Rack’em up with Leonard ‘Bugs’ Rucker

Exclusive OnePocket.org Interview

Ranked right up there with Eddie Taylor as a banking genius, ‘Bugs’ was also a dominant after hours One Pocket player. He was honored in January as part of the first class of inductees into the One Pocket Hall of Fame. In recent years Bugs has been suffering from the progression of diabetes, which limits his activity. This interview includes major contributions from fellow Chicagoans John Henry, Sylvester Duncan, Glenn Rogers and Freddy Bentivegna — all regular companions and competitors who know‘Bugs’ very well.

OnePocket.org: So, John Henry here took you on your first road trip?
Leonard Rucker: Yeah.

OnePocket.org: How old were you at that time?
Leonard Rucker: About seventeen or eighteen.

OnePocket.org: So you were already a strong player by then?
Leonard Rucker: Yeah I was almost a champion at seventeen or eighteen.

OnePocket.org: How did you get to be so good, so young?
Leonard Rucker: Well, my uncle had a poolroom, but I wasn’t old enough to get in it. I used to slip in there when there wasn’t nobody there, and he let me hit some balls around. Then I got interested and started playing, and I came up around good players.

OnePocket.org: When were you born, Bugs?
Leonard Rucker: August 18th, 1938, that means I’m 66.

John Henry: I didn’t really tell him about the road trip when we went to Baltimore…
Leonard Rucker: I didn’t even know I was going! I was like seventeen, and I’m scared to death; I had never been out of town. I said, ‘Where are we going?’ And John Henry said, ‘We’re going home.’ Then we passed a sign for Ohio, and I said, ‘This ain’t the way home!’ And he says, ‘We’re going home; we’re just going to make some stops first.’

John Henry: You were on the road and you beat everybody.
Leonard Rucker: Once I started playing I forgot all about that I was away from home; I beat on people pretty good. I didn’t lose a session.

John Henry: We went to Philadelphia, he beat a guy named Joe DiMaggio. He beat him 15 straight games. We went to Atlantic City, he beat Atlantic City Herb 14 straight games.
Leonard Rucker: I won all the pennies and everything.

John Henry: We went all over Atlantic City and he never lost one game. He beat guys from 12 to 13 to 18 straight games and he never lost hardly a game all while we were on the road.
Leonard Rucker: If you asked me how I did that, I could never tell you how I did that. I never lost a game. I think I lost one game. You remember Chick beat me my first game and I was mad because he wouldn’t raise the bet.

John Henry: Yeah, some guy named Chick beat him. We went to St. Louis; we went all over.
Leonard Rucker: Now he’s got me on the road.

John Henry: Yeah, me and Paul Jones. We went everywhere.
Leonard Rucker: Yeah, the first guys who ever took me out of town.

John Henry: But he was so easy to get along with. There was one night me and Paul were arguing all the time and I said, ‘Aren’t I right, Bugs?’ and Bugs said, ‘Yeah, man.’ And Paul said, ‘Aren’t I right, Bugs?’ and Bugs said, ‘Both you all are right.’
Leonard Rucker: You were arguing so much, I couldn’t keep up.

OnePocket.org: You were just listening in the back seat?
Leonard Rucker: That’s right, I got tired of you all arguing, but they never did shut up. All the way to Baltimore from Florida to Chicago and they’d ask me, ‘Tell him, Bugs.’ and I’d just say, ‘That’s right.’

Bugs at the Derby City Classic 2005
with player Darrell Abernathy;
that’s John Henry in the center background

John Henry: He saved my life and probably his own life. He was playing a set with Eddie Taylor. You heard of Eddie Taylor, right?

OnePocket.org: Oh yeah.
John Henry: Well he and Eddie were playing 8 to 7 one-pocket. They were playing a race to three and Eddie had him two games to one, and a big lead in the fourth game. Eddie had every ball near his pocket but two balls. The guy that was backing Bugs was a gangster that had two guns; he had killed a man before. Anyway, Bugs got ready to shoot, and he grabbed Bugs’ stick and said, ‘What you going to do?’ Bugs said, ‘I’m going to shoot.’ He said, ‘No, you’re not. I want you to try to play safe.’ Bugs said, ‘I can’t play safe; can’t you understand, there is no way to play safe.’ And the man says, ‘I don’t care what you do; I don’t care if you lose but don’t shoot at this ball; you’ve got to play safe.’ Bugs tried to explain to the man that he has to shoot at this ball.
Leonard Rucker: Man, that was a tough shot!

John Henry: You had to kiss off a ball. If you don’t make that shot, this guy…
Leonard Rucker: He might have shot me.

John Henry: He might have taken Bugs out.
Leonard Rucker: Because he had told me up front, he told me not to shoot that ball.

John Henry: The man said, ‘Look, whatever you do, do not shoot that ball.’ But Bugs says, ‘Look, I got to shoot.’
Leonard Rucker: I got to shoot at the ball!

John Henry: Bugs shot the ball and kissed it off another ball into the pocket and went seven and out. That made Bugs tied two games apiece. The next game Bugs broke the balls and made a ball on the break and ran out. So Bugs won the match. This guy that was watching, he had a $20,000 watch, he took it off and gave it Bugs.
Leonard Rucker: You know, he was going to buy me the Lincoln Continental; that was when it came out in 1969.

John Henry: Eddie Taylor called him the greatest player in the world.

Continued with John Henry

OnePocket.org: So you took Bugs on the road a few times?
John Henry: For 30 years I took him on the road. I had a poolroom; a guy named Bob Jones owned it and he and his wife gave it to me to run because he was out of town working on a train. So I took care of the poolroom and hired people. Then when we got ready we’d go on the road. Me, Bugs and a guy named Chicago Paul.

OnePocket.org: Oh I remember Paul; I played him once when I went to Chicago.
John Henry: That was Paul Jones. Bugs was my hero. He was the greatest player I’ve ever seen. The reason I say that, when there was somebody in a town that nobody could beat, we’d take Bugs and nobody could beat him. I never saw Bugs cry about a table and he would always just go to the rack and pick out a stick; he was a champion that never owned a cue stick.

He’d come in here; he’d shoot with this stick. He’d come in tomorrow, shoot with that stick. He doesn’t care about no stick and no table. He’d just go to the rack and get a stick. In my book, I don’t understand why there is no picture of him.

When he couldn’t get in the tournaments, he started playing people for money. He went to New York and played Johnny Ervolino; he won $80,000. He turned around and went to Florida and played Sam Blumenthal and he won $70,000. He played Squirrel and beat him by a lot. He was the only guy around. He got so he didn’t want to play in the tournaments. He said, ‘I don’t want to play no sociable event.’ He got to not be a tournament player. He never played in no tournament. He was just a pool player.

