I’ll take that kid

I’ll take that kid

 

I joined a team in Philly in 1973, through Bob Thiede. It was the Manor Bar.

Bob Thiede; Lenny Craig, Dick Yost, Norm Finley, Bud McDonald, John Sheridan, Lenny Macy, Charles Ochichnowski, Bob Miller, Bill Samuels, Mac Namara were on the roster. This was a pretty good bunch of players.

 

I’d seen a few Philly players at tournaments and some in a couple of bars where I’d been “visiting.” I had some luck finding people to play against in a couple of places so I thought I’d try going over to Philly again. There were so many bars and dart players over there in Philly that I figured this could be a pretty good pond in which to fish. Not so many people knew me so I might have some fun.

 

Here’s something you should know about me augmenting my income through darts. It was sort of like fresh water fishing as opposed to salt water fishing. In fresh water you can pretty much narrow down which kind of fish you are likely to hook if you pay attention to some things. If trout is your kind of fish you start looking in trout streams, for bass you look in lakes, for catfish you look in slow moving mucky water and so forth. In salt water if you stay “inside:” that’s inlets, sounds and marshes, you can pretty much limit the kinds of fish you might hook, but if you go outside you are limited to bottom fishing or trolling to try for specific types of fish. In salt water, out side, you never know what will jump on your hook. OK, you get my drift. So – there is a certain level of dart player I liked to find when fishing for darts players. The intention was not to pump up my ego or work on my emotional practice, it was to pick up a few bucks and I wanted to do it at as little risk as possible. I needed to select the pond carefully since each pond has a big fish in it and that fish was my target but I didn’t want a shark in the way. Plus, in smaller towns, the word got around pretty fast and return trips to the pond might be spoiled. I didn’t figure Philly as one big pond, but as a bunch of smaller ones, neighborhood ponds, where I might be able to go fishing for a very long time.

 

Getting the fish to nibble at my bait was an art. The life of a darts fisher is limited in any case, because as soon as you are recognizable the game is up; the word gets around very fast. Winning at prestigious tournaments didn’t help with keeping under the radar and I had been doing that, but they were all out of town and Philly darts people knew very little outside of what happened in their neighborhood if it didn’t have anything to do with someone known in the neighborhood, so I had been able to skate out of sight. Just another guy that showed up and got lucky then disappeared again. No one knows where he’s from, no body cares.

 

Self preservation required me to be adept at not making those who lost to me angry at me, which is a skill all to itself. I say this because I liked the game and the people in it and wished to be involved in league and social play on an ongoing basis if I couldn’t “fish” anymore. Sort of having my cake and eating too.

 

I certainly wanted to avoid playing against the best people at the game. That would have been counter to my goal and put winning at risk unnecessarily.

 

Knowing all the above, it’s Saturday, I’m heading for Philly to see what I can drum up so I figure I’ll stop in the Manor Bar to check it out.

 

Hard to find a parking place; they must be giving away beer in this place. (I found out later there was some kind of tournament being played) It looks promising, I’m thinking. In I walk. Nice place, pretty clean and lots of people at the bar and dart cases all over the bar too. These are dart people!! A couple of dart boards but no one playing. This is looking better all time. I take a seat and look around. A few stools down is some guy named Ray Fischer I’ve met at a couple of tournaments. I figured that meant the end for my fishing trip since this guy was one of the best in the country. As I looked around I noticed there were a number of guys in that place that were highly ranked country wide. At that time the center of dart expertise in America was the Delaware Valley (Philly and its suburbs, which included Southern Jersey). The guys in Philly thought it only included Philly. I was going to get a coke and then quietly head for some other place. I nodded in recognition to Ray.

 

Ray was the butt of some good natured ribbing going on. A group of guys wanted to play for some money, partners, and as they were picking who would be partners they kept at Ray to pick somebody. Afraid to lose; worried the moths will get out of your wallet; no body wants to be your partner? These kinds of things were being tossed around amid raucous rounds of laughter. After a couple of minutes it didn’t look as though Ray was enjoying it all that much. We caught eyes and Ray mouthed, “Want to play?” A quick glance told me no one saw the exchange. Here was Ray Fischer, one of the best, asking me if I wanted to be his partner against this collection of high powered shooters. How could a guy not jump at that chance? I nodded. Ray waited a few minutes and then he said, in a nice strong voice, “OK, I’ll take that kid,” and he nodded in my direction.

 

You’re probably ahead of me on this, but. My name was never mentioned. The others there didn’t recognize me. They didn’t think of me as anyone to be particularly concerned about. After all, I wasn’t from Philly, and they didn’t know me, so how good could I be?

 

We played, and as with a lot of neighborhood bars, especially one owned by a dart player, (this one was owned by Charlie Young, one of the better players) people would borrow money from the owner and put an IOU in the cash register to be paid later. As teams would either run out of money, or run up enough IOUs, they dropped out. We were playing heads up, teams, winner kept the board, loser got back in line to challenge.

 

It got late; it was nearly time for Charlie to close, although if dart activity was hot and heavy he’d just lock the door and the play would continue. Someone asked Charlie for some more cash to get into the next game and Charlie says, “I gotta close.” This was out of the ordinary. Charlie explained: “There isn’t any more cash in the register, only IOUs, and looked over at Ray and I. No mystery where all the money was. It was there with the two guys with the big grins on their faces.

 

Two things ended when Charlie had to close on time: the dart matches that night, and my ability to wander around in N.E. Philly unnoticed on fishing trips. That part of Philly was really a big little town. 

 

 

 

 

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