.”

The letter excerpted in you August, 2005 column referred to me as an “Infamous Irish Gangster.” It seems the usual path to infamy was rerouted in my particular case. Up to this point one had to be famous before becoming infamous, i.e., O.J. Simpson. I went directly to infamous, skipping over famous … Missing out on the good stuff … Going straight to the crap. This road to infamy began with the publication of the book, “Tough Guy” in 1995 by William Hoffman and Edward Maloney. Maloney is a former associate who rat-rolled to become an all-purpose stool-pigeon in 1982. He squealed for the FBI, NYPD, and whomever else wanted to use him. His rat fees were quite substantial for the times: $30,000 plus, in People vs. Schurman, from the 1986 trial transcript, p.137, 138 and 139. FBI agent Woods confirming upon cross-examination.
$62,890 for squealing on John Gotti, NY Daily News, December 21 1986, p. 3.

Maloney also got unspecified amounts from the state and federal authorities for maintenance and undoubtedly a wink and a nod to earn some side income, possibly illicit. The other cases Maloney snitched on concluded with pleas or other resolutions, so an exact dollar amount for his rattery would be hard to report.

The book in question, soon to be a movie, “Tough Guy,” is a putative autobiography of Eddie Maloney. However, since Maloney was incapable of stringing together two coherent sentences, a writer had to be hired. William Hoffman created Maloney’s book by interviewing him extensively… Boswell to Maloney’s Johnson. The finished product is actually a hagiography, characterizing Maloney as the baddest, coolest, slickest denizen of the West Side since Arnold Rothstein. I’m portrayed as a homicidal half-wit’ a foil to Maloney’s criminal genius… Abbot and Costello in the Underworld.

Fortunately, “Tough Guy” was not a big seller, so only a few avid crime book readers know I’m a malevolent moron. The old “Chief” was still happily in the shadows. Apparently that’s about to change since the cool, slick Matt Damon is about to make the cool, slick, Eddie Maloney a movie hero… and I a movie villain of course… the mind boggles!

I disavow any references to me or my friends. Any characterization of us in this upcoming “work of art” will come from the wet dreams of addle-witted fools. Who knew Hollywood hotshots could be so gulled and gaffed by a nickel and dime huckster and stoolie with an interesting life story. Henry Hill, another notorious rat, comes to mind.

If this movie is indeed made, it will be indicative of mister Maloney’s preternatural resilience. A man in high shame, shot and shunned as a rat by his former associates will now be remade into a counterculture star. This type of historical revisionism should give intelligent people pause for thought not cause for cheers.

Art and life are related. If a betrayer is elevated in a work of dramatic art then all who do not engage in betrayal are demeaned by this work. Christians don’t revere or respect Judas Iscariot do they? For if they did it would degrade the honorable apostles.

Notwithstanding the unwanted bad publicity coming my way, you’re probably wondering what caused me to write this letter…a mean cranky convict rattling his chains? Maybe. A rare chance to practice Socratic irony? Doubtful but possible. More likely it’s the philosophical incongruity of this moment…a guy with my pedigree and background able to make a logical claim to ethical and moral high ground. It’s scarily sweet and at some level, funny. Such irony is tasty but not very filling. Teaching moments never last. A chance to let a few self-important fools pause and look at themselves is nice but probably meaningless. No one contemplates their own ugliness for too long. Some not at all.

Respectfully yours,
Warren “Chief” Schurman 86-A-1764
Great Meadows Correctional Facility
Box 51
Comstock, NY 12821-0051

PS Sorry for the bad punctuation. I’ve been out of school for a long time.
PPS I apologize for my long windedness. I usually don’t speak at all, availing myself of my Fifth Amendment rights to non-self-incrimination and silence. In fact, as I type these words, I feel myself falling into another long silence…..

(So far the movie “Tough Guy” is still in limbo, with no future date for filming set as yet.
The Beard
)


By San Jose Dick Mc Morran

In the 60s, wherever the action pool room in Dallas was at that time, either the Cotton Bowling Palace or Times Square, Alvin C. Thomas, AKA “Titanic” Thompson would hold court almost daily. Ti, already in his 70s, could still wield a mean golf club and a meaner deck of cards. His many other games of chance and trickery were legendary and all the young “scuffs” (yours truly included) would hang on Ti’s every word when we could get him to open up about some of his past exploits.