The only time he’d go to a tournament was to gamble. He’d go up to the guy that just won the tournament and say, ‘I’ll give you a ball if you want to play.’ Larry Johnson won the one-pocket tournament in Johnston City and he give him a ball.

OnePocket.org: But when you brought Bugs down to Johnston City for the first few years they wouldn’t let him play in the tournament?
John Henry: When all these guys came down, they wouldn’t let none of the black guys play.

John ‘Cannonball’ Chapman
Photo courtesy Ken Cook

OnePocket.org: Like Marvin Henderson?
John Henry: And Cannonball from Chicago; he tried to play. Youngblood, he’s a great player from Chicago and they wouldn’t let him play. Cicero Murphy, they wouldn’t let him play. The guy from New York, James Evans, came down the first year they had it and he wanted to play. They told him he could play, he was real light skinned, if he would sign his name like he was Italian. But he said, ‘If I can’t play as a black guy, I won’t play.’ He went back to New York. He wouldn’t play. Him and Marvin were both light skinned, but they wouldn’t do that to play.

OnePocket.org: I think I heard that story before but I didn’t realize it happened in Johnston City, I thought it was in the World Straight Pool Tournaments.

John Henry: At that time the World Tournament was Johnston City. That’s why Cicero (Murphy) went in the Hall of Fame, because he was the first black guy to win a major tournament. That was something like 1967, the first time they let a black guy play.

OnePocket.org: Well, it seems like the BCA painted themselves in a corner because they only recognize the tournament winners, yet they wouldn’t let the black guys play for all those years!
John Henry: I know in 1963 when Kennedy got killed and they passed the Civil Rights Bill where anybody could play anywhere, I remember we were down there and tried to play. The Jansco Brothers got a hat and went around to all the players and they had to decide, do you want them to play. It wound up more votes for no than yes. And we didn’t get to play in 1964. We didn’t get to play in 1964, 1965, 1966 and then in 1967 they finally let a black guy play. They let Cicero play. And Cicero played Irving Crane in the finals and wound up winning. Did you ever see Bugs play?

OnePocket.org: I saw him once in Washington, D.C. when he played in Strawberry’s Tournament. I also watched Bugs and Grady play a little after hours, too.
John Henry: That was the only time I ever knew Bugs to quit playing pool for money. He played Grady for so many years. I was there that night. That was in ’92 or ’93 or something like that. Bugs had stayed up all night and after three days he played Grady and he just completely quit because he couldn’t walk around the table. In Detroit he beat Grady. He offered him a ball, but Grady said he wouldn’t take the ball. He says, ‘I’m the best player in the world; I cannot take a ball. Even if I know I can win $20,000 off you I wouldn’t take a ball.’

You had guys like Joey Spaeth, a great shooter and nine-ball player. Jersey Red, he was a good player. They could out shoot Bugs, but they couldn’t beat him because he made all of those banks.

Another thing was he was the best guy I ever seen shoot off the rail. He could shoot from rail to rail better than anybody; that helped him out. He made all kinds of banks and long shots off the rail. He wasn’t so talented or smarter than the rest of the people but when his time came to play or shoot he was the most dangerous player that I’ve seen play the game.

OnePocket.org: So he had a killer instinct? He would make those shots that if you make it, you can win the game, but if you miss it, you lose?
John Henry: Bugs was the most deadly shooter for the money and the bigger the bet got up there, the better he was. He was the greatest money player I’ve ever seen in my life.

If we had $1,000 when we’d go hustling, the first thing Bugs would do is put up $1,000. If we won he’d say, ‘Do you want to bet $2,000?’ We were in Johnston City when he played Fats. We had $1,100. He played Fats a set of banks for a $1,000. So he beat Fats the set of banks and then he played him ten-eight for $2,000. So he winds up winning the $2,000. Now we got $4,100. So Fats said, ‘I’m not going to play anymore banks.’ So Bugs said, ‘I’ll tell you what I’m going to do. I’m going to throw these balls (the cue ball and one object ball) on the table and wherever they stop I’ll bet you $4,000 I bank it.’

OnePocket.org: He would bet the whole $4,000 on one bank shot?
John Henry: At first nobody would bet, but then he threw the balls on the table and when they stopped it was in such a bad spot that now everybody jumped up and wanted to get in. They said, ‘You said wherever those balls stop?’ So Bugs says, ‘That’s what I said.’ So now everybody wanted to bet! So Bugs got down and made the ball straight back for the $4,000. He had more heart than all these guys playing pool. He’s my hero. He’s part of me.

He had no friends; he never really had a friend. I took him on the road all my life. I ran the poolroom and we played 1000 times. He always gave me the hit and a pick. The only reason we quit gambling was a man came in one time to shoot me because he found out that me and Bugs was the best of friends and he had staked Bugs playing me, two hit and the pick. But when Bugs was playing good, I don’t care what he was playing because you can’t beat him because he gets out every time you make a mistake. But somebody told the guy staking Bugs, ‘You can’t do that; they’re the best of friends. He takes him on the road wherever he goes.’

OnePocket.org: Did Bugs learn from being around Marvin Henderson?
John Henry: No, he never knew Marvin. It was a guy named Youngblood; he was the greatest bank player that I’ve ever seen play the game. You’ve heard of Eddie Taylor?

OnePocket.org: Yes.
John Henry: He’d be there with Eddie Taylor at his home trying to beat him. Youngblood was the greatest bank player. Have you heard of him?

OnePocket.org: I’ve heard the name. That’s his nickname; what was his real name?
John Henry: His name was, I’ll think of it in one minute. (later recalled as Javanly Washington)

Javanly Washington at Johnston City in the fall of 1962
Detail of drawing from Sports Illustrated Feb 25, 1963

He got a little nutty and went to the nuthouse. One time he escaped and he stayed out four years before they caught him, so when he went to court the judge said, ‘If you had enough sense to duck the police for four years we’ll turn you free.’

He was the greatest of all the players when Bugs came up around here, and he taught Bugs to play bank. Even when Bugs was a champion going around the country playing, Youngblood gave him ten-eight. He did that for like ten years. I remember one day finally Bugs beat him playing ten-eight, and Youngblood quit. I said, ‘Bugs, the guy’s been spotting you for so long, why don’t you play him even?’ Youngblood said, ‘I’m not going to play him even; if he wants to play me he’s got to give me ten-eight for ten years.’

