A few weeks ago I wrote a story on the Titanic. If you didn’t get a chance to read it, I would like to shamelessly plug the Brewer’s website where you can go to our Blog and check the archives. It’s FreshFromTheBrewer.com. Today’s cup from this highly caffeinated Christian is about an all-together different Titanic. This Titanic wasn’t a boat but a person.
Odds are you never have heard of Titanic Thompson, who sailed through life as the greatest poker playing, golf gambling, horseshoe hustling, skeet shooting, womanizing, rake-hell, con man of all time. That doesn’t mean he didn’t leave his mark.
Titanic Thompson was America's most famous gambler, card cheat, and sharp dressed man for decades. His celebrity status was so great Houdini himself followed him trying to find his secrets to swindling people. Thompson was actually the model for Damon Runyon's character Sky Masterson in the Broadway play Guys and Dolls. Marlon Brando played his part in the movie.
It was only at Titanic’s insistence that the writer called his gambling lead man by another name. Titanic was already more famous than he wanted to be. So Runyon christened his romantic lead, "Sky Masterson," for the ‘master’ Titanic, whose ‘sky's the limit’ response was a sure thing whenever a bet was on the table.
His skills got him personally invited to a party by Al Capone and he had the guts to cheat Capone in a bet, which he did, and got away with it. He often played pool with Minnesota Fats. He was a professional golfer and actually good enough to shoot a 29 on the back nine at Fort Worth's Ridglea Country Club where he beat Byron Nelson by one stroke.Always An Angle
He was the Arizona State trapshooting champion four consecutive years. He was a quick draw pistolear and somehow got away with at least five shootings and some say six in which all men were killed. It was said that he could throw a baseball from dead center field 400 feet to home plate without the aid of a bounce and he would challenge professional base ball player in throwing matches. One time, he challenged the horseshoe throwing world champion to a high stakes game and beat him out of $2000.
Titanic, who was naturally left-handed, played Golf just as well right-handed, and he would often hustle golfers by challenging them to a game where he would switch hands. But being good at golf was all about getting him into country clubs from coast to coast. Once inside, Titanic could always find rich men and take them for all they had in much more lucrative poker games. It paid a lot better than those tiny golf purses. This was way before Tiger Woods.
In 1972, Titanic as an old man, agreed to do a rare interview with Sports Illustrated. They offered to pay him a much-needed $5000 for the story. In the two weeks Bud Shrake spent with him putting it together, Titanic made a huge impression. Shrake wrote, "Ti's mind was so sharp that I am convinced if he was born in Princeton, N.J. instead of Nowhere, Ark. and went to an Ivy League college, he'd have spent his life giving advice to world leaders”.
As a ladies man, he could just as easily talk a woman into loving him as he could talk a man into a bet. There was something about him people thought they could tame. He counted on that underestimation and used it frequently. Titanic married 5 times and all of them teenagers. When he died at the age of 81, his last wife of 19 years was 37. This guy was something else.
One of his abandoned offspring, Tommy Thomas, caught up with him in San Antonio at the age of nineteen. 1964 was a good year for Tommy and he rolled up into the driveway in a shiny jaguar. Always hoping to someday impress his dad, he himself was quite an accomplished card shark.
Over the next several years they paired up and racked in millions from unsuspecting wannabes. I know all this not just because of the books I’ve read on Titanic Thompson but because Tommy Thomas, Titanic’s son, [SA1] is a friend of mine.
Today, Tommy is a Preacher and has a TV show called How to Beat the Odds. I’ve been on his show a couple times and know for a fact it airs all over the world. One time, my wife and I were visiting our orphanage in Uganda and Tommy’s show was airing and it just happened to be the show that I was on. It was a hoot to bring in the staff at the little hotel and all of us watched it together.
The one thing Tommy will tell you that he really wanted out of his dad was to hear the words, “I love you” In all those years, Titanic’s pride wouldn’t allow him to bless his boy with the affirmation he desperately needed. Finally, and literally the day before he died of a stroke, Ti Thompson put his arms around Tommy and said the magic words he had wanted to hear.
What it always comes down to is whom you love and who loves you. For those of us that cling to Christianity, we know this to be true. Whatever exploits you’ve lived, good or bad, mean nothing the last few days in the old folks home. The only real legacy any of us have is a testimony of whom we have loved and who loved us.
Let it be said of the Brewer, that I loved God and God really loved this ol’ knucklehead. If that’s true (and I know it is) the love of God will outlast all of my history, no matter how titanic my sin may have been.
"And a voice from heaven said, 'This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased." Matthew 3:17
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