I had the privilege of caddying (well, driving the cart anyway) for him, a few times, in his frequent high stakes golf match-ups. A high rolling gambler once staked a highly regarded lady pro to give Ti three strokes a side, in a $2000 nassau. I was out of town when the actual event took place. We did speak by phone the night before, and he assured me that there was, quote; “No “mop-squeezer” in the world that could give him three-a-side!” unquote.
He had to have been over 70 at the time, but sure enough, he won both sides and the back side press, for a cool $8000. He had her in tears. There was no re-match.

Male chauvinism was alive and well in those days. Ti was lucky there were very few, highly skilled, lady pool player’s back then, or he may have let his male ego get him in trouble. That goes for me too.

The game of pool was one of the few things that Ti never quite mastered. His usual con and gamesmanship seemed to leave him when he matched up at his favorite game, One pocket. He took some brutal, large dollar beatings at the hands of “New York Fats” and Hubert Cokes (to name a few), when One pocket was young, in the 30s, 40s, and 50s. Eventually, Cokes and he became quite good pals, and they often hit the road together. Talk about “double trouble.”

Ti was a solid “B” player, and not completely helpless at pool, but as he began to realize his limitations, he zeroed in on a seldom played game and succeeded in pushing it well beyond his skill level at ordinary pool. He became one of the best three rail kickers I have ever seen. Playing either off the spot, or making the middle ball in a 15 ball rack, Ti could beat players far more advanced than him at the other pool games. He also knew exactly how many shots he could safely bet on. Using his natural gift of gab, he caught many players and side bettors alike in his little “three rail kick-in” trap. In fact, he became so proficient at the game, that he could beat a lot of shortstops at it by throwing the ball with his bare hand, instead of using a cue stick.

Ti, as everyone called him, loved the game of One pocket. He would often bet on me (or stake me) even when I had the worst of it. Sometimes, just the intimidation factor, of such a legendary gambler would be just enough to throw my opponent off, and turn a bad game into a winner. Ti appreciated my knowledge of the game and would often grab a set of balls and challenge me to a horrible match-up, for him, just to get some cheap lessons. We would bet it up a little at times, but we would keep adjusting the game so no one got hurt bad. I’d often be gone for extended periods, and when I’d return, I can still see his “cat eating” grin, when he’d greet me with, “Dick, you won’t believe how much better I’m playing One pocket now. Get the balls, I’ll play you some 8 to 6, and kick your young Irish ass.”

We became quite good friends in those years. I looked up to him and always felt very fortunate to have him for a mentor. Sure do wish I would have absorbed more. His son Tommy, from a long forgotten marriage, re-surfaced around that time and we became close too. Tommy was a real chip off the old block. He lacked his father’s gift of gab, (just try and follow that act) but he had learned his way around a deck of cards as good, if not better, than Ti himself. Ti sent Tommy up to Evansville, for further training in the “Daddy Warbuck’s” school of gambling, and, just like he had done with Ti decades earlier, Mr. Cokes and Tommy took off some high $$$ scores.

Partner’s One pocket was quite popular in those days and presented a virtual kaleidoscope of potential ways to match up a game. A and C players against two B players, A and D players against B and C players, etc., and coaching, either allowed or not allowed, made for some really spirited pre-game negotiations. Most regular players knew how to match up head-to-head, but partner’s opened up a whole new ball game. Many times neither team would know for sure who had the best of it until it was too late. For the most part, it was pure gambling. The high rolling gambler’s and oil men loved partnering up with the top players. They’d bet it up, big time.

Enter into this equation a man by the name of Red Box. Red owned one of the greatest action pool rooms ever, the Guys and Dolls in Shreveport, Louisiana. He was a good, smart gambler, and he and Ti were always trying to “one up” each other. Red was a little bit like Ti, in that he would have sacrificed a major body organ to play top notch One pocket. Ti, as shrewd a gambler as he was, thought he played about even with Red, but I could clearly see that Red had the best of it by at least ball, if not two.

Every month or so, a typical conversation between Ti and me would go something like this; “Hey Dick, Red called today and he said that Peter Rabbit, or Buddy Hall or Earl Heisler was in town, and they will give us 8-7 playing partners. I think we got the nuts at that, don’t you?” He would elaborate on his reasoning by saying, “You play as well or better than Red’s partner (whoever that might be) and Red and I are pretty even, aren’t we?