I remember when Mosconi was doing his $100,000 tour thing. When he came to town they wanted somebody to put on an exhibition with Mosconi, so one time they picked Youngblood. He went down there and anybody that beat Mosconi got a pool stick, about a $300 pool stick. So Youngblood went down to play him. They played nine-ball; Mosconi won. They played banks; Youngblood won. They played straight pool; Youngblood broke the balls and Mosconi ran 150 and out. So now Youngblood went up to get the stick and they said, ‘Look, you didn’t win the stick.’ They said, ‘You had to beat Mosconi playing straight pool.’ Now who could beat Mosconi playing straight pool? Youngblood said, ‘That ain’t what you told me. You said if you beat Mosconi, you got the pool stick and I did beat him. Not only did I beat him but if he wants to bet something and play banks, I will play him. I did beat him and I will beat him.’

He was a great player. All the great players came to Chicago. ‘Blood played all the good players in the early 50’s, up in to the 60’s. About 1964 Bugs was a good player. But Youngblood was older than him. He came up in the early ‘50’s. Bugs is younger than I am. I’m 75, Bugs is 67, and Youngblood is like 87.

OnePocket.org: Is he still living?
John Henry: Yeah, he’s in the home. I talked to him for about 20 minutes before he knew who I was. He said, ‘Do you know Paul Jones is dead?’ Paul Jones had been dead for many, many years! Paul and Youngblood were best friends. Everything ‘Blood do, Paul tried to do. Youngblood was Paul’s hero.

OnePocket.org: So what kind of style of one-pocket would he play?
John Henry: He was a shoot-out. He was the greatest shooter that I’ve seen play the game of pool. What Bugs could do with one shot. He wasn’t like a man named Joey Spaeth or Jersey Red. They knew Clem (Eugene Metz). They know everything about the table. But they never could beat Bugs because Bugs could get out from different places they couldn’t get out from. Bugs would make that bank. He could cut that ball. He could shoot from the rail better than anyone I’ve ever seen.

OnePocket.org: You’re talking about Bugs or Youngblood?
John Henry: I mean Bugs, but he learned all this stuff from Blood. See Blood was Bugs hero. You ask him about Blood, I bet you he’ll say that. He was always scared of Blood. When he played Blood he was scared of him. Blood was like his hero. But from playing Blood, Bugs became the greatest player who played the game. Bugs started playing maybe 30 years after Blood and Bugs started getting better and better. So Bugs maybe became a better champion than Blood was. Bugs he don’t talk that much. You ask him a few things about Youngblood.

That’s the story on Bugs. He went all over the country playing everybody that played pool.

Continued with Sylvester Duncan

Joey Spaeth

Sylvester Duncan: I know Bugs from – over 30 something years. I followed him to Johnston City, I followed him to Dayton when he was playing in the 70’s. He played one-pocket about as good as anybody. Those two games, bank and one-pocket, I don’t think anybody ever played those two games better than he did.

I was there when he played Boston Shorty. Boston Shorty said, ‘How can you play me?’ Bugs said, ‘I can give you 9 to 8.’ Boston Shorty said, ‘Well you know I’m short; I have to get up on the table and play.’ Bugs said, ‘You can get yourself an arm up there Shorty!’ So to make a long story short he beat him like five games in a row real quick.

In Dayton he played Joey Spaeth. Joey Spaeth said Bugs can always throw that bank at him and shoot him some balls off. At time that the shark movie was out – they are talking about the shark in the ocean, you know the big white shark. Joey says, ‘Look at this; this is what you call baiting the hook. Bugs banked that ball and grabbed me and snatched me on the hook like that Jaws!’

He played a guy named Geese; he gave him 9 to 7. I used to go to school with Geese and I thought he was one of the best one-pocket players I’ve seen and Bugs gave him 9 to 7!

Johnny Ervolino and
Benny ‘Goose’ Conway
These two photos courtesy Mark Griffin

The last person he beat was Jersey Red. After Bugs beat him Ronnie Allen came in and Jersey Red told him, ‘Ronnie, you might as well go ahead and play him; he beat all of us.’ He beat like five different players.

Bugs said, ‘I’ll take 8 to 7 from you Ronnie.’ But Ronnie said, ‘You’ve already beaten me out of $30,000 that way. I can’t give you no spot.’ So he didn’t play Ronnie then. But when they played in Detroit that was some of the best one-pocket playing you would ever see. I think Ronnie Allen beat him – they were playing a race to five. I think Jones had Bugs staked. The first set Ronnie beat him in like 30 minutes. He made everything he shot at.

So now Bugs is down $25,000 from the first set and Jones says, ‘Play him another set Bugs, you didn’t get a chance to shoot that game.’ So anyway Ronnie beat him four in row the next set, but then he broke the balls and scratched in the fifth game. Bugs says, ‘My shot right?’ I think this is one reason why Bugs got diabetes now. He put that cue on the table, went in the men’s room, and pulled out one of those big bottles of Robitussin AC and came back with the stuff still on his mouth. He says, ‘It’s my shot, right?’ Then he beat Ronnie nine in a row. He erased that first four and beat him five more, so he won that set.

OnePocket.org: Wow.
Sylvester Duncan: So Ronnie says, ‘What the hell happened? I was running balls and all of a sudden it’s like I got hit by a bus.’ Then he says, ‘What’s that stuff on your mouth, Bugs?’ And Bugs says, ‘Even Popeye’s got to have his spinach.’

So Bugs told him, ‘Look, you won the first set and I won the second set; we should play the next one for $30,000.’ He didn’t even ask Jones but Jones says, ‘Yeah, I’ll go for that.’ And Ronnie Allen says, ‘You just got done beating the best one-pocket player of the last 35 years nine games straight, and you’re looking for more action?’ And they didn’t go back then. But in Austin they played again and Bugs says, ‘You’re not going to have it your way this time, Ronnie. We’re going to play four out of seven.’ So Bugs beat him three sets of $20,000.

OnePocket.org: And this was playing even?
Sylvester Duncan: So the next time I saw Ronnie it was at Strawberry’s Tournament and Ronnie saw me and he said, ‘What room is Bugs in?’ So I told him, ‘He’s in room 275.’ And he says, ‘Tell Bugs if he gives me 8 to 7, I’ll play him for $25,000.’ I hurried up and knocked on the door and told Bugs, ‘Ronnie said if you give him 8 to 7, he said he’ll play you for $25,000.’ Bugs had his pajamas on but he got his cue. I said, ‘Bugs, aren’t you at least going to put you’re pants on?’ He was in such a rush to play. Anyway, when we got down there to the poolroom they had thought better of it. They remembered what had happened in Austin, Texas and said never mind.

OnePocket.org: So they backed off?
Sylvester Duncan: Yeah. But Bugs played some of the best one-pocket in Detroit. I’d say of all the players in those two games, one-pocket and bank, he’s probably the best player playing those two games. Of course you don’t know about Youngblood, he was one of the best bank players.

