'em up with
Donny 'The Cincinnati Kid' Anderson
Born June 9th, 1929, as a youngster Don Anderson developed into a strong pool player along with two other local kids from Cincinnati: Eugene ‘Clem’ Metz and the late Joey Spaeth. While Clem turned his attention to One Pocket, and Joey became one of the all-around stars of Johnston City, Bank was always Donny’s game of choice, and with the advent of Bank Pool tournaments in the 70’s, it was Donny Anderson that emerged as our first Bank Pool World Champion.
© 2007 Steve Booth, OnePocket.org
DA: Listen, do you have a computer?
1P: Yes, I’m sitting right at it.
DA: Go to wideworldofbilliards.com
Look at the top line there; I forgot what it says, and click on that.
1P: The Cincinnati Kid’s home page; I’ll be darned; look at that. So you started as a pin-setter in a bowling alley?
DA: Yeah, 2 cents a line.
1P: You know, there’s a lot of players of your generation that started that way.
1P: I know Boston Shorty started that way.
DA: You had to do something to make a buck. I was only about ten or twelve at that time.
1P: I think Squirrel started that way, too.
DA: Squirrel? Boy, I tried to trap him for years, but I could just never get it on.
1P: Looking at this about Cincinnati, which is where you grew up, makes me wonder if you knew 'Clem'…[Eugene Metz]
DA: Clem? He and I bummed together and hustled together when we were younger. He’s a year younger than me. But Clem, well, I don’t want you to print everything.
1P: Well, there is a lot of stuff that is out there. There is no question he was absolutely a great player, but he did have some distractions, shall we say. I understand he’s still alive.
DA: I guess he is; I try not to come in contact with him.
1P: I understand he spent some time in prison…
DA: Well, he’s got more nerve than the law allows. Me and him went down to Harlan County, Kentucky years ago. That’s when they used to wear guns on their hips, and put rifles up in the cue rack. Everybody had a gun and everybody had a rifle. So he’s in action with this big hillbilly and he’s beating him, and the guy looked at him and told him, ‘If you say that one more time, I’m going to kill you.’ I called Clem over to the side and said, ‘Give me my money; I’m gone.’ So I got my half of the money and I left because Clem, he just didn’t seem to realize – I always predicted, he’ll never live past 26. Now I’m 77 so he’s 76! He still plays cards and stuff like that.
1P: He definitely seems like one of those career hustlers; somebody that is going to always be working the angles…
DA: Oh yeah, everything, no matter what. And a few other things, too.
1P: Other things besides pool?
DA: I got a pretty good story on him. We were at a bus station one night; I guess I was about 17 and Clem was about 16. He was a hell of a pool player when he was young, too. We had gotten a phone call to go and play some guy in Lawton, Oklahoma. At this time neither one of us drove, so we took a Greyhound bus to Lawton, Oklahoma.
1P: Wow, that’s a long haul!
DA: Yeah. Now the guy won’t play 9-Ball, which is Clem’s best game. Well, at that time it was his best game. So he introduces Clem to One Pocket.
DA: Clem is only 16 years old you remember, and he played different games, but I don’t think he’d ever played any One Pocket at all, at that time. And the guy just robbed him. We had like $500 between us and they’re playing for $50 a game, One Pocket. And the guy beats Clem like nine in a row; I know Clem didn’t win over one game. So now I said, ‘If you want to play some 9-Ball, he’ll keep playing you, but he ain’t gonna play this no more.’ So the guy says, ‘Well, I’m not going to play no 9-Ball.’ But we wound up talking him into playing 9-Ball and flipped for the break, and Clem ran nine racks for fifty a game.
1P: Wow! So you and he were on the road even before you had a driver’s license…
DA: Oh yeah, me and him and Joey Spaeth. Joey and Clem were the same age and I was a year older. We would go down through Kentucky and Tennessee and Indiana and Chicago and Detroit, and whatever. We had pretty much of a schedule, but then we all broke up and everybody went their separate ways. I got drafted and went in the army when I was twenty-one and I stayed in the army for seven years.
1P: So until you went in the army you often went on the road with Clem or Joey Spaeth?
DA: Yeah, one or the other; we always went on the road together. We’d go down to the bus station -- this was real stupid – and there’s a map there of the United States, so one of us would close our eyes and take a finger and just move it all around and put his finger on the map, and the closest big city to where he pointed, that’s where we went.
