Category Archives: Legends speak to us

Forty minutes with Larry Butler

http://www.howtodarts.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/LarryB.mp3

Larry Butler is, and has been for decades, one of North America’s best players and analytical thinkers.

Forty minutes with Jay Tomlinson

Jay

Jay Tomlinson has been the most important person in North America for decades  for providing information about Darts to Darts people.

 

Forty minutes with Bob Sinnaeve

Bob Sinnaeve is an historically best North American player, reasoned thinker and excellent representative of the sport

BobS

Fifty minutes with Anthony Eugenia

Anthony E

 

Anthony is the prime example of a darts enthusiast, promoter, well worthy of the affectionate title “Darts Nut.”

 

 

Bob Theide

Legendary Dart Master circa 1973
Legendary Dart Master circa 1973

Bob Theide was an icon and motivator for darts, specifically English Darts, in the North East part of America through the Seventies and eighties. A tragic collision with a train shortened his reign, but he continued playing.  His story, told by him, may be found under “Legions Speak to us.”

Commentator-Paul Seigel

Commentary Legend – Paul Seigel – November 2009

Interview by George Silberzahn

 

“What possessed me to let “Dartoid” into my life?  It was an accident, a complete and total frickin’ accident, and right here and now I want to respectfully make my apologies to the world (and my wife!). 

 

You have to understand that, in the beginning, there was no Dartoid.  There was just me, Paul Seigel, and I threw darts. 

 

Then one day, America Online was introduced, it was all new technology to me but a friend of mine, Tom Moliterno, had an account and was having a blast with it.  He was going into the Sugar Daddy chat rooms and pretending he was a movie producer.  He was going into lesbian chat rooms and pretending he was a lesbian.  “You’d make a great lesbian,” he told me one day.  I said, “Sign me up!” 

 

When Tom came to the point where a screen name had to be entered he asked me “What do you want your screen name to be?”   I’d never heard the term before but after Tom explained I began to throw out ideas.  “Dartboy!”   “Dartguy!”  “Dartdude!”  They were all taken.  So Tom, of his own evil volition, typed in “Dartoid” and it took.  It wasn’t until years later that some guy in New York – his name was Allan Mandeville – shocked me with a letter explaining that in medical terminology “dartoid” is synonymous with “scrotum.”  Honest – Google it and you’ll see.  The day will come when I pay Tom Moliterno back for this.  I’m just waiting for him to run for Congress.  I have photos from his bachelor party. 

 

Anyway, this all transpired something like 15 years ago.  I bought an annual AOL subscription for $19.  If I’d bought $1,000 of AOL stock it would be worth something like $75,000 today.  This as just one example of the sacrifices Paul Seigel has made to bring Dartoid to the world.  

 

In May of 1995, and again purely by accident – Dartoid became the irreverent darts humorist that has written some 400 columns about our sport.  Back in those days there weren’t all the websites that exist today – there were only a small handful.  One of the forerunners was Rick Osgood’s CyberDarts in Houston. 

 

Rick and I used to e-mail frequently when I traveled – and he had a chat room that I would pop into from time to time.  One time when I was in Beijing, Rick and I got to talking and he suggested I find a darts bar in China, write a little story, and send it to him for his website.  Marylou, my wife, came across the Beijing column just the other day and told me it was “crap.”  Anyway, that was the very first Dartoid’s World column listed at my website. [www.dartoidsworld.com] I haven’t changed a word because I want my wife to be able to actually prove she was right, for once. 

 

The geneses of the concepts that are what they are today are the fault of Tom Moliterno and Rick Osgood. So blame them. 

 

When I wrote the first several columns I signed them “From the Field, Dartoid” (and still do). In the beginning, Dartoid was really just a screen name, a pen name – the character was completely undeveloped and only beginning. At the time Dartoid was Paul Seigel and I was having a blast traveling the world and writing about darts.  I would go into some bar somewhere without any knowledge whatsoever about the local darts scene.  I’d just ask a taxi driver or a hotel concierge where I could find a board. 