OnePocket.org: I heard that he was the guy that Bugs learned from.
Sylvester Duncan: Yeah. He learned a lot from Blood.

OnePocket.org: And he’s still alive?
Sylvester Duncan: Yeah, he’s 84.

Weenie Beenie and Ronnie Allen with Bugs
at their One Pocket HOF induction

OnePocket.org: But not well?
Sylvester Duncan: He’s in a hospital. I stayed there a whole day at the park and I never got a chance to see him. But Bugs was just a very colorful player. He played his best game in the ‘70’s. He played one-pocket jam up and of course, he turned out to be one of best bank pool players of all times.

OnePocket.org: He kind of took that over from Eddie Taylor. It was Eddie Taylor then it was Bugs.
Sylvester Duncan: And Youngblood. Blood played Taylor at a time when Taylor was banking a lot of balls. See Blood would never miss a ball. He would break the balls and tell the guy he’s playing, ‘When a ball fall, you know I’m out.’ They don’t want to hear that. So Bugs learned a lot from him and he learned a lot from a guy named Hank Montague. A lot of people don’t know about him.

OnePocket.org: No, I never heard of him.
Sylvester Duncan: He helped make Bugs a champion because he made Bugs come off the rail a lot. He taught Bugs to shoot off the rail.

OnePocket.org: Because he would always leave him on the rail?
Sylvester Duncan: Nobody would ever want to play Hank because he would keep the balls froze. Or you would have to take a scratch.

OnePocket.org: I know Freddy talks about the Chicago style of One Pocket and part of that is you’re always up against the stack.
Sylvester Duncan: Yeah.

OnePocket.org: Was he one of the guys who developed that style?
Sylvester Duncan: I’d say Hank and a guy named Artie. They played the same way. That’s how Freddy learned. He learned from a guy named Artie Bodendorfer and that’s how Bugs learned to come out from that groove when you’re on the rail and everything. If he’s shooting off the rail, you’re not safe when you’re playing Bugs.

OnePocket.org: Did Artie and Bugs play?
Sylvester Duncan: They played a lot. Artie always got 9 to 8 from Bugs. Artie told me that the last time they played he was two games up on Bugs and Bugs won the next three games and Artie quit. He said that bank always saved him out of a lot of stuff.

OnePocket.org: And I guess he used banks a lot when he was running the balls. Other people play more of a straight pool pattern, but in Bugs’ patterns, bank shots are part of the patterns.
Sylvester Duncan: You’re exactly right.

OnePocket.org: From pretty much anywhere.
Sylvester Duncan: Some of the best one-pocket that I’ve seen in Chicago was when Bugs played Efren Reyes. That was some of the best, because they both shoot out a lot.

Bugs, the original owner of Chris’ Billiards, and ‘Tough Tony’
Photo courtesy Bruce Perry

OnePocket.org: Was that when Efren first came over in about ’86 or something?
Sylvester Duncan: No, this was like in the 90’s when Efren was playing real good.

OnePocket.org: Okay, so Efren had already learned how to play One Pocket.
Sylvester Duncan: Yeah, he knew how to play. He learned under Freddy. Freddy used to try to give him a ball and after a little while Efren was giving him a ball. I used to ask him who the toughest players were and he put Bugs over all of them because he said Bugs does stuff with more common sense. He can bank balls to his side of the table killing the cue ball on the rail. He does a lot of common sense things that none of the other players do playing One Pocket. And of course that bank is so strong in that game. But Efren is just a kick artist so it didn’t make a difference! But Bugs told me if he caught him in his prime when he was young, he said I don’t think he would have got me. When Bugs was in his prime he was like a machine.

OnePocket.org: It got to the point where it was hard for him to get a game, wasn’t it?
Sylvester Duncan: Yeah.

OnePocket.org: Is that why he laid off now and then?
Sylvester Duncan: Right. Well, he always seemed to have to give a spot up. When he gave a spot up in Chicago, he always gave one hit and the pick. So when he got out playing the champions, he shot out from everywhere.

OnePocket.org: I’ve heard Grady said that he’s the best at coming out of the break of anybody that he’s ever seen in one-pocket.
Sylvester Duncan: He’s never in a fix where he can’t get out of. Sometimes he banks a ball into the stack and makes balls shoot out. He always gives himself a chance to get out, be offensive, you know. It was a pleasure watching him all of these years.

OnePocket.org: He went to the first Johnson City when all it was just One Pocket?
Sylvester Duncan: Yes. It was One Pocket but he was mostly playing bank then. He didn’t really play one-pocket until later on. I’ll tell you how he learned to play One Pocket — by playing Joey Spaeth a lot. Joey Spaeth spotted him in One Pocket and Bugs was giving him a spot in bank to even it off. Pretty soon it got to the point where he’s playing One Pocket, jam up.

OnePocket.org: So that was in the 60’s?
Sylvester Duncan: Right. But in the 70’s, that was his best years. He was just unbeatable.

OnePocket.org: So like Eddie Taylor, he played banks before he switched over.
Sylvester Duncan: In the beginning, banks was his road game. But now in the 70’s One Pocket started to be his road game. That was his bread and butter because he banked so good. That helps your One Pocket game when you bank that good.

OnePocket.org: Because the balls on the other guy’s side of the table become your balls.
Sylvester Duncan: Exactly. I heard Jose Parica say that Bugs is one of the most aggressive players he’d ever seen. Well, he can afford to be aggressive because he’s always shooting at his pocket, giving himself an edge.

OnePocket.org: John Henry was saying that for a while Bugs had a bet where he would throw out the cue ball and one object ball and he’d bet all the money that he’d bank the ball.
Sylvester Duncan: Right. He learned a lot of banks from Blood. He learned a lot from the great pool players in Chicago. We had a lot of good ones there. With Bugs, he always had an advantage over Blood and Hank because he was younger than they were and he was coming up. He knew he had to beat those people and go out on the road and beat other people. He learned a little bit from all of them. That’s what made him a great player.

OnePocket.org: I understand that even though Bugs is a big guy he wasn’t intimidating in his demeanor.
Sylvester Duncan: Right. Guys were intimidated by the way he would get out. The reason why they called him Bugs is he would get down and he’s always looking at all the angles. He had a unique style where he would get down under the stick and he could see the shots, as opposed to Eddie Taylor who’s kind of like a stand-up. He knew where to hit the balls. He could make it with any shot. It was a pleasure knowing him, watching him play.