Ti and I had played partners with some of the local Dallas players with varying results. The big differential was usually whether I was allowed to coach him during the games. We had worked out an elaborate set of signals for the games where coaching was not allowed, but there really wasn’t an effective way to tell him where I wanted his cue ball to end up. The signals were pretty much limited to the specific ball I wanted him to shoot, and he was mostly on his own after that. However, at some point Red snapped to that and I had to look away from Ti when he was at the table (in the “no coaching match-ups). In addition, I could never convince him that he was at least a ball shy of Red’s One pocket game. There was never a problem with the money. Ti always had plenty of cash and if I didn’t, he was willing to bankroll any partner’s play we made. I don’t have to tell you how persuasive he could be when he felt like playing.

Usually, our matches were made before we left for the 200 mile drive to Shreveport. Ti was often a little lax in his demand for me to be allowed to coach him, because I think, in his mind he thought he knew all there was to know about the game. Many times we would get off loser at the partner’s game, and I would have to match up a tough heads- up game to try and recover our losses. Red Box was a good, smart gambler, but he loved action and fortunately, although a lot of money changed hands between us, no one got hurt too bad in those good old days. Ti, and Red sure loved their one-hole.

Ti eventually realized that he was no “Eddie Taylor” at pool. He, Tommy and I, roamed around together for a while back in the late 60s. We were a pretty well rounded crew with Ti’s con games, Tommy’s card playing skills, and my occasional pool score.

There were times we hit some pretty rough joints in the Ark-La-Tex area we moved around in. But I never felt any apprehension because every night, Ti and Tommy would clean and check their “artillery”. Ti carried an old .44 revolver with about a ten inch barrel, which looked much like a typical old John Wayne six-shooter, and I knew he wasn’t afraid to use it if he felt it was necessary. Ti, almost always, wore a suit to conceal the old “hog leg”. Tommy’s .357 was always strapped to his ankle under his bell bottoms, so we weren’t short on firepower should the need arise.
Fortunately, it never did. The few awkward spots we encountered, would usually wind up with the offending “tush-hog”, backing down from the “skinny old man” with the piercing eyes.

I’m not trying to infer that Ti and I were full time partners, but for several years, we hooked up often enough for me to have had some very memorable life experiences. I hope you’ve enjoyed my sharing a few with you. I have always considered it a privilege to have met and befriended, one of the true legends of our time, Alvin C. “Titanic Thompson” Thomas, 1892 – 1974. RIP old rounder, what a pleasure knowing you.

Dick Mc Morran
June, 2007

Dick, just for you, I’ll tell the only Titanic story that I have. I seen him in action only once down in Johnston City in the early 60s. He must have been 70 yrs old but he had 3 young girls traveling with him. He laid down a spread with an unwitting kid from Chicago named Tennesee Willy. Ti lost $400 to Willy playing 1pkt for $30 and $40 a game. He never made a ball, and was acting semi-senile. Willy was a very loud, obnoxious player and attracted a lot of attention. I knew Willy very well and he really thought the game was on the square, and was giving Ti plenty of “raspberries.” I overheard the smart guys whispering that Ti was probably over the hill, and was now a ripe target. The next day Ti had his choice of good games. He locked somebody up good, I forgot who, but I remember the bet. His first bet was naturally, $400 a game!

Freddy the Beard


by Johnny Hughes

George Albert McGann was this almost comic Texas road gambler and con man when we used to play poker and gin rummy together back in the mid-sixties in Lubbock, Texas. He was born in Big Spring about 1937. During the 1960s, Lubbock was a real center for big no-limit Texas Hold ’em games although we obviously just called it Hold ’em. Many of our opponents came from distant towns and nobody knew or cared where they got their money. Poker players were by definition outlaws. Jack “Treetop” Straus was playing one time with a guy who would leave the game and go rob a bank. The FBI followed the guy back to the poker game.

Treetop spoke for all gamblers when he told the FBI, most truthfully, “We don’t know or care how he got that money.”George was a real mystery man. He’d get out on the blacktop and go all over Texas and show up in the middle of the night at some poker game. He seemed to mostly lose. Like most practiced con men, he was most charming, likable, and extremely well dressed. Watch out for a player whose shoes are new and a little too fancy. And those pinkie rings. If you told George, “I like your watch or hat or sweater.” He’d say, “It’s for sale.”