DA: So we went to New Orleans. We didn’t really do good while we were down there, but we ran into a guy on the bus, and then we ran into the same guy in a bar. We got talking to him and he remembered us and he said, ‘You know, I came all the way down here to bet a horse and the damn thing lost, but I ain’t hit a loser since.’ And I mean, he had pockets full of bucks. He’d hand me like twenty, then he’d hand Clem twenty. Then he’d hand me twenty or thirty. Just sitting there we wound up with like a hundred a quarter apiece, but there was absolutely no action there at all.
1P: Huh, because I thought New Orleans was known for action.
DA: It was just bad timing I guess.
1P: I’m curious that you mentioned Clem and Oklahoma, because I always heard that Clem learned One Pocket from Hayden Lingo.
DA: That’s at least partially true. I remember when Lingo was hanging around Demas Billiards in Cincinnati.
1P: Oh, he was?
DA: Yeah. Also, another guy, I can’t think of his name, but he flew a helicopter or small airplane or something. They called him the Aviator, or something like that. Another action player, like Lingo, and he was a One Pocket player too.
1P: Clem seemed to become known for playing a real conservative style of One Pocket; a real safe player that wouldn’t give you a shot.
DA: He was a good player, but he didn’t get there with the really top players. He did not get there with them. I’m having trouble with their names; I’ve got such a bad memory. He hustled; but he didn’t… If a big time player came to Cincinnati, he might wipe up with him, maybe. But he was a good One Pocket player.
1P: And a pretty good Bank player too, right?
DA: Yeah, but he never could get through me. He was good, but he never got there.
1P: I didn’t realize that you and Joey Spaeth were that close in age, too.
DA: Yeah, Joey was just a year younger, the same as Clem. I’ll tell you a good story. When I went into the service I was playing Joey 8-6 Bank Pool, and winning. So I went in the service and went overseas to Germany for five years. I come back from Germany and Joey owns a poolroom about a mile from Mergard’s. So I go up there and figure I’ll hustle Joey and pick up a few dollars. So I go up there and I said, ‘You want to play some?’ And he says, ‘Yeah, I’ll play some, if you play me the same way you did.’ I said, ‘What was that?’ And he said, ‘Eight to six.’ I said, ‘Come on.’ He beat me six straight; I never won a game.
1P: So you and Joey and Clem came up in the same poolroom?
DA: Yeah, there was a place called Demas Billiards, downtown Cincinnati. It was right across from the main post office, on the second floor. It was a real good place to hustle. I played Minnesota Fats there; I played Eddie Taylor there. I was about 17, and we played either 8-6 or 9-7, and I beat him like five, six, seven games in a row. So he backed off – which I don’t blame him.
Don Anderson when he was one of the "kids from Cincinnati"
1P: I figured to become the kind of player you did, you must have been around some other good players. You obviously ended up specializing in Bank Pool; what brought you into that?
DA: My dad; he was a pretty good player, and he liked to play Bank Pool best of all. He started off playing me 8-4 Bank Pool, and then 8-5, and then 8-6 and 8-7. Then we played even, then I spotted him a ball; then two balls. I never got to the point where I could give him three though.
1P: So what were the stakes when you and your dad played?
DA: We wouldn’t play for money.
1P: Was it, ‘who was going to do the chores’ or whatever?
DA: I think we did play for something like that sometimes.
1P: Because what was the point of a handicap if you weren’t playing for anything?
DA: Well, just to beat him. I wanted to win and he wanted to win, too.
1P: So, did he ever just let you win?
DA: Naw, he never let me win. He’d give me a spot, but he’d never let me win! It wasn’t like a real dad should be!
1P: I’ve heard both sides of that –
DA: I’ve got two kids and I had them down to the poolroom one day. I guess I was in my forties or fifties, and I set six balls up and I banked them cross side. And my daughter says, ‘Well, I can do that!’ So we put the six balls up there and she banked every damn one of them cross side. So my son says, ‘Well, I can do that!’ And he got up there and he banked all six of them cross side.
1P: I guess it runs in the family!
DA: But I never did press pool on them. My daughter could have been one hell of a player. My son, I don’t know about, because he didn’t really take a whole lot of interest in it. But my daughter is just so successful in business; it’s pathetic.
1P: What kind of business did she get into?
DA: She’s got a site on the internet called “babiesonline”. It’s all about babies. She gives them a free page on her site, so they can put pictures of their kids for the fathers, the mothers the grandparents and whatever. She gets ads from companies like Pampers and everything. She’s got an agency that does the work for her. It’s unbelievable.
1P: And your son?
DA: He was doing drywall for about ten years.
1P: Oh, in the trades.
DA: Yeah, he got good at that, but he hurt his back, but he’s in school right now learning networking. He’s real good on the computer.
1P: You mentioned you played Taylor…
DA: He was in the big tournament up there that I won.