Continued with Freddy ‘The Beard’ Bentivegna and Glenn ‘Piggy Banks’ Rogers

OnePocket.org: You guys were both around Bugs for years…
Freddy Bentivegna: Bugs was like Eddie Taylor; he just played with any stick off the wall. When he got a game, he’d just reach over and grab whatever his hand landed on. One time Bugs was playing and one of the sticks was broke or something so he went and grabbed another stick and he took about three or four shots before he realized it didn’t even have a tip!
Glenn Rogers: He had an effect on people, intimidating in his own way. One time, he was playing one of the great pool players in New York somewhere. And the guy was beating Bugs real bad, had Bugs down to his last money. So Alfonso says, ‘Well, we’re going to have to walk home; we don’t have any money nowhere.’ So he made a phone call back to Chicago and called Billy Cardone (Incardona) and said, ‘Hey, Billy will you tell this guy who he’s playing.’ Once the guy found out who he was playing, Bugs beat him about 20 straight games. Now, he’s ruthless like that.

Freddy Bentivegna: Alfonso tells the story about when Bugs was playing Mizerak in Mizerak’s basement on his own table, and they were giving Mizerak 8 to 7. And he’s robbing him. So Mizerak says, ‘You got to give me 9 to 7.’ Mizerak, the world champion, wants 9 to 7, which is ridiculous! So Bugs says, ‘You got it.’ Alfonso is with him and he says, ‘You can’t give him that, Bugs,’ because he knows Mizerak. He says, ‘Are you kidding me or what? Play him 9 to 7 on his home table!?’ Bugs said, ‘The man is dead.’

Glenn ‘Piggy Banks’ Rogers, Bugs and Marco Marquez
Photo courtesy Diana Hoppe

But Bugs could do that, and would do it. He was a good hustler. He’d beat guys with incredible spots. The fact that you had the nuts didn’t make no difference! When he caught you starting to go bad, starting to tremble and shake and maybe you might say, ‘Give me another ball,’ he’d give it to you, but not the next time you played. But when he had you on the run he’d keep on pounding you until you were broke; he’d just apply the pressure and keep hammering you. He could do terrible, terrible things.

OnePocket.org: I never heard that about Bugs.
Glenn Rogers: He had the psychology. Like you, Freddy. For years I learned from you; I always looked up to your game. They used to call you Hippy Freddy. Do you remember that, Fred? Back when you had the long beard. A friend of mine named Apple, he’s dead, he told me, ‘You can beat that guy.’ He always believed I could beat you. So Freddy said, ‘Okay I’ll play you, son, for $30 a game or $40 a game.’ I was the most nervous person in the world being on the hill against Freddy because he’s going to find a way to squeeze you off the hill. I was confident with four balls but when I get on the hill I was frightened.

OnePocket.org: And that’s the kind of thing that Bugs would take advantage of?
Freddy Bentivegna: Bugs could smell fear. And he was the greatest recovery man I’ve ever seen – because Bugs had a couple of different speeds. He could look pitiful; so pitiful that you’d feel bad. I played him enough times where I would be playing him and I’d say ‘I feel ashamed for this guy, I’m beating him so bad.’ And then I would just show a little tiny bit of mercy instead of putting him away, and oh boy, he would turn it around and come back to life; a complete utter reversal and break me. There’d be no mercy for me! He showed me no mercy. So I had to really be careful playing him. I saw him do it to a lot of guys. Guys he played the first time maybe. They’d say, ‘This is the guy they say is Bugs? He can’t play!’ He was missing balls and struggling and dogging it. So they might let up just a hair or cabaret just a hair and give him one chance they shouldn’t have given him, miss one game ball or something.

And the thing about Bugs, the most important thing, Bugs used to get all the way out. That’s the key. He’d make that super phenomenal shot, an unbelievable trick shot, but then he would get out. He’d get all the way out. You could put the balls underneath the table, he would get out, all the way; I’ve seen him do it over and over.

He did it to me. He put an out on me. I’m playing him at the Four Bees Club and the situation is impossible to get out. I put the balls there, because I know who I’m playing and I know I’m going to make it real hard. The balls look impossible because there’s four balls on the table. No, actually there were three balls on the table. I’m playing safe, and if you saw the lay out, what I’m trying to do to keep him from having, you wouldn’t even believe it. You’d say, ‘What, are you kidding; you don’t want him to have that?’ No, I didn’t want him to have that. I shot a ball on my side. I’m trying to put the cue ball on the rail and it didn’t quite get there. And it got in the position and you say so what. When I saw that position, I said, ‘That’s it, I’m dead.’ There’s the table. There’s a ball over here just a little bit out of the pocket. There’s a ball on the rail about a diamond and a half up from the pocket. I got a ball in front of my pocket about half a diamond up and the cue ball is like here. So what did you do? So I know I’m dead when I see it. I know this is not good. Here’s what he plays. Cross corner, the cue ball goes one, two, three, four lays on the back rail, cross corner. Now, still this ball over here is only, this is the pocket, it’s only like this. And so he drags the cue ball up the rail. The shot is still a three to one shot, but I knew it was gone. I knew once he did the first shot, the rest of it is just history. Sure enough, bing it goes in. I knew I was a dead goose. You just couldn’t give him no chances where he can see all the way out.

Bugs & Artie Bodendorfer at the 2006
One Pocket Hall of Fame dinner
Steve Booth photo

OnePocket.org: You and Artie used to play?
Leonard Rucker: All the time. I couldn’t ever beat him, but I used to play him.

OnePocket.org: So how did he do it? Because they say he didn’t run balls as well as other guys, and he didn’t bank as well..
Leonard Rucker: He moved so good. Then when he got close to the balls he could run out. Very few people could out move him; I don’t know none who could.

OnePocket.org: So even with your banking, he was able to keep you off the banks?
Leonard Rucker: Yeah, he’d hide that ball from me.

OnePocket.org: Did you ever play Clem?
Leonard Rucker: Yeah, I played him Bank; I never played him One Pocket.

OnePocket.org: It sounds like Artie played the same style as Clem…
Leonard Rucker: Yeah, Artie was a tough player.

OnePocket.org: John Henry told me there was another guy you used to play by the name of Hank who played that style also…
Leonard Rucker: Yeah, that’s right. Hank Montague.

Continued with John Henry

OnePocket.org: Did you ever see James Evans play?
John Henry: Yes, I saw him play. When I saw him play he was an old man. He was in his late 60’s. He was a good player. I remember he was playing ‘Country’. Then Cicero (Murphy) started playing; he was a young guy then, that must have been ’58 or ’59 or something like that.

OnePocket.org: I guess he had trouble with his eyes when he got older.
John Henry: Him and Marvin, their big downfall was drinking. He was one of the greatest players that I’ve seen, but he was like Ralph Greenleaf; drinking was his downfall. When he got old he was drunk every day. When he started drinking whiskey, just like Marvin, he couldn’t stop.