Once, George sold a bag of fake diamonds to this gullible gambler I knew. He told him they were hot diamonds from big Dallas burglaries that were in the newspaper. The guy had to promise to hide them for a decade before he moved them. George bragged about these things but he often told cryptic stories, talked in riddles, and hinted at a dark side.

Much has been written about George McGann being a hit man for the Dixie Mafia. Some of the Kennedy assassination researchers think George was involved, even one of the shooters. One of the huge factors in being a professional poker player back then was finding a game and keeping the game going. This led to a lot of loaning and staking. Be careful about borrowing because then you are obligated to make a loan to that guy. If it was the middle of the night and a guy says he is going to quit the poker game if it gets down to five-handed, you might put some railbird like George in the game if you were bigger behind than a cotton-patch spider.

I loaned George $150 once. He soaked two beautiful expensive sweaters. I wore them for a few years. He had this long list of the people he owed money to. He’d pull it out and show it to me. He said paying all the poker players around Texas back was very important to him.Years later, some Kennedy assassination researchers led by Gary Shaw of Ft. Worth. came here and we had dinner. He mailed me some pictures of George and George’s list of debts. I was on it as were a Doyle, a Slim, and a Sailor. George would go down to Odessa and try the big game with all the future World Champs. He couldn’t beat it and neither could I.

I wasn’t afraid of George but I had not heard all these bad things. Looking back, I guess George could pump all that money on the tab because the smart money was afraid of him. He was the kind of poker and gin rummy player that you knew would go broke. On fifth street, he’d study and puzzle, and shake his butt all around in the chair and convince himself that some guy that had not bluffed since the Great Depression just had to be bluffing this time. If you held a hand, George would pay you off and he was pleasant about it with the con man’s semi-permanent big smile on his face.One of the places we played was up this long flight of stairs.

The houseman kept a shotgun leaning against the wall visible to all players. Now it was expected that the houseman would have barking iron, but tastefully out of sight. Someone suggested he hide the shotgun if George came around. This was the first hint I had that the gambler’s were wary of George and his nocturnal ramblings.Mornings might find me driving by several spots looking to play one of my side games, bridge or gin rummy. I’d prop folks to play heads-up Hold ’em but settle for gin. I’d try the golf course or one of the dice games before it opened.

A few times I went by George’s fancy apartment in Lubbock’s best apartment house. George had a whole closet full of fancy clothes and shoes. We’d play gin rummy and then go for mid-afternoon breakfast. I was careful not to break him but he was the type of gambler you could carry all the way to busted. I do not really remember ever seeing George win.One morning, we sat down to play gin rummy. He had left the two major suit nines in the card box on the kitchen cabinet. I figured this out early but didn’t see any sense in saying anything. He knew two nines were gone. I knew two nines were gone. He did not know I knew. At first I thought he was holding them out. I jumped up and suddenly looked in his lap. Nothing was there.There was some other shiny-shirt road slick there. The way they kept carney-talking and eye-dancing each other, you’d know they gaffed he deck.

After I beat him out of a day’s walking around money, I pulled up. I went in the kitchen and could see the cards in the box. Neither of us mentioned it. As George was getting ready to go to breakfast, he slipped a pair of brass knuckles in the front pocket of his very tight slacks. These showed for a mile. I asked him,” Why don’t you carry a pistol like everybody else?”He made a lengthy reply about his uncontrollable temper. He said he’d kill somebody if he had a gun.

Later, he did just that. George McGann told me a lot about Jerry James who he knew. James was on America’s top ten most wanted. James robbed other outlaws all over the south. When the word hit the gambler’s grapevine that James was in town, joints closed and folks stayed armed and indoors. George said that when I got robbed at a poker game, it would be Jerry James. James was later a leader in the New Mexico prison riot where thirty-nine were killed. He befriended Jimmie Chagra in prison at the behest of our government and James gained valuable information. Later, I was at a big poker game that was robbed by three masked gunmen. They told us to face the wall and not look and that was fine with me. Only one of them spoke but some of the players later said one of them might have been George. Big Fred threw his healthy bankroll behind the ice box and saved it.