 

Early on, a friend of mine in South Africa – David Barritt – who had a public relations firm persuaded me to let him develop the Dartoid idea and give the character personality.  David put a fantastic graphics artist on the case – Malcolm Allen, who, sadly, passed away some years ago.  It was Malcolm who created the Dartoid’s World logo with the whimsical little World War I flying ace straddling the dart as it zips about the planet.  This was the birth of the actual Dartoid persona.  Some believe that Dartoid is an alter ego of Paul Siegel but this isn’t so.  He may have been my alter ego when I was in my 20s.  If he was my alter ego today, in my mid 50s, I would not be able to keep up with him.  One thing is certain: we are not the same.  For example, I don’t drink, swear, or look at women.    

 

I get some shtick from time to time from people who think I’m some sort of mixed up soul who doesn’t know who he is or worse, knows exactly who he is but uses the Dartoid character to say things he wouldn’t have the courage to say otherwise.  I say to these people, from Paul Seigel: I respect your point of view but you know not of what you speak, and from Dartoid: Bite my arse!

 

So I got into all of this by happenstance and without any vision, without any direction, and without any business plan.  Dartoid emerged from my mind and experiences and the bits and bobs of others’ – and slowly evolved.  In time, Dartoid matured, at least a little, and grew beyond just a crazy hard drinking dart throwing babe ogling dude and into someone who occasionally felt compelled to offer serious commentary about the state of our sport.  Dartoid generally yields his column to me at these times.

 

Fundamentally, my goal, through Dartoid, is quite uncomplicated: to share the joy that is bursting in me for the sport of darts.  I try to find the words to share what it’s like to carry a board into the Congo rainforest, nail it to a tree and, to throw to the chorus of a billion insects under a giant starlight sky.  I try to share the experience of walking into a bar in a strange land and playing with someone with whom you share not a lick of language in common, but with whom – due to the universal “language” of our sport – you can discuss the finer points of the game, commiserate over missed shots and bounce outs, and even argue about scorekeeping errors.  Dartoid and Dartoid’s World is simple: the object is to promote the game I love and hopefully encourage others to give it a go.  That’s all I’ve tried to do from the beginning.  And this aim will never change.  Sometimes I feel the need to bench Dartoid and write something serious, something that I think demands to be said for the good of the sport.  I feel very strongly that after a quarter of a decade around the sport at all levels it would be wrong to be silent when serious matters come up.

 

I am out of the country about half of the year – and so is Dartoid. The last I checked there were 104 countries represented among the regular readership of the Dartoid’s World column.  The hits on my website go up and down.  Readership skyrockets to several thousand a day in the period of time after I post a new column and decreases to a few hundred a day in between issues.  Paul Seigel has been to 65-70 countries, and also a village called England, located somewhere in Ireland.  Dartoid has been to a few less countries because there are some that won’t allow him in.

 

Dartoid does not pay for himself.  Paul Seigel foots his bills.  Dartoid has a fondness for WhiteCastle cheeseburgers and Skyline chili dogs so he’s a pretty cheap date.

 

Dartoid has worked hard to contribute to the darts world in many different ways.  But I can’t say to what degree he has actually made a difference.  That is for others to determine.  What I hope is that he has at least managed to share what it is that drew him to the sport and what keeps him involved and that through this he has helped draw others into the game.  And again, that’s the priority objective.  If someone reads a Dartoid’s World column, hops on a plane, finds the pub Dartoid wrote about on the other side of the world, and has a great time, well, how could I possibly not feel some sense of satisfaction?

 

I have set the humor and good times aside a handful of times and perhaps on these occasions have contributed to the good of the sport in a different way.  A few years back I published three or four extensive columns about goings-on inside the Minute Man Dart League [MMDL] and the league has since been revitalized considerably.  This doesn’t mean that the columns had anything directly to do with anything – there is a smart and very dedicated group of people who stood up, said “Enough!” and brought about much needed change in the way the league is managed.  But I’d be less than honest if I were to suggest that being on the fringe of all this was not a satisfying thing. 

 

Dartoid’s World was out front pushing the concept of a National Darts Regulation Authority in America – not just a linear body that oversees and demands proper sportsmanship within the American Darts Organization, but rather a body that ensures and enforces appropriate behavior among all players regardless of which organization they are involved in.  More to the point – and it would seem obvious (but it is not the case, even still today in 2009) – if someone playing in an ADO-sanctioned tournament punches somebody out or slashes somebody’s tires and gets caught they may be penalized by the ADO but this does not prevent them from continuing to sully our sport by crossing over to another organization.  This is wrong and must be corrected.  And in my opinion, in both these instances, the offending parties should be banned from organized darts forever.  Cooperation among the various governing bodies is essential to achieve such positive change.

