Joseph “Tiny” Weber not only put Club Billiards (est 1946) on the map, but in a short time made quite an impact on the pool community all across the country. His genuine and sincere shining personality coupled with his keen eye for business turned a very quiet and discreet long- standing pool hall to a top-notch hot spot for players from everywhere.
If you never had the pleasure of meeting Tiny, I’m sorry you missed out. He was definitely in my top five of people I’ve ever met. As you can probably guess from his nickname, Tiny wasn’t tiny at all. Weighing in over 300 pounds and standing 6’7, he was most definitely a gentle giant.
During our first big tournament ever at CB, a bit of an altercation started brewing between a couple of guys standing out front. Usually, I have no problem playing bouncer, but on this night I was wearing a long denim pencil skirt, which gave me limited range to move my legs. I stuck my head inside the front door, trying to make eye contact with someone so they could go get Tiny. I didn’t think it was a good idea for anyone to hear, for fear the packed room would file out to spectate. I got the bartender to alert Tiny, and he immediately came outside and wrangled the instigator into a headlock with ease. In a calming voice he said “Calm down XXXX. Please stop because if you don’t, you are going to make me hurt you, and I don’t want to hurt you. I like you. Please calm down for me.” I’m 46 years old and started cocktailing in bars when I was 19. I’ve seen more than my fair share of bouncers break up plenty of fights, but I’ve never seen someone so easily, so kindly and so lovingly control a situation that could’ve easily turned into a catastrophe, considering CB was hosting its first big tournament after being around 70 years.
I have plenty of memories of Tiny that are just as touching, but if I started sharing them in this article, it would never end. His faith in God was just as big as him, if not bigger. He had quite a collection of witty Jesus t-shirts. He was never shy about his love for the Lord, yet he didn’t force his religious beliefs on people. He lived by example.
I never once heard him bad-mouth anyone, ever. He once told me “I like everyone in here. They are all spending money in my club.” Not that Tiny was focused on the mighty dollar. You see, when the economy took a hit, CB was in jeopardy, much like many pool halls and billiard establishments around the country. Many of them folded because the money just wasn’t there to keep it up and running. CB was never a money maker. Several owners over several years paid bills out of pocket, while regulars took it upon themselves to repair things that would normally be left to hired professionals. They kept our batcave alive. We were invisible. We had all kinds of cool stuff going on in there that was nobody’s business. I won’t elaborate here, but if you are ever in the area, stop on by and either I or any of the other long-time regulars can let you in on why we didn’t want to share our little gem with the world.
This wasn’t the first time around that Tiny held the deed to the club. The first time around, his wife, Deborah, ran the kitchen. She is a wonderful, beautiful, caring and always smiling woman who loves God, hugs and doing good works with her church group.
Fast forward, 2 other owners, and Tiny takes back control of the club, but this time with a gusto to turn this hideout into a business that would make enough money to support itself. He started sponsoring players, attending tournaments around the country, buying advertising on televised and streamed matches, and designed, in my opinion, some of the coolest t-shirts on the pool circuit (Club Billiards – Breaking balls since 1946). People quickly started wanting to know what Club Billiards was all about.
Our location didn’t hurt. Wichita Kansas is pretty close to the middle of the continental United States, with a major highway running north and south (I-135) and east and west (US 54). It was an easy stop for road players traveling to and from tournaments.
It’s in Delano, which during prohibition, was a separate town from Wichita. Wichita was considered upscale (or uptight depending on who you ask). Delano was full of dance halls, dancing girls, and pretty much every business was a front where people could acquire illegal spirits.
In November, 2017, we (the Club Billiards family) were informed of the harsh reality that our Tiny had been diagnosed with a cancerous tumor blocking his esophagus, It was very painful for him to eat, which is what prompted him to seek medical attention. I’m not alone when I say the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday lost a lot of appeal. Tiny loved food, and nobody wanted to eat in front of him, knowing how painful it was when Tiny ate. He was very optimistic about treatment and making a full recovery.
I think our CB family went from being terrified that we might lose him, to confident that our courageous leader would sail through this successfully like we had seen him do with so many other things. I remember having a one-on-one conversation with him where he told me that the chemo would be aggressive. Chances were he would lose all his hair (eyebrows and lashes included), his fingernails, his toenails and his teeth. My jaw dropped, and he said “I can buy new teeth. I can’t buy my life.” I never heard him say anything that led anyone to believe he wouldn’t beat cancer.
So there was the first round of treatment, and although it knocked out a few problems, the tumor remained. The second round of treatment involved a method, different from chemo or radiation, that dealt with a certain gene. Unfortunately, it too was unsuccessful in knocking out the tumor. The third round of treatment was brutal. Tiny quickly shed hair and pounds in abundance. True to good ol’ Tiny standards, Tiny took it like a champ, and turned to Facebook to offer for free anyone who would like his gently worn shirts that could use them. He had lost so much weight his clothes swallowed him. Maybe we chose not to see or believe how this ugly disease was robbing Tiny, stealing so many things from him, and everyone that knew him. Sure that this treatment was the one that would make the tumor operable, so he would be able to go back to eating without excruciating pain, we were ready to see him rise like a phoenix from the ashes.
Then came the prayer request from his wife on Facebook asking everyone to pray boldly for Tiny-emergency. Then, the devastating blow that Tiny had died. Word on Facebook spread like wildfire. The CB logo was becoming the profile picture for many. Prayers were in abundance for Deborah, his family, and our club family. The tears flowed.
It was less than a week before the start of the Mosconi Cup 2018, where Jeremy Jones- professional pool player, hall of famer, commentator and friend of Tiny- would be taking the role of co-captain for Team USA. The last time USA took home the cup was 2009, but this team held a lot of promise of victory. All the team members sported the Club Billiards logo on their sleeve. And for the first time in 9 years, Team USA defeats Team Europe and takes home the cup. I think the players buckled down and played their best, for Tiny, and I think Tiny, in his new heavenly and angelic form, helped and guided them to victory. Tiny loved pool. Tiny loved people. Tiny loved. Tiny….
I knew how awesome Tiny was first-hand, and I knew a lot of people around the country and beyond held this big teddy bear in high regard, but the posts and comments about Tinys death were all words of admonition and sorrow. Several people said they had only met him a few times, but he was very kind and genuine. Many felt blessed to know him. I had no idea how many people were affected by his death, and his life.
I don’t know how long, if ever, our club family can recant our memories of Tiny without shedding tears. I’m sure he would want us all to rejoice that he is in heaven, free of all sickness and pain. I feel extremely blessed to know Tiny and Deborah, angels on Earth. If there were more people like them in the world, I’m positive it would be a much happier place. If everyone strived to be as loving as Tiny, we could all keep that part of him with us.
Joseph “Tiny” Weber- born April 14, 1972 died November 28, 2018
Thank you Tiny so much for being you. Thank you for helping so many people and expecting or asking for nothing in return. Thank you for showing how love and kindness can prevail over so many things. Until we meet again…
Club Billiards is located at 925 W Douglas, Wichita Kansas 67213 in historic Delano.
Author: Tina Hodge Editor: Chris Freeman
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