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Alexander ‘City’ Bryant

Ryan Miday | 11/27/2013, 10:14 a.m.

City couldn’t beat Ulysses “Kid” Hogan, but he could hustle him. Hogan was the one Black Cleveland player in those days who regularly won out-of-state tournaments.

True to the hustle, City exploited Hogan’s weakness. Known to drink, if Hogan walked into a pool room half blitzed, City would give one of the pool boys money to buy a half pint of whiskey and slip it to Hogan. After a few drinks, City told him, “Come on Kid, I got ya some.” City beat him like a drum.

Along with City’s reputation for having a good game of pool, he was known for how he carried himself. City’s son, Al, recalled an encounter with an older gentleman who was a John Marshall basketball supporter, when Al was playing on the high school team. He was taken aback when he learned that Al was City’s son. “You cut from a fine cloth, boy,” he said. “I marveled at the way your father played at Playboy’s. I wanted to be like him; he was always dressed immaculately.”

He also told Al that he had even shaved off his hair to mimic City. It was an ironic form of flattery, since it was City’s Alopecia condition of being bald that led him to hate school and ultimately drop out to travel with Philadelphia Red, in 1943. Danny Vegh, who owned the Hippodrome, summed up City’s character: “Whenever City played here, he was always a gentleman.”

One of City’s hustling partners on the road was Chicago’s Leonard “Bugs” Rucker, a legendary One Pocket and bank pool player. As part of the hustle, Bugs didn’t own his own cue stick and neither did City – they both used the worn-down cues sticks from the wall rack.

Hustling was, at its core, about picking the right opponents, at the right time. Danny Vegh’s son, Tommy, remembered City at the Hippodrome, and paid him in the ultimate hustler’s compliment: “I never saw him make a bad game.”

Next week, in the final chapter of our three-part series about one of Cleveland’s greatest pool hustlers, we find out what became of Alexander “City” Bryant.

Read Part I click here