After the robbers left, there was a hastily arranged small posse who had guns in their cars. They gave chase but played lucky they didn’t get to smell any gun smoke on that particular beautiful summer night.George McGann told me the most curious thing of our friendship after the Kennedy assassination. He showed up with a brand new Cadillac that was red on the bottom and white on top. He said Jerry James had a matching Cadillac. George said that after the assassination, the Texas Rangers arrested him in East Texas and had at first mistaken him for Jerry James who they were chasing. George said they shuffled him around to various small town jails without charging him with anything. Finally, they let him go and drove him to the Cadillac which they had pushed off into a bar ditch and dented up.

George married Beverly Oliver, the so-called Bakuska Lady, a Dallas night club singer, who said she filmed the Kennedy assassination but the FBI stole her film. Most of what she said has been discredited. She said George killed Doris Grooms and George Fuqua. She was the source for the information that Ruby met Oswald in Oliver Stone’s movie, JFK. Beverly Oliver said that she and George McGann met for several hours with Richard Nixon when he was running for President. If they played poker, I am sure Nixon won. He financed his early political career on poker winnings.

Buford Pusser of Walking Tall fame said George was one of the Dixie Mafia hit-men that killed his wife. It has been written that he killed George McGann but that was not true. A friend of mine was an eye witness to George McGann’s killing in Lubbock, Texas, September 30, 1970. He was an old thirty-three. According to my friend, a group of honky-tonk hero’s numbering four were at a house in the middle of the night. George got a phone call from a woman who said that Jerry Meshell, 30, had abused her. George shot him twice, killing him, while the woman was still on the phone where she could hear. Then George didn’t know what to do. He held my friend and Ronnie Weeden, 31, captive for several hours.

Finally, Weeden went to the back of the house and came back with a pistol. He killed George and did some time for it.I think the Kennedy assassination was a small Dallas-New Orleans conspiracy headed up by Carlos Marcello. At that time, bookies in Dallas laid off bets to Marcello, the real Mafia. Jack Ruby was a bookie. His telephone records are at Texas Tech’s Southwest Collection. It is obvious he was calling Ft. Worth every few minutes in relation to Fall football. Do you think the Kennedy Assassination was a conspiracy?? I hope you like my old stories.

Johnny Hughes

PS. The “Big D” crowd of Johnny Hughes, Garren Hensley, Fibber, Billy T. Dyer and yes, even George Mc Gann were all former stake horse’s of yours truly at one time or another. Pretty fast company for a dumb kid, huh ?

by “San Jose Dick” Mc Morran
For more years than I care to remember my life has consisted of matching up and getting down. The larger cities had great old rooms where all the guys doing the same thing would come together to try and get the best of each other. But most of the time, it was on the road in a strange town where you could slip in, unknown, and get some “soft” action playing the hometown champion. Many times I have wished I’d chosen a little softer career path.
Shortly before the assasination of JFK, I left San Jose and moved to Dallas. It was an ominous beginning to the best 7 or 8 years of my life. Within a few hundred miles of where I settled in Arlington, there was all the action (soft and tough) any player could want. Wichita, O.K. City, Tulsa, Shreveport, and Houston were all less than a tank of gas away. With gas at thirty cents a gallon, my 1959 Buick rarely saw under 80 MPH getting to where the action was.
Now to my story. I’m awakened at 3 AM from a sound sleep by a voice I recognized immediately. It’s U.J. Puckett and he said “Get your ass down here right now”! Only half awake and lying next to the sweetest “pool groupie” I’d ever met, I said “F— you”! U.J. went on to explain. A mutual acquaintance of ours, George McGann was loser some serious money backing U.J. against some young stranger. George wants you to get over here and try and get him even. The kid says he’ll wait so hurry up”. I threw on some clothes and got a warning from Sweetie Pie (she tended bar for George) and she said “Watch out for him, he can be real mean”. I knew that very well. I said “Not to worry, he’s going to be on my side”.
I was forty minutes away from George’s bar on Lemon Street; I made it in twenty five.I knew that George was probably the most dangerous and unpredictable tush-hog in all of Texas. T.J. Parker, who owned a pool room in Houston, was just as mean, but not as crazy. George was known to brag about his many enemies “disappearance”. Yeah, they found him dead in the desert shot full of holes, terrible case of “suicide”. As I entered, George, Puckett and Billy T. (another Dallas tough guy and a real good friend) were sitting at the end of the bar. A young handsome blond guy was dancing to some loud music with his girlfriend. This kid, I learned later, was Surfer Rod Curry. It was our first of many encounters.
The guys filled me in on what had happened. George was $800 loser backing U.J. at $50-$100 eight ball. Billy T. was a few hundred loser side betting. That’s a lot of money in today’s dollars. After trying to get him to play nine ball, Rod finally stopped dancing long enough to flip a coin and we kicked it off for $50 a game eight ball.Bar table eight ball was not my best game. After a few hours of see-sawing, I was a game or two loser. Rod was playing pretty solid. In a flash of brilliance I said “Let’s jack it to $100 and play last pocket”. Rod danced over to the juke box and said “You got it”. Puckett agreed that should give me an edge and sheepishly admitted he should have thought of that.Sure enough, I won about 5-6 games in a row and Rod said “That’s all, I quit”.
I sensed something was going down. Billy T. left (very unusual)and James Pelfrey came in. James was one of George’s pet gofers and a poorly educated, big, mean tush-hog. James would literally “kill” for George. He was a real loose cannon. As Rod is gathering up his stuff, George came out from behind the bar with the biggest handgun I’d ever seen. He put it right up to Rod’s temple and said “You ain’t quitting Mother F—–r!” I tried to calm George down and even told him I wouldn’t play under those conditions. He’s still got the gun two inches from poor Rod’s head, he turned his wild eyes in my direction and said “Yes you will, Dick.” Whatever medication George was on, in his mind, this was an honorable way to get his money back, short of an outright heist. He told Rod if he busted us, he could leave with no problem..right! Rod and I had no choice but to continue the charade at virtual gunpoint. He threw me a few more games (George was still a few hundred loser) and Rod, never short on pure guts, said “I quit, shoot me if you want to”.
Puckett had gotten George calmed down a little by that time and he let Rod and his
sobbing girlfriend leave the joint. I followed him out to the parking lot and his car had been ransacked, trunk pried open, seats and floor mats pulled up, etc. I hadn’t noticed but James had been absent for the last half hour.I was profusely apologetic about what had taken place. He understood it was not my fault. In fact we met and played the very next night, just the two of us, at an undisclosed location. Once again, Rod did not like it. He got robbed without a gun to his head! But that’s another story.

