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Wichita Pool Hall of Fame aims to honor the best players in the city's history

Terry Young 1
Hugo Phan
/
KMUW
Terry Young was part of the inaugural class for the Wichita Pool Hall of Fame. He's taught a class on billiards at Wichita State University since 1994.

Quietly tucked inside Club Billiards in Delano is a shrine to the legends of their sport.

The Wichita Pool Hall of Fame honors the best players in the city's history, along with those who helped grow the game.

Terry Young was part of the Hall of Fame's inaugural class in 2015. He said he honed his skills when he was just a kid at a southside burger joint called Jack's Coffee Shop.

"My dad hung out in there and they had one pool table, and the owner gave me a job sweeping and mopping the floors, and he would let me play pool," said Young, who's 71. "And then he was kind of a gambler, so he had me play some of his customers double or nothing for their hamburger.

"And for some reason the customers enjoyed it, and I really enjoyed it. But that's how it kind of got started."

That first class also included Greg "Big Train" Stevens and Cliff "Junior" Brown. They have since been joined by Joseph "Tiny" Weber, a former owner of Club Billiards, and Paul Weigand.

The Hall of Fame was David Witten's idea. A pool player for more than 20 years, he also studies Wichita's pool history. He said in the early 1900s, Wichita had more than 30 pool halls.

"There were probably dozens of great players back then that no one will ever know … they're lost to history because no one took photos, no one wrote their names down, and I didn't want that to happen again," said Witten, a 48-year-old mail carrier. "Even in the internet age, I think a lot of players are not recognized for their achievements. And I wanted these guys to be recognized."

Stevens and Brown were known as "road" players, meaning they were constantly traveling, looking for high-stakes matches. Witten said their exploits are part of the book "Green Felt Jungle: The Dark Side of Pool" by Gerald Huber.

"I heard a story, and I think it's in that book, where Greg … just told his wife, "I've got to fly to Detroit,' " Witten said.

"So he flies to Detroit, he comes back three days later with a duffel bag full of cash and dumps it on the bed, and him and his wife count the money."

Young said he was never a road player because he was always working a regular job, mostly in computer software. And, he pointed out, playing in a high-stakes match requires both players to risk a lot of money.

"I enjoyed playing for some money, but I never did put myself way out on a limb," Young said. "I had a little too much respect for money, I think."

Young won several national amateur tournaments and later opened the popular pool hall Rumors, which he ran for more than 25 years. He said it opened in 1987, a year after Tom Cruise starred in the "Color of Money" – a sequel to the classic pool movie "The Hustler."

Terry Young 2
Hugo Phan
/
KMUW
In addition to being a high-level pool player, Terry Young also owned Rumors — a south Wichita pool hall — for more than 25 years.

"At that time, Tom Cruise was teen idol of America," Young said. "So here comes all the young ladies … they're all of a sudden interested in pool. And, of course, all the guys are interested in pool.

"That was a big, big shot in the arm for pool."

Weigand was a high-level player like Young. And also like Young, he operated two pool halls, Shady Lady and Shooters, which introduced pool to thousands of league players.

Weber bought Club Billiards – an old school pool hall from the 1940s – in 2008 and operated it until his death in 2018. His ties to Wichita's pool community are so strong, his ashes rest in a wooden box near his Hall of Fame plaque.

"Very good man and well loved," Witten said of Weber. " … No one says anything bad about Tiny in a pool hall."

Young said he still practices a couple of hours every morning, six days a week, on a table in his home. He's taught a billiards class at Wichita State University since 1994 in the basement of the Rhatigan Student Center. His advice to students?

"Knowledge plus practice equals skill, and persistence, passion, perseverance equal grit," he said. "Skill plus grit sooner or later will equal success. That's the formula."

The Hall of Fame Committee includes Witten, the living Hall of Fame members and Phil Haase, the current owner of Club Billiards. The Hall of Fame moved there in 2018.

Witten said the committee is working on its next class of inductees, which he hopes will bring more attention to the city's all-time greats.

"So that's a part of what I was trying to do with that is communicate to the more casual pool player that there's more to the sport than just drinking a few beers and playing a few racks," Witten said. "That there are professionals that take this seriously.

"It's a very complicated game. … It takes a lot of hard work and skill to play well. And these guys up on that wall did that."

Tom joined KMUW in 2017 after spending 37 years with The Wichita Eagle where he held a variety of reporting and editing roles. He also is host of The Range, KMUW’s weekly show about where we live and the people who live here. Tom is a board member of the Public Media Journalists Association, serving as small station representative, a volunteer coach for League 42 and an adjunct instructor in the Elliott School of Communication at Wichita State University.