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Tom Fox
December 04, 1961
New York Fats, self-proclaimed greatest pool hustler of them all, battles his peers with cue and quips and action on the side
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December 04, 1961

Hustlers' Holiday In The Lions' Den

New York Fats, self-proclaimed greatest pool hustler of them all, battles his peers with cue and quips and action on the side

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Now Boston Shorty ( Larry Johnson, 32, Boston) is playing. Shorty is a short 5 feet 2 who gets sore when a hustler says he's "shorter than the cue stick." Says Johnson: "That's a lie, the cue stick is 58, 59 inches. I'm 62 inches."

A photographer is shooting pictures of the match. Boston Shorty stops the game and says he doesn't want his picture taken. The photographer wants to know how come. Shorty's backer climbs down from the gallery.

"Shorty ain't played the West Coast yet," the backer says with a forced grin. "You understand, he's still got some live territory to cover. He don't want them to know who he is or what he looks like. You understand, don't you, man?"

"Hubert Cokes is the class entrant of the tournament," George Jansco says. "Look at him in that beautiful gray suit and the red tie. He looks just like Daddy Warbucks. That's what the boys call him, Daddy Warbucks."

Daddy Warbucks, at one time a traveling companion of Titanic Thompson, a hustler without peer, is a successful oilman. He has investments in southern Indiana, western Kentucky and southern Illinois.

Now Fat Man is matched with Tuscaloosa Squirrelly, and he is getting the shots.

"Well, if I'm a has-been, I'm certainly glad I'm not one of these is-beens," Fat Man says as he wins the match three games to none. (Squirrel got a total of three shots, two of them breaks.) The Fat Man has a 10-second bout with an insect that falls out of the light and onto the table in the path of one of his shots. Fat Man loves animals, even insects. He carefully fingers the insect from the green cloth, cups it in a hand and gives it freedom.

"I wouldn't of killed it if it bit me," he says. "I love animals. They can't hustle you so you gotta help 'em. I feed maybe 20 or 30 cats and dogs a day. They all come to my house 'cause they know they're gonna get something to cat. I guess they're hustling me but I don't care. I hustle for them. I'm liable to go into a restaurant at 4 o'clock in the morning and hustle some bones for the dogs."

Hustler's hustler

"Look at Fatty," whispers Johnnie Irish (Johnnie Lineen, 47, Miami and Brooklyn). "He wouldn't hurt a miller moth but he'll leave you without a shirt playing pool. I know Fats all my life. I've seen him come into a town that looked like a desert, nobody at the pool hall. In two days Fats had the place packed. He starts playing for $2 a game and pretty soon he's got the butcher and the baker playing for $100 a game and they never saw a pool table before. If there's 100 people in town Fatty had all 100 at the pool hall. Then he leaves and it's a desert town again.

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