Dale Smith and Sammy Eubank
That probably belonged to Corky Eubank, the younger brother of one of the premier old-time hustlers, Sammy Eubank of Little Rock, AR. The preamble to this story is Corky’s prior job attempt for Sammy. Corky’s booze and dope habit was well known to brother Sam when Corky approached him for a little help in the career department. Sammy realistically knew Corky wasn’t fit to do too many things so he tried to make things as simple and easy as possible. After all, blood should look after blood. The job was this: at 3 pm every day, Corky was to pick up Sammy’s kids from school and drive them home — about 20 minutes each way. For this he would receive $100 a day. There was a stipulation though. Corky must be sober and totally clean for the trip, with Sammy inspecting him thoroughly upon his return. Breathalyzer and eyeball check was taken for granted. Any violation of such would be subject to a pistol whipping. This job proved to be too demanding, and Corky packed it in after only three days. Three in the afternoon was just too long a time to wait between hits. If Sammy could find a school that let the kids out around 11 am, Corky thought he could probably handle that.
This all occurred back in the 80s when Sammy was staying in the suburbs of Chicago, hustling with his lifelong partner, Dale Smith. Sammy and Dale were fearless hustlers, and they even went so far as to prey on various Outfit joints throughout the mobbed-up suburbs. They had been warned to leave the robbing of the customers to the Outfit themselves, but Sammy and Dale flew no flags, took no prisoners, and paid no heed. They had a, “suckers belong to the whole world” philosophy.
Philosophy notwithstanding, being on the wrong side of mob Whack man, Joey the Clown Lombardo, did cause Sammy some paranoid apprehensions. He dealt with those in a very practical way, he paid his brother Corky $300 a week to start his car every morning. I had stayed over at his house a few nights so I got to witness the show first hand, and believe me it was hilarious. Sammy would give Corky the keys, and then he would lay down (I would too) on the floor until the car was safely started. This ritual was repeated daily.
I asked Sammy how he could let his little brother do such a job. He reminded me that Corky wasn’t very talented and he had already tried him at other things including the school pickup thing, plus he only had to work about 10 minutes a week for the $300. I guess that was a pretty high pay scale if you thought about it.