1P: Was that the tournament in Springfield, Ohio, at the Guys and Dolls?
DA: Yeah, that was it. Russ Maddox owned it.
1P: Now was that a stand alone Bank Pool tournament or was it a combination of games?
DA: That was Bank Pool, period. Bugs was there.
1P: Bugs didn’t play in it did he?
DA: Yeah, he played in it.
1P: Because a lot of times he would just show up sort of at the end, to gamble.
DA: He played in it. He came in third or forth I think. I was playing really good at that time. I played James ‘Youngblood’ Brown, for the title. We were playing 2 out of 3 and the game was 24 banks, so when you ran them all off you’d re-rack the balls and go on from there. He had me 17-6 and I beat him 24-17.
1P: Wow, so you went on an 18 ball run?
DA: I just made some tough shots. I’d be like two inches off the end rail and shooting a long shot, and I’d jack up and just fire that sucker in; boy, that’s such a good feeling!
1P: That was like the first real big bank pool tournament wasn’t it?
DA: Right, and everybody was there. Eddie Taylor was there. He played in it, but he didn’t win. That was when he was on the tail end of his career.
DA: Eddie Taylor was so damn good when he was young. When Eddie came into Cincinnati and we played, he played sooo good. He was always drinking, but he played good when he was drinking. And he was a real nice guy; a real nice guy. I can’t say enough about him, just a real nice guy and probably the best bank pool player that ever lived.
Eventually he had trouble with eyesight, but you played him earlier?
Oh yeah. He played in that tournament up there and I got talking with him, after he got eliminated, and I was ribbing him and I said, ‘What are you doing Eddie, just sloughing off?’ And he said, ‘No, I’m not.’ And he started crying and he said, ‘I’m really trying, but I just can’t do it anymore. My eyes are so bad. I’m just getting old.’
DA: He said, ‘I want to play so bad it’s pitiful, but my eyes are so bad I can’t shoot anymore. I can’t make a ball.’
Donny around the time of the Springfield tournament
1P: That’s too bad; these days they have the laser eye surgery and all…
DA: Yeah, I’ve had that done, but I’m diabetic and my eyes have got so bad it’s pitiful.
1P: So, you’re diabetic, too? Bugs is diabetic; there seems to be something with Bank Pool players…
DA: Let’s see, diabetic, cancer, my heart, fibromyalgia, COPD, thin bones – that’s what hurts the most.
1P: Wow, that’s a lot of things to deal with!
DA: But you know, when I’m sitting down, I’m fine. It’s just if I have to stand or walk a little distance; I can’t do that.
After that tournament Eddie and his stake horse took me down to Knoxville and that’s when I played Murraysville Lefty. I said, ‘You don’t remember me , do you.’ And he took a step backwards and looked me over and said, ‘Nah.’ And I said, ‘Well, I’m that old bastard you played over in Murraysville.’ And he said, ‘Oh, I remember you.’ I said, ‘Well I come to play and I come to bet high.’ So he says, ‘Well let’s just play some for two thousand.’ I looked at him and said, ‘Make it a thousand.’ So we made the game for the next day, and when I came in there are over a hundred people there at eleven o’clock in the morning waiting to watch. We played 15 ball bank pool; whoever gets eight first wins and he wins the first game.
I’m nervous and everything, but I had just won that tournament and I was playing soooo good. The second game I ran six and then two and out; it took me two innings. The next game it was four and four. The next game it was like five and three. And then I had one game where I ran eight. The time at that time was a penny a minute. We played six games, and the time came to .22 cents! How strong is that? Most of the time a 15 ball rack of Bank Pool takes a minimum of twenty minutes.
1P: So in that .22 cents of table time, how much did you win?
DA: Four thousand. And this guy here, Murraysville Lefty, was known for losing real big, but when I played him and he’s unscrewing his stick, my heart is saying, ‘Noooo, you can’t quit!’ I’m saying that to myself because I know he always loses like twenty or thirty thousand. So the next day, I asked the rack guy there, ‘Why in the hell did he quit?’ So he said, ‘I’ll tell you why he quit. You embarrassed him. You made him look so bad, he just couldn’t take it.’ I mean I just ran out, ran out, ran out; boom, boom, boom, it was over. That’s got to be some kind of record; six games of fifteen ball Bank in twenty-two minutes.
1P: That’s amazing! And that’s Eddie Taylor country, Knoxville.
DA: That’s why he took me down there; he knew this guy.
1P: When you came out of the service did you get back into pool fulltime?
