Legends of "Buster"

"Buster" Plays the Lady!

Remember that lady from Peoria Illinois (in our last issue), who came to play in the tournament, and to play "Buster?" Well, she's still there; she's still playing; and she is still losing. Every weak player, and his brother, is jumping at the opportunity to play her and to build up his point totals. (Remember, this is tournament to attract Pool Checker players, and not for a championship-although we say it's for the City Championship)-hence the round-robin.

At one point in the tournament, I think, "Buster" and the lady had identical scores; he was (16-0), and she was (0-16)-(at least there was a "16" on both of their cards and there was a "0" on both of their cards). And then Top Master, The Rev. William "Bullet Hole Bill" Langley, (He said that's what the Russians called him when he went there to support/watch "Buster" and play some to its Gransmasters in the late sixties) performed an act of mercy. He displayed one of the great humanitarian acts of our time. He ‘threw’ (allowed her to win) a game to the lady. And she was happy! At that point her score was now (1-16), and when "Buster" lost to "Grocery Store Bob," his score was (16-1). So their scores were still identical. Yet, the lady hadn't played "Buster." And as fate would have it, the stage was now set for this mammoth showdown.

Prior to the game, we (Mr. Langley, Mr. Cobbs, and myself) pulled "Buster" aside and pleaded with him to ‘throw’ another game to the lady. We talked about how it would make her feel good, how it could be good for the image of Pool Checkers, how she could tell her uncle that she had beaten the "Great Buster," and how it might make her feel that her trip had been a success. But, "Buster was having none of it-saying simply, "I just don't like losing those games." Keep in mind that he had already won the tournament. Mr. Langley, who was second, was far behind. The prize for first place was only a large trophy and a modest amount of cash. But, it didn't matter.

As the two faced off, the great kibitzers of the time had taken up residence. Van "Vansky" Penn was seated just to "Buster’s" right. A couple of seats away was James "Variation James" Adams; seated just a couple of seats away from him, was Shirley Huckaby, and over in the corner, watching from afar were, the "Mighty" Muck and the "Greater Ace."

The lady had the first move, and she led with 9-13! It was now "Buster" turn to move. He looked,… he looked,… he looked,… and then he looked for one last time,,,, and finally he looked some more. We don't know how long it took him to make his first move. But one kibitzer swore it took him forty minutes. It didn't take him quite that long, but it did take him an awful long time.

Every schoolboy knows that the proper response to 9-13, in a Pool Checkers game, is 22-18. Van "Vansky" Penn, a "Buster" sidekick, loyalist, and sweet joggers for many, many years, simply couldn't stand it any longer, and cried out, "What is "Buster" looking at? " When "Buster" finally moved, where did he move? You guessed it, 22-18.

Many times after that game, we would ask "Buster," "What was you looking at?" His simple answer, as always, was "You never know what a person knows," and "I didn't want to take any chances."

Oh yea, back to the game. The lady's second move was 6-9; "Buster" then, ‘hit the spot.' In Pool Checkers parlance, that is considered taking control of a critical pivot spot. We then, knew that the ‘lights were out,’ for the lady. You see, for a fleeting second, we had thought, just perhaps, "he was having second thoughts, and might just also ‘throw’ the lady another game. But when he took control of the ‘spot’ we knew that she would never see the ‘light of day’ again. And we looked at each other; and we turned and walked away, shaking our heads, and muttering, "WHAT SORT OF MAN IS THIS?"

"Buster" won that game, the tournament, its trophy and modest amount of cash. But for some of us, in our minds and hearts, he had lost for a second time that day because he refused to ’throw’ the game to the lady.

Finally, as the lady prepared to leave, she thanked us all for the hospitality, shook all of our hands, talked of the great time she had, and ‘walked off into the sunset‘-out our lives forever. To this day, close to 35 years and counting, none of us, as far as can be determined, has ever seen or heard of her again.

But "Buster" will pay for his transgressions (sins), as… The legend continues - Next Issue.