Great stories, and an interview with Richie Florence at his old stomping grounds, the Tropicana Bowling Alley:   http://www.tropicanabowlingalley.com/richie.html

Clik for a entertaining, hilarious 7 part audio interview from 2006 with the great Ronnie Allen
Http://www.tropicanabowlingalley.com/ronnie.html

Click for another great interview with Ronnie Allen at:
http://www.onepocket.org/RonnieAllenInterview.htm

Here’s a story from the Beard:
Johnston City, 1969 or 70

I had the pleasure and privilege of watching Ronnie Allen and Minnesota Fats play Onepocket. I say privilege, because few people were allowed to watch the game. To see Fats play Ronnie, or his other opponent, Richie Florence, you had to be invited. Getting a spot, and maybe getting beat in public, was pretty much the reason Fats would only play to a selected audience. Fatty didn’t want any squares seeing him getting a spot from Ronnie and Richie. I was just a kid then , and it was very exciting. Some earlier scribes, who obviously weren’t there, said Ronnie gave Fats 8 to 6 and Richie Florence gave him 9 to 7. Not true. Richie gave him 8 to 7, and Ronnie played him 9 to 7 and $330 to $300 on the money. ($300 a game in those days is equivalent to about 4 million a game today.) Neither guy had a good game with Fats. Ronnie and Fats broke even the night I watched. Greatest Onepocket performance by both players that I ever saw. Anybody who doubts Fats’ offensive ability is nuts. Fats would shoot a two- railer and stop his cue ball right in front of Ronnie’s pocket. Ronnie would do the same. Ronnie would run 9 and out, and Fats would run 7 and out. Incidentally, Fat’s sevens looked much better than Ronnie’s nines. Fats ran out like Mosconi, and as fast as Lou Butera. They both played fantastic, the games never wound up down table. They played for about 2 hours and might have played as many as 25 to 30 games in that time. 9 and out and 7 and out was just about all they did. Ronnie ran 9 every time he seen the edge of a ball, and Fats ran 7 like it was water. The games lasted an average of about 5 minutes each. The outcome was predictable, after a couple of incredible hours, they were about even and they quit. The odds on the money probably put Fatty a few bucks ahead.

During that same time period Fatty did beat Richie out of 52k, according to a later interview with Richie himself. Richie Florence was a great Nine ball player, and pretty good Onepocket player, but his reign was very, very short. He was basically done and out of the loop before he was 30 years old. At seventeen, he was a world class Nine rocker and super fast gambler. I personally believe his career was shortened due to the brutal punishment and beating he took from Minnesota Fats playing 1 hole in Johnston City. I think Fats gutted him out and he was just never the same afterwards.
A few months before the Johnston City tournament started, Richie and Eddie Kelly had been on the road together, and Richie had just beat Cleo Vaughn in Mobile, ALA out of some serious money to amass the bankroll that he lost to Fats. They started playing about 30 days before the Johnston City tourney started, so Fats had Richie all to himself. The only other player that was there was Ronnie Allen. Ronnie had also been in Mobile, and he suggested to Richie that they go to Johnston City a little early so that they could match up with Fatty. Fatty, was a veteran hustler who knew every horrible psyche move, he was an overmatch to young Richie who had too much heart for his own good. All Richie had to defend himself with, was talent and ability. The brutal way that Fatty out managed, and maneuvered Richie in order to beat him was scandalous. Ronnie Allen wisely stayed out of the game and didn’t have any of Richie’s play. However, I believe that Ronnie was in with Fats. My suspicions have always leaned toward Ronnie having a nip of Fatty’s play. It’s hard to imagine that Ronnie could stand by and watch Richie get jerked around that badly without getting compensated. To this day, Ronnie denies it.
They played when Fats wanted to play; they bet what Fats wanted to bet; they quit when Fats wanted to quit — if Richie started shooting too good, Fats would quit and wait until the next day to continue– if Fats was winning, they would play all night. Fats would show up late, waiting until Richie had plenty of drinks in him before he would play. It was a classic example of just how good a turned-out hustler Fats was. Richie never recovered from the “gutting” Fatty gave him. After that strumming, his pool glory days were over.

Click for a great Fats story by the incomparable Hippie Jimmy Reid:

Here is a link to a great story about the iracible hustler, Benny the Goose Conway. Http://www.tampabilliards.com/goose.html

Strickland wins the 9 Ball, Truman Hogue takes the Banks
Childress #3

Efren Reyes(Caesar Morales) his 1st win at Reds in Houston accustat issue 1985