DA: When I first came out I went to work as a dealer over in Newport. Later on I was a bartender at the Sheraton Gibson Hotel downtown. Then I worked at the Playboy Club for two years. Then I had my own place for about five years. Then I went to work for Entertainment Coupons for sixteen years and that was the end of it.
1P: So your fulltime pool was pretty limited…
DA: Absolutely, yes. I also managed a place called the Peacock Lounge up in Mergard’s Bowling Alley in Cincinnati, which was the other place that I didn’t give you the name of earlier. There was Demas Billiards and then there was Mergard’s Bowling Alley. There was all kinds of action up there. It was a good spot.
1P: So you got to combine a little pool with your work for a while there.
DA: Right, I was out there every day.
1P: You mentioned you bumped into Fats early on.
DA: Yeah, we played and I beat him like six games in a row, playing Bank Pool, and he quit. Then we did another thing. We did an exhibition match, and he played so bad it was embarrassing. I had done everything. I set up the place; I got the rooms and the hotel for free. I got the ballroom for free. I got National Billiards to come out and set up a table. Made a program and sold advertising in the program. All Fats had to do was come in and play, and he played sooo bad. Then he’d tell me, ‘Don’t worry about it.’ But I said, ‘I do worry about it. These people know me!’ Nice guy, though; very funny. I really liked him, but he just didn’t give a shit about nothing. I don’t think he could write either; I don’t know if he could read.
1P: Yeah, that’s what I hear, too. You mentioned Springfield, Ohio, did you ever bump into George Rood?
DA: We never played. George was pretty old at that time. That tournament was about thirty years ago.
1P: What’s really impressive is he’s still alive!
DA: I didn’t know that; he was old then.
1P: I wanted to ask you about other Banks tournaments…
DA: I know I won a few of them.
1P: Do you remember the Billiard Café?
DA: I know what you’re talking about. We never could get any action over there at all. Nice place, but we could never get action. But there was another place, on the second floor. A real old room that had billiard tables and snooker tables.
1P: That sounds like Bensinger’s or maybe Chris’s Billiards.
DA: It might be. That’s when I played Chicago Freddy. I think I played him in the finals and he beat me. But then we were going to play afterwards for a thousand, and I asked that guy that owns the pool table company, I forget his name…
1P: Greg Sullivan?
DA: Yeah, Greg Sullivan. So I asked Greg, ‘You want to take half of this?’ And my daughter was standing there. So my daughter called me over and says, ‘Dad, you promised you weren’t going to nit when you came up here. You’ve got enough money; play him.’ So we played three out of five for a thousand, I think, and I beat him two sets. So I got his prize money and I got my prize money.
Then I was in a big tournament out in LA; it was Banks, One Pocket and 9-Ball.
1P: That was the one Mark Tadd nearly swept all three divisions.
DA: I don’t know, but I was sick at the time. I had to sit down between every shot. Anyway, I get in the loser’s bracket, and I’ve got to get up again. You know, when you get in the loser’s bracket. So I played a guy, I can’t think of his name, an Italian name.
1P: Danny DiLiberto?
DA: No, I know him. This guy does some commentary and so on.
1P: Oh, Billy Incardona?
DA: Yeah! So he’s got me; it’s a race to three and he beat me the first two, but then I beat him three in a row. And then I beat everybody else and got into the finals against…what was his name?
1P: Mark Tadd?
DA: Yeah, he was a light skinned black guy with freckles or something. I had just beaten ‘Cardone, or whoever it was and I was dead tired and I said, ‘When am I gonna play?’ So they told me some kind of time, and I went upstairs and lay down, but I hadn’t laid down twenty minutes when they called me and said I’m up. I’ve got to play because they’ve got to get the tables out of there. So I went down there and I got beat, and ended up in second place. It wasn’t bad money for second place though.
Donny placed 2nd to a red hot Mark Tadd in the Banks division of the 1993 LA Open.
Tadd won the Bank and 9-Ball divisions, but fell second to Steve Cook in the One Pocket, coming ever so close to sweeping all three divisions.
DA: I remember some other tournament, and afterwards I was on the road with Nick Varner and we ran into that left handed pool player… he’s from New York, I think…
1P: Not Sigel?
DA: Yeah, that’s it. Sigel and his road partner.
1P: Larry Hubbart.
DA: Yeah; two swell guys. Well, we gave them the spot to go to down there, and they left, and about an hour later, Nick and I ain’t getting no action, so I said, ‘What the hell; let’s just drive down there too.’ So we hung around two days, and they’re not in action yet. We don’t go into the poolroom of course, because we don’t want to connect with them, you know. But the idea is, if they win some money, they’re going to give us 10-15%. So me and Nick went to North Carolina or someplace close by because we ain’t getting any action there and we can’t go in the poolroom. So we went over there for two days and we come back and the action’s over and they’re gone. So I ask how much? Thirty-five thousand they beat him out of. This guy has always been known to lose twenty, thirty thousand. He ran something like three poker rooms in Knoxville and he had a bunch of money. To this day I don’t know if those guys gave Nick some money, but I know I never got any of it.
