"The Legend of "Buster" 09/01/2003
The "Pecan Man"
When Pool checker players in Chicago talk about ‘greats’ of the game, its starts and ends with "Buster". We say, (it may be disputed by others), that he was the greatest African American Pool Checker player of all times. We realize that’s a tall statement, but we are prepared to defend it with some facts and some "legend".
I first met "Buster", a small and quiet man, in the late 60s. It was at a barber shop- called ‘Gus’ Barbershop.’ A friend of mine, and my first Pool Checker mentor, Clarence Dew - a very good player in his own right, at the time, had secretly brought "Buster" into the shop without my knowledge.
At the time, I was being considered as the next great player in the area. I was rising fast. I was young (by Pool Checker Player’s standards), brash, and ‘full of it.’
After Mr. Dew had convinced Buster to throw a game or two to him, unbeknownst to me, (which he later said was very hard to do), I said to Mr. Dew: "Who is this "Scrub"? Where did he come from?"
Dew said to me, "Would you like to play him?"
quietly, saying nothing. As I pulled my seat up to the table,
(Dew had brought in about 10 or 12 other players from the area),
"The Legend of Buster" 10/03/2003
An old checker player, Shirley Huckaby, was later to say to me, "Buster",
he became champion at 16 years old; "Today more that 40 years have
passed, and he still Rules." "It must be the longest reign
The first game was a classic "alley game," that I had studied
and thought I new well.
Game two was a ‘quiet’ game; there was nothing spectacular
but just some hard playing. I can recall "Buster" saying to
me at one point, "Young man you play a nice game." This was
rare for "Buster"- for he hardly ever said anything when he
was playing - and not very much afterwards. Little did I know when he
made that statement, he was preparing the final moves for my demise again.
As we say in the "hood," he was ‘tightening the screws.’
|Legends of "Buster"
And so it was, after having lost the first two games, I had a sense
that something was up. The guys in the back of the room were abuzz. As
I finally conceded game three, someone walked in and asked "What
is the score?"
Games four and five, I lost, without seemingly putting up much of a fight. Five games played; five games lost was my way of assessing the outcome. It was not only a "mug", it was the most embarrassing of "mugs". As we will see in the coming issues, it's not what "Buster" did to me. But what he did to others, as well, that made him a legend.
Finally, as I paid my $5.00 to my Dew, and walked out, the owner
of the barber shop, Gus Hawkins, said to me, "What happened back there
Mr. Thompson?" I replied, "Gus, I couldn't get a "Pecan"-
meaning not only could I not win, I couldn't even draw.