 

Of course, it’s quite well known that I feel strongly that anyone convicted of a sex crime, particularly against children, and who is listed on the National Registry of Sex Offenders should not be allowed near any sanctioned darts event – and banned from darts web forums.

 

Darts is a gentleman’s sport – and the sport that “begins and ends with a handshake” should be respected for what it is, and its history and traditions.  Darts is a family-oriented activity where everyone should be able to take their child to a darts event and expect to have a positive experience.   While Dartoid is usually focused on the fun and the camaraderie – after all, this is why 99% of players are involved in our sport – the column also offers commentary on important issues that impact the game.  I hope that to some degree, at least from time to time, such breaks from humor force some people to think.

 

I’ve made a tremendous number of friends through darts and Dartoid has made it possible for me to do that because people read Dartoid and they want to meet the person who writes Dartoid.  Pretty much any where I go these days the game comes to me (and the beer is free!).  If it wasn’t for Dartoid I would not have met and played and enjoyed the occasional beverage with the best players in the world – or the worst.  People don’t give a rat’s ass about meeting Paul Seigel.  They want to meet Dartoid.  And let me stress something that many may not appreciate: Dartoid wants to meet them even more.   For Dartoid the joy is not just in the game.  It is just as much in the forming of lasting friendships, outside the “real world” of business, with other people who live for the game.  For Dartoid and Paul Seigel all of their best friends are involved in the sport.

 

On a purely selfish personal level, slipping into the Dartoid character and writing about darts is always a welcome break from what I do day-to-day.  My business is intense, serious, pressure-packed, and non-stop.  Some people jog.  Others dig in the garden or read.  Paul Seigel, as Dartoid, picks up a set of darts or begins to write, and life becomes relaxing and sunny again.

 

Not that many people have the opportunity to travel all over the world and it isn’t darts that’s made it possible for me; it’s business.  Many years ago when I would be away – often for three of four weeks at a time – meetings would begin at breakfast and last through dinner, every day.  There was no respite.  Then one day – in a sort of epiphany, I suppose – I simply decided the routine was ridiculous and had to stop.  So I made a change – I gave my evenings back to myself.  Since that time, I have dedicated my evenings and weekends on the road to darts.  And then I write about it.

 

I am a fund-raising consultant.  I help international animal protection nonprofit organizations raise money to fund their program activities.  That’s the short answer.  Truth be known, I don’t think my parents, who have now both passed away, ever had a clue what I do.   And sometimes I’m not entirely sure that my clients know what I really do! 

 

My clients are spread around the world.  For example, a number of people might recognize the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, founded by Captain Paul Watson.  He was one of the co-founders of Greenpeace.  The organization is based in Friday Harbor, Washington.  For the past two years and again this year there has been a documentary program running on the Animal Planet entitled Whale Wars, where the Sea Shepherd crew battles the Japanese whaling fleet in the Southern Ocean Sanctuary off Antarctica.  To do what the Sea Shepherd’s do – to fuel their ship(s), supply them, feed the crew, and run campaigns elsewhere in the world – costs a bundle of money.  The same goes for any nonprofit organization.  That’s where professional fundraisers like me fit in.

 

There are numerous ways to generate income for a nonprofit organization. Starting at the lower levels, of what is commonly called the fundraising “pyramid,” there are small donors, who are generally recruited into an organization with direct mail.  There are ongoing direct mail programs, electronic web-based programs, monthly giving programs, major gift giving programs, events, corporate and foundation programs, and then there’s the whole planned gift area where supporters can tailor all kinds of instruments – from simple bequests to things like charitable gift annuities, charitable remainder trusts, and many more – to balance certain tax advantages with their philanthropic desires.

 

I am generally first asked to do something called a development audit or assessment.  I study what an organization has been doing to fund their programs, assess strengths and weaknesses, opportunities and threats, and evaluate how what they are doing or not doing is integrated with their communications and campaign functions.  The assessment flows into a development (fundraising plan) which I then help implement or provide continuing counsel on.  In many situations I write direct mail copy; in others I cultivate and solicit large donors or planned gifts.  An average day begins well before daybreak with telephone calls to Europe and Asia and ends late with similar conversations with clients on the west coast.  That’s what I do.