1P: So you traveled with Nick Varner, too?
DA: A little bit.
1P: Nick turned into a real good banker too, in his deliberate style.
DA: Oh, yeah, he turned into a real good banker! I don’t know exactly how old he was when we went on the road. He didn’t play that good when we went to Carolina. He got action, good action, but he couldn’t get the money. But later on, say five years later, he was playing so good it was unreal.
1P: So how old was Nick then?
DA: Nick was young; he was in his twenties.
1P: Was he learning banking from you, then?
DA: Nah, not really. He played good then, but he was still far from reaching his peak.
1P: How about in Banks?
DA: He never played me in Banks; it was strictly 9-Ball. I played the Bank if there was action.
1P: So Donny, would you say you have a certain style of banking?
DA: Well I played a style that was totally mine. Most of the time I would just split the distance – like a cross side shot, if the ball was sitting on the middle diamond I would somehow just divide the distance between that and the side pocket and hit ‘em. I would run lots of balls. I played position every time I shot, unless it was an absolute, got-to-play-safety kind of shot. Then I would play safe.
1P: But mainly you played position?
DA: Oh, all the time.
1P: So you ran banks real well…
DA: Oh yeah! Years ago, all they did was hit and duck; hit and duck. I really honestly believe that I introduced position to Bank Pool. How old are you?
1P: I’m 55.
DA: I’m about twenty years older.
1P: So you played aggressive position.
DA: Yeah! At that time, all you’d do was hit and duck. You’d play a long shot and bring the cue ball back up the table.
1P: That sounds like what Piggy Banks calls ‘bank and swing’.
DA: You’d do that every shot! Well, if it was a little cross corner or cross side, no, then you’d probably play position on that if you could. But most of the shots you’d play safe.
1P: But you had enough confidence in your banks that you just went ahead and played position?
DA: Oh, yeah. I killed them on position. I played real good position, too.
1P: Did you have certain kinds of banks that were your favorites?
DA: Cross-sides; that was my specialty. And short-long shots, where the ball is close to the rail, and the cue ball is close, too. But the cross-sides shots were really my strength.
1P: Did you stay around the center of the ball with your english?
DA: I generally used a lot of english.
1P: You did?
DA: All the time.
1P: Now that’s different from a lot of these guys.
DA: Yeah. I’m not convinced that’s the best way to go, but it was the best way to go for me. I would make some shots that were just unbelievable because of the english.
1P: So when you said you would split the angle…
DA: Well, the rest comes with speed. You’ve got to know the speed that splits the angle.
1P: So you’d adjust your speed, and maybe your english, especially if you were playing position. You might even play the same shot a different way.
DA: That’s true. One thing that helped me was I could practice for hours. This was true all my life. I just loved Bank Pool. A lot of players didn’t like to practice a lot, they always wanted to play somebody. I could practice four, six, eight hours a day.
1P: And maintain your focus?
DA: Yeah. I just loved it. My whole life, I could always practice by myself. People would come up to me and say, ‘You want to play some?’ And I’d say, ‘Nah, not really. I’d rather not.’
1P: Did you have a routine for your practice?
DA: No, not really. I’d just throw the balls out on the table and start shooting.
1P: Just spread the balls out and start firing away?
DA: Right, because you’re going to get different shots that way.
1P: So Donny, who do you feel that should be recognized, besides yourself, for the Bank Pool Hall of Fame?
DA: Well, who’s the guy that runs that big tournament down in Louisville?
1P: Greg Sullivan?
DA: Yeah. They wrote a story once where he said these are the five greatest Bank Pool players in the world, not necessarily in order, and the names were Truman, Bugs, me, Taylor, and I forget the other. [later recalled as Tony Fargo]
1P: Had Gary Spaeth come along then?
DA: No, not Gary. Gary got to the point where he and I played a few different times and we broke even. He just got so good, and I was getting older. I think we played just twice, and broke even. I tell you, Gary playing 9-Ball – nothing else but 9-Ball – was one of the best 9-Ball players I’ve ever seen in my life, but he just could not get there for that big win. I don’t know why, but he just could not get there. I know you got all those people that would say, ‘Well, Joey was a much better player than Gary.’ But I said, ‘That is such bullshit; it’s pitiful.’ Gary could beat Joey at every game; there was no games Joey could beat him at. But Gary got a bad break, getting sick with, what was it?
