Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Minnesota Fats: "A whole buck?"

Minnesota Fats with John Ogolini

I've reproduced here a charming letter I received a few years back from one Gary Carlson. Gary recalls unexpectedly bumping into the Fat One down in Johnston City. The picture above shows Fats with whom I believe is his friend John Ogolini. The picture was probably taken in Fats' home. I was given this photo during one of my trips to Southern Illinois to research Fats' life for Hustler Days.

OK, here's Gary's note:

"I was about 22 or 23 at the time (1964? 1965?) living in Decatur, IL. My friend, Bob Arthur mentioned there was a pool tournament in a town outside of Carbondale. So we got into his '58 Chevy Impala and away we went. I think we paid maybe $5 (???) to get in and then there was another charge to watch the action in the back room. I recall "Daddy Warbucks" playing someone else a handicap game. Warbucks used his hat as a bridge while the other fellow used a toilet brush from the restroom. They played $100 a game.

In 1966 I attended graduate school at Southern Illinois University and went to Johnston City once or twice for the tournament. I also played in a rock band which was hired for one weekend at the Jansco's place.

My major was chemistry and I would work sometimes until 1-2 am in the lab. Afterwards, I would frequently go to a small pool hall with 3 or 4 tables and good hamburgers. I was usually the only one there. I didn't really know much about the game or it's characters. One night a fat guy at the counter asked if I wanted to play a game since we were the only customers. He'd been laughing with the counter man and already knew I was very much an amateur. I said OK and he asked if I played for money. I said I guessed a buck would be OK. He said 'a whole buck?' I said 'If that's too much, how about 50 cents?' He laughed and said he'd try to fit it into his budget. He beat me pretty badly for 2 games and I quit a buck down. He bought me a hamburger and left. Later, the counter man told me it was Minnesota Fats and he lived nearby in Dowell, Illinois. It wasn't until some years later that I appreciated who he was."

-- R.A. Dyer

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