My first story must be about the most unique person in the history of the Los Angeles Pool Checkers club, its president and strongest player Ted Taylor.
Ted Taylor was a professional musician, touring the country with his band singing Blues. He had a very high rank in Kung Fu - the story was that Bruce Lee brought in an old Chinese master from China and that that master had only two students in America - Bruce and Ted. Sometimes Ted would come to the club in his training garment right from a Kung Fu lesson and he would jokingly do a little exhibition - he was over 40 then.
Ted was all energy - a president, a singer, a businessman, a checker master, a Kung Fu expert. Under his leadership the club moved a couple times from a barbershop on the Central Avenue to a shack at the back of a garage (he personally painted the insides), and then to its permanent home at the Willowbrook Senior Citizen Center. There are other stories about Ted - how he ate only the doves meat, his businesses, etc. - but those are not my stories - someone else should tell them. They said he also had many children from many wives met in his journeys but that is definitely not my story.
Ted was the only one from the club who ever went to the national tournaments. He played in the Master division and desperately wanted to win it, to get into the Top Master division as a champion but.. he was second or third. Often I tried to convince him to play in the Top Master - God knew he was ready, and playing there would raise his game to a different level.
As the player Ted was tough - he never made a move without thinking, always analyzing, always ready to pounce. But his biggest strength was the endgame - the hardest part of the game. I've met many strong endgame players but Ted had this intuitive understanding that can not be learned - one has to be born with it.
As I said he was the only one going to the tournaments. The other people were just scared to lose, that they were not good enough. Most of all they were afraid of the "book". Strangely when I started teaching at the club, with books, magazines, samples, etc. - very few of them took the lessons.
Ted was the first to admit he needed schooling and wanted to learn. His example brought in a few others but the rest remained steadfast and prefered to play the same old game they were used to. Ted really appreciated the knowledge. He would get excited over a new shot idea, a clever ending or an opening "cook". His game improved a lot and he would be the first to admit it and to show appreciation.
His tragic death (he hit a badly parked truck driving at night somewhere in Texas while prospecting the clubs to perform) was a devastating blow to the club. CC Stinson, who had an "in" with the airlines, brought his body home. I've never seen so many people at the funeral - hundreds came to pay last respect (including the out of town wives).
I wish I had one of his records, to hear him again.