OnePocket.org: You mean Marvin Henderson?
John Henry: Yes. It was the whiskey, something about whiskey. He was like an Indian, when he started drinking whiskey he just went crazy.

OnePocket.org: Marvin was good at all the games too.
John Henry: Great, great player. You know what happened to Marvin, don’t you? Marvin was playing as good as anybody in the world and he was going from ‘Frisco to Los Angeles and his car broke down on the side of the highway and he was fixing his car. A car ran into him and broke his leg in 12 different places. That’s why you saw him with a limp. He had to quit playing pool for about two or three years. He was never quite as good as he was before he got hit.

John Henry — the first man to take Bugs
on the road
Steve Booth photo

OnePocket.org: That is a shame; he must have been a great player. So what kind of a player was the Youngblood fellow that Bugs learned from?
John Henry: Youngblood would play everybody that would come to Chicago. He told anybody that came that they would be his guest. He would play them on any table they wanted. Cornbread was a five by ten player; he was the greatest five by ten player. So when he got there, Blood said, ‘I hear you like to play five by ten.’ He said, ‘I want to play you, you’re my guest.’ He said, ‘You’re an amateur bank player so I have to spot you,’ so he told Cornbread he would play him ten to seven. He won the break, made a ball on the break and ran ten. So Blood says, ‘I’m out’. But Cornbread says, ‘No, you made two balls on the break so you only have nine.’ So they argued about it for a little while. So Blood was a little nutty and he turned and said, ‘Look Cornbread, if you wanted more spot why didn’t you ask before the game started?’ Cornbread wanted to play some more but Blood wouldn’t play no more because he said Cornbread wouldn’t play fair.

OnePocket.org: So he would take on all the challengers that came in the door?
John Henry: What you had to tell is, you had to tell him your name. If you walked in there; they might call you something, let’s say they call you ‘Swamp Rat’. He’d want to know, what is your real name? And if you asked him what difference that makes, he said, ‘It makes a lot of difference. I’m going to play you at pool. If something happens, I want to know your name so I can report you. How can I go to the police and tell them a guy named ‘Swamp Rat’ did this?’

OnePocket.org: That’s the way Youngblood was?
John Henry: Yeah, and he wouldn’t play no amateur person. You had to have a reputation for him to play you. When you first come there looking for him, he’d say, ‘Who have you beat?’ Or he’d ask, ‘Are you a champion?’ If you said no, then he’d say, ‘John Henry, play this guy,’ or he’d pick out somebody else to play you. He’d say, ‘I’m going to watch you play and I can tell you whether I’ll play you, because I haven’t heard of you and I don’t recognize your name.’ You had to prove that you were a good player before you could play him.

OnePocket.org: Did he make the trip down to Johnston City too?
John Henry: Yeah, he tried to play for five years. One year he went to play in Johnston City; I think it was in ’66. What happened was, he put his money in that he was going to play before the tournament started. Maybe it was ’67. When he got there, Joey Spaeth was there, so Joey Spaeth said, ‘Do you want to play some banks?’ He said, ‘Yeah.’ So ‘Blood got his stick and he put the balls on the table. They started playing bank for $100 a game. Cornbread and all of them were there. ‘Blood beat him the first game, I think 8 to 2 or something like that. So Joey Spaeth said, ‘I’ll go get the money.’ So Blood was waiting for Joey Spaeth to go and get him the money, and it took him like 20 minutes to get $100. So he came back and paid Blood but Blood put his stick away and said, ‘That’s all; you ain’t got no money.’ And Joey Spaeth called him a name. So he got one of the Jansco Brothers to get him to apologize. He said, ‘I want him to apologize to me in front of all these people.’ So Joey Spaeth said he’s sorry to George Jansco, but he wouldn’t do it in front of all those people, so Blood left without playing in the tournament. It was the same year that Cicero won.

OnePocket.org: So that was the first year that a black guy could play?
John Henry: I think it was ’67. We used to go there in like ’61 or ’62. We could play for money but we couldn’t play in the tournament.

Javanley ‘Youngblood’ Washington
For years he spotted Bugs 10-8 in Banks
Photo courtesy Fred Bentivegna

One year, maybe ’65 or ’66, they had a vote for the black players; they took a hat around and when they counted the hat it was even. Then another player walks up to the door and they said, ‘This guy is the deciding vote.’ He’s going to write his yes or no and put it in the hat. He wrote no, so we didn’t get to play that year. Finally the next year they were able to play and that’s why Cicero went in the (BCA) Hall of Fame, because he was the first black guy to win. But definitely ‘Blood was there.

OnePocket.org: I never realized that happened at Johnston City.
John Henry: Cornbread, they all know Blood. Blood played all of them. Whoever won a championship came to my poolroom. I had a poolroom for 30 years. They would come to my poolroom looking for action. I had Bugs, Youngblood, a guy named Odell; they would play anybody. Blood would play anybody that came there. So when the tournament was over they all came down for two or three days; they stayed there just to play pool because nothing could happen to them there. Nobody ever got robbed there. You couldn’t get a $20 bet in some poolrooms but you could come in my poolroom and bet $200 or $300. That was way back in the 50’s or 60’s. Plus everybody always bet on the hometown guys. So a guy could win $2000 or $3000 at anytime and that was a lot of money back then.

OnePocket.org: So after the Johnston City tournament ended a lot of players made the trip up to Chicago?
John Henry: Yeah, all the good players came here — my poolroom and another guy’s poolroom where Blood hung out at 53rd Street. All the good players played Blood. Eddie Taylor played him. Clem used to play him.

Bugs was a good player when he was 19 years old and he was a great player at 25 years old. But Blood never thought he could play pool. Blood always spotted him. He played Bugs 10 to 8 playing banks. And I remember the first day Bugs finally beat him. He gave Bugs 10 to 8 like he always did and Bugs used my stick. So Bugs finally beat Blood; beat him by four games. So I said, ‘Look Blood, you’ve been spotting this guy for the last 10 or 12 years and I’m just going to say you’re the best bank player, but why don’t you play even.’ He said, ‘I’m not going to play him even. I spotted him for 10 years and if he wants to play me he has to spot me for 10 years.’ They never played even.

One time when he got out of the nuthouse there was a guy named Masked Marvel going around. He was making a statement that he was going to play pool at a certain place, and this guy was beating everybody. So when Blood got out of the nuthouse we told him about the Masked Marvel, and he started practicing. Three weeks later the Masked Marvel came to town and Blood made an appointment to play him and he said, ‘They say you beat everybody; can’t nobody beat you, so I came down to play you.’ And the Masked Marvel said, ‘If you beat me you can pull the mask off.’ So the Masked Marvel says, ‘What do you want to play?’ Blood says, ‘I’ll play you some Bank Pool.’ So they start playing and Blood banked some fives, sixes and sevens. Blood beat him seven games in a row. So after Blood beat him, the guy pulled the mask off and says, ‘You can have the mask, but I’m not going to play you any more Banks! You can keep this mask.’

