Legends of "Buster"
The Last LegendBy the summer of 1992 Carl "Buster" Smith seemed to have been at the top of his game. He had come full circle. After his triumph over Mr. Kuperman, he returned to Chicago for a hero's welcome.
Considering his easy trouncing of a brash and outclassed "Pecan" in the late sixties, and throughout his frequent trips to Russia and other parts of Eastern Europe to compete (and hold his own) with some of the great grandmasters, and along with his defeats of Ramsey, Langley, Black, and others-and notwithstanding his disappointments with "Grocery Store Bob" and the "Lady." and then after his greatest triumph (the dethroning of the great Mr. Kuperman), one would have said that he had done it all.
Conventional wisdom would have dictated that he now rest on his accomplishments and live the life of an elder statesman. But that would not be the case for this champion who, like Alexander The Great, needed new worlds to conquer. At this time, after having ruled Chicago Pool Checkers for nearly a half century, he did in July 1992, head of the The Bahamas in search of new glories. He was to compete in the 27th APCA National Tournament being held there.
With the absence of the grandmasters Mr. Kaplan and Mr. Kuperman, Carl "Buster" Smith was now in control again. And again, one would fine his name at the 'top of the pack' in the final standings. While he had to share the 1992 title with the Bahamas' young Andrew Frazier, there was little argument that he had etched his name for all times as a great American Champion.
In October of 1992, Carl "Buster" Smith passed away. At his funeral was a host of his Pool Checkers friends. I think I can recall seeing Mr. William Langley along with his friend Mr. Rudy Poe of Detroit, Michigan. Most of the local players were there also. The arrangements were simple; and those of us who knew him well, conversed quietly among ourselves. My final recollection of the service was that they played ‘jazz music,' perhaps by Gene Ammons, Art Blakley, and/or Ronnie Laws, Stanley Turntine as the final bell tolled.
And so, we all left that service with the feeling that a Giant had been take from our midst.