 

Contrary to the opinion of some, the point of Dartoid’s World is not to piss people off, although this does happen.  But also contrary to what some believe, I do have a life outside of work and darts and writing about darts. 

 

I was born the son of a poor black share cropper.  As you can imagine, growing up black in a white man’s world wasn’t easy.  Wait!  That’s Dartoid talking there and that line is stolen from a movie! 

 

I was actually born in 1953 so I am something like 35-years-old.  I was a swimmer as a kid and into college.  I attended the United StatesMilitaryAcademy at West Point but didn’t graduate (although I am an expert at shining shoes).  I was a political fundraiser for several years before switching over to the non-profit arena in the 1980s.  It was in 1980 that my wife, Marylou, and I were married – and that is the best thing that ever happened to me.  Next fall we’ll have been married for 30 years!  We have a daughter, Jami, who lives and works in Columbus, Ohio.  And we have always had a house full of golden retrievers.   

 

Darts is tough on relationships but I don’t really feel that the ways of Dartoid have had a negative effect on my marriage.  It’s true that after all these years Marylou still can’t understand how I or anyone can talk nonstop about darts for as long as a clock can run.  Although she loathes admitting it these days, she knows more about darts than most people I know who are involved in the game week in and week out.  Marylou has her special interests – music is one of them.  She probably has 3,000 CDs but I’ve only listened to maybe 10 of them.  She’s a writer and has written several novels – she’s currently working on a screen play and two books, one about George Harrison and the other a sort of adventure thriller about the endangered wildlife trade that actually has a strong darts theme.  What Marylou definitely appreciates is the need to take a break and that, for me, throwing darts and writing about it, is just something I need to do.  She used to come all the time to my league matches and the tournaments and she’s traveled all over the world with me.  But now-a-days our golden retriever, Bentley, refuses to let her follow me about on my travels.  Plus, as is the case for many, the smoke in darts halls is something she finds offensive. 

 

Yes, it’s true, I wrote a book.  It’s called It’s a Funny Game, Darts. Life.  I don’t know what my expectations were for the book.  From the outset, I told the publisher that I had no expectations, that I wasn’t in it to make money.  I suppose I just thought it sounded like a cool idea to have a book out there.  But what do people think when they get into something like this?  Probably there was a part of me that contemplated the fantastical.  Might I make millions?  Might a Hollywood producer call and offer me more millions for the movie rights? 

 

I just don’t know.  What I do know is to the extent that I may have harbored any expectations, or fleeting hopes, along such lines I did not realize any of them.  The book sits on a few shelves and that’s about it.  I think there’s a bunch in the publisher’s basement.  So, I guess, having no real expectations, I met them!

 

I’m not sure that any book about darts – certainly not the usual tutorials – has much of a chance to sell in any significant way.  There have been a few novels (and for my wife, I am optimistic that there is a market for a good well written novel with a darts theme intertwined), a boatload of tutorials and some things in between.  My book was a collection of Dartoid’s World columns but I’m not sure that there was the fodder between the covers necessary for success.  Certainly there was little there that had not already been widely circulated.  So when I think back on the whole book thing – and even the column – I sometimes think I should have started writing about poker.  I don’t know any more or less about poker than I do about darts – I once lost $400 on a hand of one-card Indian Poker — but neither, it seems, do a lot of the people who write and commentate on Texas Hold’em, and some of them are banking some serious spending cash.

 

For whatever reason, in terms of other people’s books, if there is a darts book published I am asked to review it. I guess I am asked to do this because people read what I write – so the author’s figure if I review their book, even if I trash it, people are going to go get the book and read it and agree or disagree with me.  So they see my involvement as free promotion.

 

There aren’t many reviewers of dart books.  There is my great friend, Patrick Chaplin, certainly.  He is asked quite frequently, possibly always.  There’s Superstars of Darts [www.starsofdarts.com] founder, Andy Fairclough.  There’s David King at Darts501 [www.darts501.com].  And of course there’s Jay Tomlinson from Bull’s Eye News, another great friend.  And then I guess there’s me.  If I was an aspiring darts book author I’d be afraid to send a review copy to any of us!