1P: Leukemia, I think.
DA: Yeah, he needed a bone transplant. I thought he was going to beat it. I was in the hospital at the same time, and we were talking to each other on the phone. He got a bad break, real bad break.
1P: Yeah, he sure did. I think it ended up where he and Joey weren’t too far apart when they died.
DA: Yeah, maybe five years or something. I always like Gary; a lot of people didn’t like him, but I always liked him.
The cover of the program Donny put together for an exhibition with Fats. The game was 'Bank Shot, Straight Shot' -- the requirement being that players had to alternate a bank shot with a stright pool shot to score.
1P: Then there were some other pretty good Chicago players besides Bugs, too...
DA: Piggy, he’s a real good one.
1P: He’s a guy that we haven’t put on the ballot yet, just because he’s a little bit younger, but he’ll be on there soon.
DA: I just don’t know. I haven’t really been able to do anything for about seven years. I’d love to go down there next January, but I don’t know if I can take it. I’ve been wanting to go down for the last few years, but I’m scared.
1P: Because of your health?
DA: Yeah. The next time I go to the hospital I’m putting in for one of those scooters, one of those little scooter chairs. If I could get one of them, I could probably go down there with Greg Randall, and I’d be all right, because I could get around in that real good.
1P: Well, I wonder if that could be arranged, so you could have one in Louisville. I’ll have to check on that. I know I’ve seen those before; maybe we could get one for you. Sometimes a place will have one available for their guests.
DA: Well, you know what they want to rent just a regular wheelchair, that you’ve got to push? Sixty bucks a day! It’s ridiculous.
Now you’ve got me thinking about it, and I got pissed off because Truman got in there ahead of me.
1P: Well, to a certain degree people vote for the players they are familiar with, and Truman is still out there, and still playing real good, and he’s popular…
DA: When you read that article you’ll read something about that, because I’m like ‘the unknown man’. Well, a lot of the pool players know me, but the people that buy the magazines and stuff, they don’t know me.
1P: Well, I’m going to try to help do something about that. You must have also bumped into Vernon Elliott?
DA: Yeah, I played him in Louisville. We played a set of 9-Ball and a set of bank pool. He beat me in the bank pool and I beat him in the 9-Ball, which should have been the opposite! Then he decided to quit, which was okay with me because I knew he could play so good. But I knew I could beat him playing bank pool, at least that’s my opinion.
1P: But you didn’t play him after that?
DA: Nope. I saw him in Detroit, when he won all that money. I got a bad break up there, not having somebody to steer me in there.
1P: You mentioned you kind of got knocked after one match.
DA: I played a guy called California Johnny, and beat him, and then I played this guy, Carl Henderson.
1P: Maybe that was Marvin Henderson?
DA: Yeah, that’s the guy. I played him and I just steamrolled him. But then the next day he had a backer and we were supposed to play for some real big money and the backer walked over and he asked this big black guy who had been watching before, ‘How does this kid play?’ I was only about four or five feet away, so I could hear him. He looked right up at me and said, ‘Like God.’ It was one of those deals like when I played Murraysville Lefty; I might have even played better. I played so good I always said I wish I had it on film.
1P: So you were raining the banks.
DA: Yeah it was unbelievable, because Marvin was a good player.
1P: Yeah, he was a very good player.
DA: But I beat him so easy it was unbelievable. Here’s a good story for you. You know Pittsburgh Johnny?
1P: No, I can’t say I know him.
DA: Well, the first week I went up to Detroit I was having a problem getting in, but I did see Johnny, and he’s dressed like a bum, needs a shave, dirty and everything. But I couldn’t get in. But the next week I went up again and I got in that week and Johnny comes walking through the front door with about six or seven people following him and he’s got on a new sport coat, pants, these ten dollar foot-long cigars. The wind-up was, he had played some guy, getting staked, and beat him out of three hundred and something thousand. Yeah. And then a couple weeks later I went back and Johnny’s a bum again, he lost it all.
1P: Wow, easy come, easy go!
DA: At that time, the table time at this place was 10 % of whatever you win – that was how much the time was, so there was like thirty thousand dollar time! And you’d be crazy not to pay it, because that’s the kind of action that was in the place.
1P: Yeah, and if you didn’t pay it, you weren’t coming back.
DA: Absolutely right. And one of the real good pool players wouldn’t pay it, and he didn’t get to go back. I can’t remember who that was at the moment.
1P: Mike Carrella?