Everybody found out that this guy was named California Red. He was a California State Champion. He was putting on an exhibition with Mosconi. He would go around with a mask on so nobody would know him so he could play pool. Youngblood was the only guy in Chicago who beat the Masked Marvel.

OnePocket.org: Do you know what Youngblood’s real name was?
John Henry: Javanley Washington.

OnePocket.org: And he was originally from Chicago?
John Henry: From Chicago. The story that he told everyone, the reason we call him Youngblood is his mother and father they were on the poor side, his father was a lazy guy so when his mother would go to work she would leave him to baby-sit and he liked to drink so he would take him to the bar and set him on the pool table. His father was a bartender. When Blood got big enough he would shoot pool. When he got eight or nine he could beat everyone around him. He would hustle drinks while playing pool.

OnePocket.org: When he was just a kid?
John Henry: That’s why they called him Youngblood. When he got to be 11 years old he could beat everyone in the neighborhood. When he got to be 15 he was able to go in the poolroom and he loved the big table because he had a lot of room plus he was tall enough to reach the ball and he just played and played pool. His father would hustle people to play him so they could buy him some whiskey, because his father was a lazy guy. He made a lot of money for his father. His father just died a few years ago. His father owned the whole block, which all started from Blood.

OnePocket.org: He ended up owning the whole block?
John Henry: Yeah, because he started getting one place, then another from what Blood was winning. That’s the story of Youngblood.

Continued with Glen ‘Piggy Banks’ Rogers and Freddy ‘The Beard’ Bentivegna

OnePocket.org: John Henry was telling me that Bugs had a bet where he would throw the cue ball and one ball out on the table and wherever they stopped, he would bank that ball for all the money.
Glenn Rogers: Yeah, that was Bugs. I’ll tell you another fellow who did that was Javanley Washington, his name was Youngblood.

Billy Palmer, ‘Bucktooth’ and ‘Bugs’
Photo courtesy Grady Mathews

OnePocket.org: Oh, so that’s where Bugs got that!
Freddy Bentivegna: Yeah, Youngblood was a monster because he could call things. Like he would call that he was going to bank six and out. I’m talking about the original Youngblood. He was a little bedbug too; a little looney.

OnePocket.org: He’s still alive apparently.
Glenn Rogers: He might have been the greatest Banks player that ever lived.

Freddy Bentivegna: Yeah, if he had a shot and liked the layout, he’d say, ‘That’s all; it’s all over now.’ He talked kind of sissy like. He’d say, ‘You’ve lost this game,’ and he needs like six! And then he would bet; in incredible situations, he would bet he would get all the balls! And he won a lot like that.

When I was a kid I wanted to play him. It was brutal. He’d say, ‘I can’t play you, you’re an amateur; I’m a professional. I can’t play an amateur player.’ That really broke my heart because I was trying to give him some money, but he would not play sucker action. He only wanted to play top guys.

Glenn Rogers: He didn’t want to play no amateurs. The story on Javanley Washington, which is Youngblood, Chicago’s finest. He was playing Bugs one day and Bugs had him down to his last money and Bugs was on the hill. Javanley Washington told a guy on the side, ‘I bet another $100 I bank out.’ There were seven, eight balls on the table and he needed everything. So Bugs took the bet and Alfonso got so mad at Bugs because he took that bet. Javanley Washington banked the first ball, and sure enough he banks all the way out. Can you imagine how strong that is? This guy bet his last money that he’s going to bank out and his opponent is on the hill! You can imagine the pressure that was. This man was a phenomenal banker. There are some untold stories about him.

Freddy Bentivegna: Alfonso tells some terrific stories. He used to go get Youngblood when he was in the booby hatch over on Herman Park. Alfonso used to meet him; he used to scale the wall to escape. Then he’d take him to the west side to go play Lefty, John Chapman. He’d still have the hospital band on his arm! Those were like world series tournaments.

OnePocket.org: When he played Cannonball?
Freddy Bentivegna: Yeah, Cannonball at his heyday. These were phenomenal matches. Youngblood was from the south side and Lefty from the west side. So they used to exchange playing back and forth and it was a back and forth deal how they played, because Lefty could really play then.
Glenn Rogers: Have you ever seen somebody draw the cue ball four rails?

OnePocket.org: Wow.
Glenn Rogers: I see these guys here that are playing bank now and they have no clue about people like Freddy, Alfonso, Youngblood, Lefty (Johnny ‘Cannonball’ Chapman), Eddie Taylor, Clem; all those great players.

Freddy Bentivegna: I’ve got a great story about Lefty; I don’t know if you ever heard of Mexican Johnny?

OnePocket.org: I’ve heard of him, but don’t know much about him. Is he still playing around Chicago, like in Chris’s Billiards?
Freddy Bentivegna: No, he’s dead. He’s been dead for a while. He died in LA. He left town. He had borrowed $200 for the juice from one of the mob guys and he couldn’t pay it back so he left town. And the guy who lent the money was sick; he tried to put out, please come back. In those days they used to break your arm if you didn’t pay. But this guy wanted Johnny back in town. ‘Please tell him he’ll owe nothing; just come back.’ Just for the action. The guy that lent the money had some bars with pool tables in it.

Anyway, Mexican Johnny was one of the top players around Chicago. If the road players came to town they had to get through Johnny. He played everything, five by ten pool and pretty good bank. So, when I was starting to get pretty good myself, he was my first target. So he’s telling me he played Lefty on the West Side. So I asked Johnny, ‘What’s the game? What does Lefty give you?’ And he said, ‘14 to 8.’ I said, ‘What?! How in the f**king Christ does he give you 14 to 8 playing bank? How could you lose?’ Johnny said, ‘Shit, man, that ain’t such a good game!’ He said, ‘Lefty gets a shot; he banks 11, he banks 12, he banks 9.’ Fourteen to eight and he’s still playing under! I couldn’t believe it because Mexican Johnny really was a top player.

John ‘Cannonball’ Chapman (also known as ‘Lefty’ )
Photo courtesy Fred Bentivegna

Glenn Rogers: We had some heck of a lot of good stories in pool. Some of the guys is dead and gone who have played the game that set the tone for some of these guys playing now. I’d like to see guys like Cannonball and Youngblood go in the books.