 

And I do continue to be an aspiring darts book author and there’s quite a bit on the horizon.  In due course, there will be another compilation of Dartoid’s World columns published.  There will be a book out soon called The Year in Darts – 2008.  I’ve been running a series this year reflecting back on the sport in 2008 and these columns will be accumulated in a new book.  There will be a book about the World Series of Darts.  The event will probably never happen again and I’ve written about 25 columns on it in 2006.  There’s another one in the works on the Professional Darts Corporation’s [PDC] Las VegasDesert Classic.  And there is one that is ready to go to print now called A Brief History of Darts, for which Patrick Chaplin has written the Foreword.  And then there is my wife’s novel, on which I am collaborating a bit.  It will certainly be better than anything I’ve ever written because my wife is an actual real life writer who doesn’t suck, like me.

 

I haven’t had a storied darts career.  I’ve thrown darts in many countries and in a lot of remote and exotic out-of-this-world locations, but I am far, far from a professional.  I know what to do.  I just can’t do it consistently.  These days I don’t play league at all.  I don’t practice.  I might throw for a week or so before a tournament.  I still get to tournaments every month or so.  To the extent I have had a “career” it all began– just as Dartoid and Dartoid’s World, by accident. 

 

I was given a dartboard – one of those cheapo paper-wound dartboards – when I was something like 10-years-old.  It had a baseball game on the back.  I had no idea what was going on.  I would just throw handfuls of darts at the bulls-eye.  I could stick a dozen of them in there at a time.  It beat doing homework.

 

About 20 years ago I was waiting with my wife and another couple in the bar in a restaurant while a table was being made ready.  There was a couple playing darts against another couple and my friend’s wife asked if I wanted to team up and take on the winner.  I said, I knew nothing about darts.  She said she’d tell me what to do.  So that’s what she did and that’s what I did – and we won!

 

We all went into the restaurant and I came out about an hour later to get a beer.  There was this little hairy guy behind the bar who asked me if I had ever thrown darts before and I sort of chuckled and said I had not.  He commented that it appeared earlier I knew my way around the board.   Probably I should mention that the little hairy guy was blind?

 

Seriously, his name turned out to be Chris James and we eventually became close friends.  He wasn’t just the bartender – he owned the whole joint, called PizzaVillage in Yarmouthport on Cape Cod.  Chris told me he had a darts team that competed in a league.  He invited me to stop by some night and check it out.  A darts team?  A darts league?  I’d never heard anything so screwy in my life.  There wasn’t a chance in a million years that I was going to get involved in such nonsense.

 

About six months later though, well after midnight, I was driving by the place and there were some cars parked out front.  I figured, what the hell, I’d take a look – I’d grab a beer.  Inside there was a big match going on.  A couple of “D” level teams in the Cape Cod Dart League [CCDL] were going at it and they were having a great time.  A half-dozen beers later I was on the team.

 

We were called the Village Idiots and over a few years we advanced through the ranks, from “D” all the way to “A” – where we lost in the finals  

 

As I said, Chris and I became buddies pretty much straight away and he took me around to all the bars with boards – and there were dozens and dozens of them on the Cape.  We’d order a beer, play just one game, drink the beer, and head to the next bar.  On a few nights each week we’d hit lucks of the draw.  My addiction was beginning and Chris was my pusher.

 

So I played for several years in the CCDL and played in the MMDL for part of a season.  During this general period I was traveling to England for about a week each month so I substituted for a team there in Crowborough, East Sussex.  I’ve played league in Tampa, Virginia Beach, and Philadelphia – and was even on the league board in Philly for a month, or more technically, one meeting.  It was a bit by trial and error, but I learned pretty quickly that being a captain or a tournament organizer or a board member was not for me.  I just wanted to play.  And write.

 

Everybody has their thing.  That’s just life.  People are naturally attracted to what they enjoy most and do the best.  Some enjoy organizing tournaments like Chris Bender.  He does a phenomenal job in Virginia Beach.  Chris and I had some great league battles and we’ve partnered before, like you and I have, George, but, also like you and I, we were horribly unsuccessful!  Others find enjoyment in other aspects of the game.

 

Although I haven’t gravitated towards some sort of leadership role – as a captain, board member, or organizer – and while I am certainly not a professional, I have a deep appreciation for what goes into attaining and performing in these roles and great respect for the dedication and hard work that goes into performing them well. 

