Five of the original players will sit down again at the tables for the 40th annual Bigsby Creek Rook Tournament Saturday in the office of Jim Sharp Developments.
The day begins in the morning with the traditional breakfast and fellowship at Mountain View Inn.
Jim Sharp, Jackie Evans, Eddie Cartwright, T. Roy Jones and Jim Henderson are the five surviving members of the original card game in 1974 in Sharp’s home that was then in Winding Lakes subdivision on Eureka Road. The tradition began among friends who enjoyed playing the game. The first tournament lasted throughout the night and finally ended at 9 the next morning because it was a double-elimination format. Afterward, the format was changed to head-to-head matchups with the best records qualifying for the playoff. Sharp moved to Bigsby Creek the following year and that is how the tournament got its name.
Until recently, the tournament was always between Christmas and New Year's Day.
According to Sharp, the teams in the first tournament were Bill Talley, Ronnie Murphy; Jute Miller, Jerry Jenkins; J.N. Howard, Jim Henderson; Jackie Evans, Jim Sharp; Charles Huff, Beecher Hunter; T. Roy Jones, Marvin Gibson; Sam Cheek, Robert Lewis; Eddie Cartwright and Farrell Fisher.
After the first night, Evans suggested to Sharp that they have a tournament every year. Sharp didn’t say anything for awhile, but then a couple of weeks later, he agreed that they should have an annual tournament.
After the first year, Evans took Gibson as his partner and Sharp paired with Jones. Jones and Sharp didn’t win until 1987, but since then, they have come out on top in 1994, 1998 and 2009. Evans’ name is inscribed on the traveling trophy more than anyone else’s. After winning in 1974, he and Gibson won in 1977 and 1980. After Gibson’s death, he and Tollett won in 1999, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2012.
Evans credited good partners who know how to bid the cards they are dealt to win at Rook.
Dale Hughes and Paul Duncan lost the trophy by one card last year. This year, Duncan is unable to play due to illness, so Hughes will team up with Cleveland City Schools Director Dr. Martin Ringstaff.
“Remember, I shot the moon,” Hughes reminded Evans on Tuesday.
“And I held that yellow nine,” Evans replied.
The first coverage of the Bigsby Creek Rook tournament occurred in the Feb. 28, 1976, edition of the Cleveland Daily Banner. The 150-word article declared the city’s Rook champs were T. Roy Jones of American Uniform Co., and Jim Sharp, director of the Southeast Tennessee Educational Cooperative.
“They blazed a trail to the championship by defeating two women — one a preacher's wife playing without her husband's knowledge, and doomed to lose because she couldn't afford the publicity. … It was reported that one other partnership — the Rev. Marvin Gibson and card expert Jackie Evans — were bounced from the tourney before their seats were warm.”
In 1983, Sharp said the team of Evans and Gibson were favored to upset Hunter and his next partner, Tollett, who had won in 1978, 1979 and 1982. The prognostication turned out to be wrong since that year the trophy went to Cartwright and Henderson. Cartwright had won previously in 1975 with Cheek, while Henderson won in 1976 with Howard. The Cartwright-Henderson team also won in 1985, 1991 and 1992.
Sharp said he never dreamed the tournament would continue this long or turn into such wholesome competition and warm fellowship.