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The journey of an old-time ‘City’ pool hustler

Ryan Miday | 11/20/2013, 11:58 a.m.

That same year Danny Vegh opened the Hippodrome at 720 Euclid Ave., which eventually established itself as the go-to-destination for the next decade in Cleveland. The Hippodrome held the largest amateur tournament in the country and was widely known for its action.

Danny Vegh recalled when Mayor Stokes would stop in. “The players around the mayor’s table quit to watch him or walked away….I always had my ‘No Gambling’ sign posted.”

Vegh laughed, as he recalled the mayor being bad for business for a few hours but a priceless advertisement for the Hippodrome.

These days, City’s health is poor. He contracted Chronic Obstructionist Pulmonary Disease (COPD) three years ago. The lung disease severely limited his airflow. The oxygen tank that he is hooked up to is like a ball and chain, limiting his mobility. He gets terribly winded getting off the couch, but even at 86, City has the cagey, raw, engaging personality developed over many years from hustling pool.

City was afflicted as a child with Alopecia, leaving him bald. Kids tormented him by constantly slapping his head. As a result, he hated school and wanted to drop out as early as nine-years-old.

The mistreatment from kids led him to take up boxing lessons in 1939, at the POC, located at 2556 E. 46 Street. At POC, home to some of Cleveland’s best athletes, he trained under Whiz Bang Carter and alongside Cleveland’s most famous boxer, Jimmy Bivins, the light heavyweight champion during WWII.

Carl Stokes, who took lessons from Coach Carter, stuck with it, but City only lasted about seven months, after he felt he’d learned enough to stop them “from slapping my head.”

Carl went on to be mayor; City became a pool hustler, yet they remained friends until Carl died in 1996. “Carl was a good dude – he was one of us, a regular guy,” City said.

*In Part-2 of the series, we will see how Alexander “City” Bryant grew-up to be one of Cleveland’s greatest pool hustlers.