 

I have to resist the temptation to contemplate “who contributes the most” to darts because to so or to try to indentify just a few among so very many who contribute so much, would by definition almost ensure that many people who should be recognized are missed in the process.  I have already mentioned Chris Bender.  He is a great shooter, has been a great captain, runs super tournaments in Virginia Beach along with his wife, Linda, and all this obviously impresses me.  There are dozens of others who come to mind like, for instance, Pete Citera in Chicago.  But there are so many people who have made and are making a difference that just to mention Chris and Pete is to be unfair to others.  I could say that John Lowe and the late Barry Twomlow are, in my opinion, the two greatest worldwide ambassadors of our sport.  What Patrick Chaplin has been contributing to the historical record will not be fully appreciated for how amazing it is for years and decades to come.  But where does mentioning these people – something I should not have done – leave Phil Taylor, Eric Bristow, John Part,  Tommy Cox, Dick Alix, Sid Waddell, and an endless list of others?  I observed what Chris White and Rob Heckman just did to help government officials and organizers in Shanghai put together a phenomenal tournament. What they are giving to the sport is not appreciated at the moment, not in the slightest.  I do have a column in the works about this tournament and I plan to highlight their role – but to name Chris and Rob, or any of the others I have mentioned, is really quite disrespectful to so many more.  

 

The name that leaps to mind as to who, at least in America, might have the greatest impact on the sport were they to chuck it all tomorrow, is Jay Tomlinson.  Jay publishes the only magazine about darts in the United States, and has for years.  It’s one of the few darts magazines that exist in the world and if the darts community woke up tomorrow and Jay was gone, one must wonder who would fill that void.

 

Somebody else, who has had a massive impact, which many people are not aware of – because he is a very quiet and unassuming individual – is Glenn Remick, head of the American Darters Association (ADA).  [Paul did this interview the day that Glenn died, before he knew of the loss.]  He was largely responsible for the bylaws of the NDA and advises them.  He was integral to the ADO in earlier days.  He’s been around since the fledgling days of the MMDL.  He is a promoter’s promoter, but only associated with the ADA by most people today.  If Glenn hung it up there would be a huge vacancy.  On the other hand, I know that Glenn has long been training his very capable son, Karl, to someday fill his shoes.

 

Stacy Bromberg has for years stood head and shoulders above all the American lady darts players.  But if she retires tomorrow – and while her accomplishments will stand forever – someone else will step up.  The same thing applies to Phil Taylor.  It was the same in the days after Eric Bristow tore up the darts scene. Darts will go on and it will continue to grow.  This is because there will always be players and from this pool there will always be extraordinary players – and those who have a knack for driving the critical infrastructure that all of darts stands on.

 

Second to the product itself – the actual sport – players are the most important thing to darts.  Everybody else just makes it better.  All the credit in the word is due the Barry Hearn’s and Jay Tomlinson’s and Glenn Remick’s of the world and the multitudes of others but without the players the sport of darts would not exist.  Everybody else just facilitates.

 

Those people who are captains, board members, tournament directors, officials, product sales people, sponsors, and promoters – have pretty much all come from the ranks of the players.  As I have already said: people gravitate towards what they enjoy and do best.  And so I come back to the product…

 

If darts wasn’t all that darts is – if it wasn’t power and precision, tense but relaxing, literally war among friends – and fundamentally, at least in my book, spiritual – there would be problems.  But because the product is so exceptional and the because players, both the old-timers and the new recruits, are so committed, if one of the people in the so-called hierarchy of darts were to drop off the map tomorrow, I have absolute confidence that just as they bubbled up from the ranks new leaders will emerge.

 

So what I am saying is that if darts wasn’t darts there wouldn’t be players.  But because darts is what it is, in every respect, there are players and participation is growing across the States and the world. 

 

How do Dartoid and Paul Seigel fit in to all this?  That’s one of darts’ great mysteries!  I suppose after all these years people come to me with questions because they know, quite possibly, I will share a perspective that is unique.  I suppose they read the Dartoid’s World column because, for the most part, it’s about the purity of the sport.  It’s fun.  It’s irreverent.  It’s self-depreciating.  It’s real.  And generally it’s constructed so there is an uncertainty as to what’s coming at the end of each sentence and paragraph – and usually a message.  I’d like to think people follow the column because they love darts and know that, whether we agree or disagree on a certain topic, they have a kindred spirit out there – Dartoid – who is certain to make them think while also prompting a chuckle or two.

 

When it comes to the hierarchy of darts of what is important to darts, you must appreciate that Dartoid and Paul Seigel are nothing but bit players and neither of us take what we do seriously. 

