Legends of "Buster"

Finally!!... "Buster" Falls...to a Lowly Club Player

It came by the way of a quiet statement, "You Win!" -that sent shock waves throughout the tournament playing room. With that statement, Robert "Grocery Store Bob" Daniels, gained everlasting infamy within the Chicago Pool Checkers community.

He was Mr. Robert Daniels, a quiet, unassuming, soft spoken gentleman who would never raised his voice at anyone. He was the business manager for the Chicago Westside Pool Checkers Club. I liked to call him, ‘my business manager.’ His playing lever was Gold Bar (APCA) or class D in alphabetical system (A-E).

In a long since forgotten tournament, the Westside Pool Checkers Club of Chicago hosted, at a local YMCA, in the early seventies, Mr. Daniels did something that Chicago Pool Checkers players still talk about-even today. He defeated "Buster" in a tournament game. And with that stroke of genius, Mr. Daniels acquired a unique honor in our Pool Checkers community.

He is the only Chicago area player to hold an edge over "Buster"-even to this day! The score is1-0. You see…Mr. Daniels NEVER PLAYED ANOTHER GAME after his victory over "Buster." That's right, Not Ever! That is at least what veteran players around here will swear to. Many of those who would swear to this have now passed on, but talk to old-timer Eddie Smith; I, for one, can truthfully say, I never saw Mr. Daniels play another game after his win over "Buster"-even though he lived for perhaps another 10 or 15 years afterwards.

That is the awe that many players held for "Buster" in those days. Clarence "Dude" Dew, who could have been an APCA Top Master, had he kept playing, says he played "Buster" for a lifetime and never won a game. That's why he stopped playing, he said. James "Pontiac Jr" Sharp, an APCA player, who became a Master in 1975 and who played in the same barber shop where "Buster" played -- on a weekly basis for over 20 years says he never even played him a game. Even today, Mr. Sharp, who is still robust and still playing will again make that claim.

The details of the story is this. In 1971, I think it was, The Westside Pool Checkers Club of Chicago, of which I was the president, hosted a city tournament. It was, as far as we could determine, the first City tournament in the city's history. In it's determination to popularize the game and increase activity in the city, the Club decided to invite the best players in the City and throughout the Midwest. William "Bill" Langley, of Detroit, Michigan was there. George Cobbs, Top Master from St. Louis, Missouri was there, and I think Mr. Sam Walters and a delegation from Cleveland, Ohio, was there. We even had a lady who came all the way from Peoria, Illinois to play in the tournament, and to play "Buster." She said she had heard about "Buster" from her uncle many years earlier.

It was a round-robin tournament-where everyone plays everyone else. And as usual "Buster" was killing his opponents. He might have won 16 or 17 straight games. The field had been devastated. Even Bill Langley, the Top Master from Detroit was hopelessly behind.

I was seated at the next table and fully concerned with my opponent, when I heard the quiet voice, that was unmistakable "Buster's" say, "You win it." As I looked around to inquire, "What was that?" several of the other players had stopped and began to rise to their feet. "What was that?" Someone else inquired. Again "Buster" said, "He won it." By this time, one of the great kibitzers of our time, James "Variation James" Adams was up and heading toward the table. At the same time "Grocery Store Bob", as we called him, was backing away from the table as if in a trance. Accordingly, the word had begin to get out-"Grocery Store Bob" beat "Buster" y’all."

When asked, "What did you beat him in, Bob?" He would simply say, "I just got him in my game, that's all." We could never get "Buster" to reveal to us the game he lost. And so the game that "Bob" won (or "Buster" lost) is gone for eternity.

Nobody took "Buster" loss (or Bob's win) harder than "Variation James." Years afterwards he would just be sitting at the club watching us play and he would lament "Pec" (slang for "Pecan"), I will never understand it;" he would continue, "Grocery Store Bob", beat "Buster." I will never understand it for as long as I live." I can give Bob 10 ‘straights’ (win 10 consecutive games) any day of the week," and yet I've played "Buster" for a lifetime and never could get a game." I simply will never understand it." And so, my friend, Mr. Adams passed away many years ago, still unable to come to grips the fact that "Grocery Bob" had beaten "Buster".

And the Legend continues… Next Issue, "Buster plays the Lady! …and his problems loom even bigger down the road.