DA: I don’t think that was it. But that place was the damnedest thing you ever saw in your life for money. If you were in there after midnight, you hardly saw a game for less than ten thousand. It was a dream spot for a good player.
1P: Now, why do you suppose that happened?
DA: Well, it turned into a private club, and word got out. I think some guys were bringing a lot of drug money in there and they just didn’t care. They’d put up the money to stake one good pool player and another guy would stake another good player to play him. Just all kinds of damn action!
1P: That’s amazing. So that was The Rack… So when Vernon Elliott went in there, he would have been low key, and worked the angles a little bit for a while to set something bigger up…
DA: Vernon Elliott was probably the best unknown pool player in the world. He was a real good player.
1P: But it sounds like you were more like a horse that wants to run…
DA: Well, most of the time, especially after I got out of the service, I just didn’t have time. Even when I had the bar, the bar wasn’t going too good, and on weekends I had to go out of town and hustle to get the rent money.
But when I was playing at Mergard’s, that’s when I put the time in. I didn’t have to be behind the bar, so I was out in the room about six of the eight hours I was supposed to be there, or eight of the ten, whatever it was.
I’ll tell you, I was playing pretty good pool up until about six or seven years ago.
1P: Well I was looking through that stuff you sent me, and one of the things that struck me was that in that tournament in 1993 you were mentioned as the oldest player in that tournament. That would have been 13 or 14 years ago.
DA: I would have been 64 then. And I was really supposed to beat the guy that won.
Fats and Donny pose for their 1974 exhibition challenge
1P: Mark Tadd?
DA: Yeah; I’m supposed to beat him. I tried to hustle him afterwards. Of course I’m glad he said no because I was so worn out. You know when you get in the loser’s bracket?
1P: Yeah, plus you weren’t feeling good.
DA: No, I wasn’t. I guess I’ve been sick a little bit longer than I thought.
1P: Well if it’s been going on for that long.
DA: Yeah, I went in the hospital the first time right after that tournament. Then I was operated on again in 1996, for a six-way bypass. Then two years ago I got one of those pig valves. I’ve got so many damn things wrong with me I’m like a walking miracle. But I was still playing real good in my sixties. Like when I beat the Mexican guy, his name’s on that list.
1P: Raphael Martinez?
DA: Yeah, Martinez.
1P: Was that out in California?
DA: No, I beat him here in Cincinnati. There’s this millionaire friend of mine, but we gambled with each other, and he was wanting to go on the road with Raphael and stake him. So he calls me up and says, ‘You want to play Raphael some Bank Pool?’ I sad, ‘Yeah.’ He said, ‘Well, you’ve gotta come over to my house.’ And I said, ‘Okay.’ So we racked the balls, I believe we were going to play for a hundred a game, and the phone rings. So the guy backing Raphael gets on the phone and starts talking, while me and Raphael start playing. Well, by the time he got off the phone, I had beaten Raphael seven or eight in a row. So the guy gets off the phone and asks, ‘Well, how do you stand?’ And I say, ‘You owe me eight hundred.’ He says, ‘What?!’ So I told him, ‘I beat him eight in a row.’ We played one more, and I beat him that one too, and he pulled him up.
1P: You mentioned that you took Steve Cook on the road a little when he was young…
DA: Oh yeah. Steve was like sixteen or seventeen. I didn’t know him, but he came to Cincinnati and I watched him play and I thought, man oh man, would I like to take this kid on the road!
1P: Did he look as innocent then as he did later?
DA: Oh, he looked so young; he was seventeen, but he looked like he was maybe fifteen. So we went down to Louisville to this poolroom where there was action. What was good about him, he loved to play like I did, except he was a kid and loved it more than I did. He got into a six or seven handed five dollar 9-Ball game and he ground out about six hundred. Then we heard about some action and we decided to drive over to this black pool hall. They brought a guy in and I beat him out of like twelve hundred. So we’re ahead like eighteen hundred, but it’s late Saturday night, going into Sunday, and the poolrooms down there are all closed on Sunday, or they were at that time. So I said, ‘Let’s go back to Cincinnati; you can stay at my house.’
1P: So at that time he wasn’t driving yet?
DA: To tell the truth, I don’t know how the hell he got here, because he went with me in my car, that’s all I know.
So we came back, and Steve gets introduced to One Pocket. The guy he’s playing makes cues; he’s kind of bald-headed and I think he’s from like Colorado. I can’t think of his name, naturally [later confirmed as Bill Stroud]. But Steve got playing him One Pocket and the guy beats him out of like five or six hundred. All the time I’m trying to get Steve to quit, but he’s one of these guys that goes off and he’ll go busted for everything. He wouldn’t quit, so I said, ‘Well, off me,’ and he lost a little bit more before he quit. Then he wanted to go on the road again but I was pissed off at him so I said, ‘No, I’m not going to do it.’ That was really stupid on my part because this kid was a real moneymaker!