 

The Dartoid’s World stories are true.  I lead an interesting life. So does Dartoid.

 

What Paul Seigel tries to do is find the similarities between the Dartoid character and the rank-and-file darts player and bring those thoughts and feelings – those commonalities – to life.  There are only a handful of bona fide professional darts players in the world and even they began as recreational shooters, just the way I did. 

 

I believe that there is a bit of Dartoid in all of us and what I try to do is help Dartoid speak in a voice that all darts enthusiasts can relate to. 

 

My worst darts experience?  Well, it pops into my head immediately.  I wrote about it.  The column was called “Ban Assholes!”  I was at a tournament, in a luck of the draw, and the guy I drew – it was one of those things that just happens – had absolutely no tournament experience.  The two people we were playing were experienced and, in fact, one of them was at various times quite highly ranked in the ADO point standings.

 

We were on 51 in the first leg and my partner was up.  He didn’t know what to do and I told him to throw the 19.  It wasn’t the yips or dartitis, but he couldn’t let the dart go.  He was just too nervous.  So this guy who was ranked was behind us going crazy.  “Throw the dart!” he’d yell.  “Doink, doink,” he’d follow up with, over and over, in very aggressive fashion, while pantomiming tossing his darts into the 19 and the double 16.

 

So finally, my partner lets his first dart fly and hits the 19.  He then struggles even worse with the finish and doesn’t really come close.  Our opponents quickly ended the leg and then the match.

 

There was actually much more to this incident and some of it, thankfully, I have forgotten.  What I vividly recall is how I felt – how during the moments this all occurred how embarrassed and disillusioned I was that somebody new to the game had to have that experience.  These feelings were compounded by the fact that the person responsible for what happed was someone who had been around the sport for a number of years.  The entire experience was the utter antithesis of everything that I, through Dartoid, try to do to get people involved and to experience the joy I have for the game.  Now, as it happens, this particular individual and I are friends today – but what happened happened.  Fortunately, I haven’t had many “worst” experiences.

 

The opposite is true when it comes to “best” experiences.  They are just so damn many.  I wouldn’t know how to begin to whittle the many down to a few, let alone just one.  Almost every time I go out – to a bar or a tournament, wherever – I have a flat-out wonderful time.  So on any given day I would have to say my best darts experience is the one I enjoyed most recently.  So today, right now, having just retuned from China, I must point to the Shanghai International Darts Open.  Even the PDC – and they put on some spectacular shows – could pick up a nugget or two from the guys who staged this event.  There were colorful dancing dragons.  There was confetti flying.  There were dancing girls.  An Olympic gold medal diving champion handed out some of the trophies.  There were participants from Malaysia, the Philippines, China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan, Thailand, Russia, England, New Zealand, the United States, Canada, and even Mongolia.  The thing was quite a sight. 

 

But Shanghai was just my most recent best experience.  Tomorrow night I am meeting up with three guys I have never met – Scott Groves, Joe VanVoorhees, and Lance Kent – to throw for a few hours in Arlington, before I catch my flight out of NationalAirport the next morning.  As sure as I am sitting here talking to you right now, I am positive that two mornings from now my answer to your question would be Arlington, not Shanghai.  I just love the game that much. 

 

I have a lot of memories but every time I go to throw darts I have a wonderful time.

 

The soft-tip “invasion?”  I’ve followed the progress of electronic darts for a long time.  Dartoid used to go after it quite regularly as impure and bad for all humanity.  But both of us have come full circle.  I’ve now spent a fair bit of time with Medalist’s Lee Pepperd and even went to Las Vegas this year to get a sense of the NDA’s Team Dart extravaganza.  The bottom line is that I now think the electronic game – and particularly the way many of the tournaments are structured, offering a degree of parity – is a benefit to the sport.  It’s bringing in new blood. 

 

At the end of the day people can say all they want about the size of the doubles and triples, bounce outs counting, the Freeze Rule,” electronic scoring, having to shove quarters into the machines, and all the rest – but the reality is that the playing field is the same field for everybody. 

 

So I think the electronic game contributes in a significant way to the bright future I see ahead for the sport. 

 

Something must be going right.  In fact, somewhere in a little room in Hollywood someone else must recognize this because you literally can’t punch a television remote these days or go to a movie – or even watch a commercial – without a dartboard appearing on the screen.  Of course, the board is usually hung about waist high or behind a file cabinet or something.  But there are definitely people in high places cognizant of the burgeoning popularity of the sport, both steel and soft.