OnePocket.org: Freddy, you were telling me about a partners game with Jack Cooney — was that with Bugs?
Freddy Bentivegna: That was Jack and Artie. They were playing a friend of mine, Grady Humphries. It was Artie and Jack against Grady Humphries. Playing them about 8 to 5 or something. And Artie fired Jack. Artie had been afraid of Jack. Artie was afraid of everybody. I don’t know why, he beat everybody. But now he’s playing partners with Jack and he gets to see Jack’s shot selection and he sees weaknesses there. I mean weaknesses to Artie, who was the greatest mover that ever breathed.

OnePocket.org: So you guys in Chicago have the tradition of the banking plus the moving. No wonder you’ve produced so many great players!
Freddy Bentivegna: I’ll be honest with you, all of the moves, a lot of the movers really come from Chicago. Like Nate out of California, he’s living in Washington now. All those guys hung around North Shore Billiards and Bensinger’s. Chicago originated some of the best movers in the history of pool.

OnePocket.org: Plus bankers. That combination, that’s tough to beat in One Pocket. And you guys use a lot of safety play in your Bank Pool too, right?
Freddy Bentivegna: ‘Chicago squeeze’ they call it.

Glenn Rogers: Freddy was real good at that. I ain’t never played any pool player in history who was squeezing that way. Bugs wouldn’t squeeze like that. When Efren came here. This guy here was the one who showed Efren about the moves of one-pocket.

Freddy Bentivegna: I finally got it on paper. I got him to write that down. Thanks for teaching me. I got him yesterday when I got some autographs to put up in the basement. ‘Freddy, thank you for teaching me how to play one-pocket.’

Glenn Rogers: Bugs would always give me two hit and the pick. He beat me for a long time like that; even when I beat people that he couldn’t beat giving a ball. He couldn’t beat Howard with a ball and Scotty and all them people with a ball. But he can give me two and I couldn’t beat him. So I just told him, ‘Well, I don’t want to play you if I can’t beat you with two. I don’t know what you’re doing to me.’

Grady Mathews and Fred Bentivegna congratulate Bugs on his induction into the Bank Pool category of our Hall of Fame at last year’s Hall of Fame dinner
Steve Booth photo

Then I got him drunk one day. Bugs used to like that six-pack and a half a pint. So we got real blasted, him and I. I could out drink anybody then. That’s when he told me, ‘You learn how to hold that rock and work out of that patch you’re going to be a great player like me.’ I said ‘Oh, what do you mean by that?’ So Bugs says, ‘This is a patch.’ So he spread the balls around in a circle and stuck the cue in the patch. He hits a ball and slides to the right a little bit; he gets perfect shape. He makes another ball and slides to the left a little. I said now I see what the patch means. We sat there until 4:00 a.m. and I’m playing him for $20 a game, and I had a big bankroll.

When I picked that patch up, about a week later I came down and beat Bugs, I beat him all that day with just a ball. Then I knew I had it. That’s when I started branching out and playing all those great players. It’s amazing what one person can teach you. And Bugs passed it to me, the patch.

OnePocket.org: I never heard of the patch.
Glenn Rogers: 90% of the pool players playing pool right now don’t know the patch. They bank and swing.

OnePocket.org: Well you’ve got to be real confident in your banking to go for the patch!

October, 2006 follow-up with Bugs

OnePocket.org: How are you feeling?
Leonard Rucker: Oh, I’m feeling pretty good.

OnePocket.org: Do you have the use of your legs a little bit?
Leonard Rucker: Not real good.

OnePocket.org: So you’re getting around in the chair?
Leonard Rucker: No, I’m walking with a cane.

OnePocket.org: Oh, that’s great; you weren’t walking last time I saw you! So that operation helped out some…
Leonard Rucker: Yeah, it helped a little.

OnePocket.org: Are you getting out at all?
Leonard Rucker: Not too much. There’s no place to go.

OnePocket.org: Well I was just wondering if you were thinking about going to Louisville in January, for the big Derby City tournament.
Leonard Rucker: I was thinking about it.

Glen ‘Piggy Banks’ Rogers
Diana Hoppe photo

OnePocket.org: Well this year we’ve got a couple of old friends of yours on the ballot for our Hall of Fame, Cannonball Chapman and Youngblood Washington.
Leonard Rucker: Yeah, they deserve to be in there.

OnePocket.org: Youngblood was the guy that pretty much got you going as a great banker, right?
Leonard Rucker: Yeah, he was before me. He was a little inspiration.

OnePocket.org: How about Cannonball; what kind of a player was he?
Leonard Rucker: He was a great player. He played all games good.

OnePocket.org: You played him quite a few times?
Leonard Rucker: Yeah.

OnePocket.org: How did that go?
Leonard Rucker: Well in his latter career I beat him pretty good. In the beginning I couldn’t beat him, but I was really just learning.

OnePocket.org: So it got to a point where you could. Now that’s the same thing that happened with you and Youngblood, right?
Leonard Rucker: Uh huh.

OnePocket.org: I’ve been told he spotted you 10-8 for about ten years, until he told you that you had to give him 10-8 for the next ten. Did you do that?
Leonard Rucker: No, I never spotted him.

OnePocket.org: Did you guys just stop playing at that point?
Leonard Rucker: Yeah, we stopped playing. He was very temperamental; he couldn’t stand to lose too much. He didn’t like to lose, so we just quit playing.

OnePocket.org: Did you see him play some of those other great players, like Clem (Eugene Metz)?
Leonard Rucker: Yeah, I’ve seen him play Clem.

OnePocket.org: Was that Banks or One Pocket?
Leonard Rucker: Bank; he and Clem never played One Pocket to my knowledge.

OnePocket.org: Youngblood would have had an edge in Banks, though.
Leonard Rucker: Oh yeah.

OnePocket.org: Did Clem try to squeeze playing Banks, too?
Leonard Rucker: There wasn’t much Clem could do.

OnePocket.org: Did you ever see him play Taylor?
Leonard Rucker: No, I didn’t get a chance to see them play.

OnePocket.org: You must have seen him play Canonball…
Leonard Rucker: Yeah, I’ve seen that.

OnePocket.org: Did they play even, then?
Leonard Rucker: Uh huh.

OnePocket.org: Did it pretty much go back and forth?
Leonard Rucker: Yeah, they beat each other, but Youngblood was the best player.

OnePocket.org: Would you say he banked better than anybody you ever saw?
Leonard Rucker: Well, I would say him and Eddie Taylor.

OnePocket.org: He’s a good candidate for the Hall of Fame, then. So, Bugs, who taught you about the patch; was that something you just picked up yourself?
Leonard Rucker: No, Eddie Taylor.

OnePocket.org: But you have to be a real confident banker, right?
Leonard Rucker: Yeah, stay close to your shots.

OnePocket.org: So you picked that up from Eddie Taylor?
Leonard Rucker: Yeah.

OnePocket.org: Well that figures!