Donny 'The Cincinnati Kid' in a wild west outfit for a
photo shoot used in a magazine article about him.
photo from Millionaire Magazine
1P: So he wasn’t familiar with One Pocket yet; that was like his introduction?
DA: That was his introduction to it. And you know, if you don’t play One Pocket and you’ve got somebody that does, shame on you.
1P: And you don’t realize the kind of trap you’re in because you have no clue about what they know, and what they are doing to you.
DA: You are totally trapped.
1P: And they’re making these shots that look like luck, too.
DA: Yeah, it’s really beautiful when you introduce somebody to One Pocket, ‘Well, it’s easy; you get a pocket and I get a pocket. That’s all there is to it. Whoever gets eight balls first wins.’ With somebody who can play a little pool, they’re thinking, ‘well how hard can that be?’
1P: And of course Steve could play a little. You know Donny, I find that interesting that you were with Steve Cook when he first got introduced to One Pocket, and you were also with Clem when he first got introduced to One Pocket, and they were both about the same age.
DA: Yeah, that’s about how old Clem was, too, maybe a year younger, 16 or 17.
1P: I noticed one of the players on your list was Tom Smith…
DA: Yeah, Tom was like 96 when he died, and he was still hustling pool! He died because he didn’t have any air conditioning in the room wherever he was staying; the heat got him.
1P: Oh, heat prostration.
DA: God knows how long Tom might have lived.
1P: Was he from the Cincinnati area?
DA: This was his home base, but Tom was from Russia.
1P: So his name really wasn’t Tom Smith, it was some Russian name?
DA: I don’t know if he changed his name legitimately or if he just went by the name. Tom was an old time hustler. He’d go in somewhere and slough off some money. Nobody does that anymore! They just go on in and they muscle hustle. That’s the way I liked to do it anyway, because that way you can win money quick.
1P: When you’re talking about muscle hustle, you’re not talking about physical intimidation, you’re talking like, ‘Bring on your strongest player, and we’ll go head to head and see who’s strongest.’
DA: Not exactly like that, but similar.
1P: But you’re not hiding your speed.
DA: Right. And I’d be popping off; cracking smart-ass, you know, being a wise guy. Which is all an act, of course. So pretty soon they say, ‘Well, we’ll get somebody to beat you,’ and then you’re in action.
1P: I’ve heard that Puckett did that.
DA: Puckett, he muscled people when he played them! He was playing in Cincinnati and he was muscling every shot.
1P: He just wouldn’t lay off?
DA: Nah, he could be bad.
1P: And he was a big guy too.
DA: Oh, yeah, he was enormous!
1P: I’ve always tended to avoid playing people like that. What the heck, I’m already risking my money, I don’t want to risk my neck, too!
DA: Yeah, really.
1P: You want to get paid if you win, too.
DA: That’s another thing. I muscle hustled in a completely different meaning. I only weighed 120 pounds soaking wet.
1P: So you use it as a phrase meaning…
DA: Get me the best pool player and let’s get it on. I didn’t really have the time to do it any other way because I always worked or had my own business or something. I never had time to go out of town except two or three days at a time. I always had to be back to work.
1P: How about when you were just starting out, going on the road with Clem and Joey Spaeth?
DA: We would just go in and ask to play. Joey was the worst player among the three of us, at the time; of course Joey did get good later on. But Clem was the good 9-Ball player and I was the good Bank Pool player. And Joey was no slouch. He still played good enough to make money. We would just go in and try to get a game, that’s all; just walk up to somebody and ask them. We wouldn’t ask for the best player; we’d just ask people in the poolroom to play, or if there was a game going on, try to get in it.
1P: That didn’t usually lead to real big money though, did it?
DA: No. We were just kids then, so if we made a little money we were good to go.
1P: So if you won a hundred bucks in a night, that was good.
DA: Oh, yeah, that was real good.
1P: Well alright, Donny, I’ve got some good stuff here.
DA: You got a lot of information.
1P: I enjoy hearing those stories, and once you get going you seem to remember more and more, but I’m going to let you go. You missed your show, too, didn’t you?
DA: No, I’m watching it now.
1P: Oh, good!
DA: My kids bought me a big 61 inch wide TV. My eyes are bad, but I can see that.
1P: Well, it’s been good talking to you, Donny!
DA: Nice talking to you, too.
All photos courtesy Donny Anderson; all rights reserved.
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