 

In fact, what I’d like to do in my next life – or tomorrow, if Steven Spielberg is reading this – is be a consultant on hanging dartboards for Hollywood.  I think it would be a good gig.

 

Just what do I see for darts in my crystal ball?  My, what a question!  My crystal ball has beer on it…

 

I believe Barry Hearn will be successful in his bid to retire Olly Croft.  I believe this will lead to a unified darts world championship within the next five years.  I believe there will be a world champion from Asia before 2020 and that this individual will be from the Philippines.  I believe we will see the day that darts is a full-fledged Olympic sport.  And I would not believe any of this if I were not certain that with respectability comes respect and with respect comes progress – and that the day is not far away when darts is no longer associated with overweight deadbeats and drinking beer and smoking cigarettes and accorded the stature that I think, for the most part, it already deserves.  

 

What would I impart if was asked to speak to a room of beginners, people who knew very little about darts and were thinking of becoming involved?  As it happens, just a few weeks ago in China – along with Rob Heckman, Chris White, and David Fatum – I found myself in pretty much just this situation. 

 

The group assembled was all just starting out and they were asking for advice how to practice and so forth.  Rob, Chris, and David – all professional-level players – gave the kinds of answers one would expect.  And the answers were great.

 

My perspective is different.

 

My advice is to first determine what you want out of darts.  If you want to be the best in your league, or city, or country, or world champion someday there are certain things you must do.  But if you just want to go out and have a good time with friends there are different things you should do. 

 

In the first instance, of course, practice, more practice and practicing right is the most fundamental component of success.  Who am I telling this to?  The George Silberzahn!

 

If your goal, if your reason for becoming involved in darts, is to have a great night out with friends – just like you do shooting pool or playing foosball or playing the bar trivia game – then recognize that, for you, darts is entertainment.  You don’t have to get the best out of your darts.  You don’t have to purchase the newest set of darts on the market.  You don’t have to hold the dart correctly.  You don’t have to perfect technique.  You don’t have to understand the math.

 

All most people need to do is understand what darts means to them.  You have to appreciate why you’re involved – that you’re out to have a good time.  The fact is that a fair bit of improvement will come even if you do everything wrong!

 

My personal view is that a lot of the best players in the world struggle after they reach the upper levels because they are unable to relax the way that once came so naturally – when they were not taking the game so seriously.

 

Darts should be about friends and fun.  Maximums are great.  High outs are great.  Winning is great.  But Paul Seigel and Dartoid are not going to lose a wink of sleep after a night of throwing poorly.  We’re quite used to it anyway!

 

Our message is simple: embrace every minute of play and never lose the joy.  This is exactly what we intend to continue to do at the line and with our writing for as long as we are able.”

Valletto, Daniel

Daniel (Danny) Valletto

Career base: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

 

1976, Schlitz National Doubles Championship (Memphis, TN): 1st with partner Ray Fischer;

1978, Pentathlon Champion, East coast;

1984, Masters Champion (trip to England)

1985, Profile of the only year I really put in time with English darts.

New York Open: Open singles, 2nd, Cricket singles 2nd, Cricket doubles – 1st;

US Open: Open singles – 1st, Cricket doubles – 1st, 501 doubles – 3rd;

San Diego St. Patrick’s : Open singles – 3rd

Washington DC Open: Open singles – 1st, Mixed triples – 2nd, 4 man team – 2nd;

Northern Illinois Open: Cricket doubles – 2nd, 4 man team – 2nd;

Philadelphia Open (Schmidt’s): Open singles – 1st;

Dallas Open: mixed triples – 1st;

Jack & Jill (Holyoke Ma.): Open doubles – 2nd, Cricket doubles – 2nd;

Columbus Ohio: Invitational Singles – 1st, Open singles -3rd, Cricket doubles – 1st, mixed doubles – 2nd;

Jersey City NJ regional all star: Open singles – 1st;

W. Palm Beach Fl.: Open singles – 1st, Cricket singles – 1st, 4 man team – 1st, Open doubles – 2nd;

Phoenix AR: Open singles – 1st, Cricket doubles – 1st;

Springfield MA All star area finalist: Open singles – 1st;

Peach tree Open (Atlanta GA.): