My Story..Chapter Seven

SJDinPHX

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The next two chapters are 'old news' for the regular forum members..They have been up for several years, on the Beard's great web site ! (Thank you Fred).. I will include them for newer members or lurkers, while I work on future chapters..They do contain some new stuff, I had forgotten in the original writing !


................................................................ Chapter Seven........................................................................

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 !.. No less than Ben Hogan, once asked Ti, why he didn't join the then fledgling "Pro Golf Tour" ..Ti's answer was.."I can't afford the cut in pay"!...Ti won a fortune fleecing 'Country Club Pro's', and their backers !

His many other games of chance and trickery were legendary and all the younger 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..As he grew older, he was almost like a 'magician' giving up his many sleight of hand secrets..Some were truly amazing !

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 lower end '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
 
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backplaying

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Good stories Dick. I remember Guys and Dolls well. That was the place I first met and played Scotty Townsend. Another good player who played there at the time was Tommy Sanders. I would guess Scotty and me were around 21, so this would have been in the mid 70's. There was action there every time I was there.
 

NH Steve

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Yes, a very good read whether you had a preview before or not!!
 

androd

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Great read dick. Thanks for the memories.

Ty was a real trip, I went off for 3 &5 dollars many times just to see the props.

It was the 60's when he said he could beat anyone in the world, Skeet shooting and Duck pin bowling. They had to use both right and left hands.
He also said he could tell more jokes without ever repeating one. :D:p;)
Rod.
 

SJDinPHX

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Great read dick. Thanks for the memories.

Ty was a real trip, I went off for 3 &5 dollars many times just to see the props.

It was the 60's when he said he could beat anyone in the world, Skeet shooting and Duck pin bowling. They had to use both right and left hands.
He also said he could tell more jokes without ever repeating one. :D:p;)
Rod.
Rod,I had forgotten how good he was with ALL guns !..It would be impossible to remember all the 'traps' he was proficient at.. He was truely one of a kind, wasn't he ? ;)

PS..How about throwing key, in a door lock, from 5 ft. away ? :eek:
 
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