CC Stinson was a ham.
There was no other way to describe the way he played when I came to the club on the Central Avenue at the back of the barbershop - everybody and anybody could beat him.
But CC, which stood for Christopher Columbus! of course, was a proud man - he did not like to be a ham - he wanted to make mince meat of others!
Perhaps this was the reason why he, of all the players, came to me and said "Teach me to play your way". I warned him that at first his game was going to get worse before it got better - because he would need to break with bad habits playing familiar games. CC however was determined - it could not get any worse.
He threw himself with abandon into books, into studying, into solving shots, with me guiding his progress. On his own he contacted Kaplan and got his books and kept the correspondence. A few others joined us and we had small tournaments, or solving contests, etc. Slowly but surely, one by one, the former tormentors would lay aside or just disappear completely unable to stomach losing to the former "ham".
Once a beautiful young woman came into the club, walked over to CC and sat in his lap.
"My Daddy" she announced "is the best daddy in the whole world!"
I got confused - how could CC be her father? He was too young! Maybe she was his girl-friend and this was just teasing?
"How old do you think I was?" asked CC.
"Well, maybe 30-35" - said I looking at his straight back and the youthful figure.
"I am 56 years old!"
"No way - I thought you were younger than me!"
But he was. From the very first time I saw CC he reminded me of Byron Scott - the first time I saw him in the Lakers uniform, the way he ran down the right side, stopped suddenly and buried that perfect jumper - a born purebred. At that time we already had Karim, Magic, Worthy and Cooper - from that very first jumper Lakers had the full team. CC looked like Byron and in my mind-eye they were the same age.
Actually CC did look young. He had a black belt in some Martial Arts, he sang in the church choir and he had a lot of children - some of his own and many foster kids, some Black, some Hispanic. I remember when playing at his house one or another young man coming in to talk this and that - these were former foster children, and they valued his fatherly advice.
CC desperately wanted to beat me - and he did! He beat me in chess, he beat me in backgammon, he beat me shooting Pool, playing cards, domino, on and on - but not checkers. When I briefly started on Spanish CC took a class and beat me there too!
After Pat CC picked up the pieces taking over the secretarial job. The Willowbrook Center was great - it was free and it was safe - but it also meant Monday-Friday, 9-5 only - no weekends or evenings. That meant no more classes from me - I had to work. CC tried to keep the classes alive, or at least to bring me in time to time, whether at his house or place of business, or at someone else's house.
By this time very few people thought of CC as a "ham" - he was a good player who could "mug" you - he was respected, both as a player and an organizer. Several times he organized bus trips to Las Vegas for example, with profits going to the club.
As I mentioned he sang at the church. When his time was coming to the end (he had a bone cancer) the whole clan, relatives and friends from many states got together to give one final gospel performance. CC welcomed everyone with a smile, he greeted my mother and me with "Hold on to your seat, this house is going to rock!" - and it did! Song after song, the cadence got higher and higher, there was joy and there was faith. The audience long ago joined the huge choir and singing was everywhere.
We left early, it was too much emotions for us, I waived my good bye to him.
After his passing the club quickly deteriorated, they had a couple of presidents but no members, and then it was gone.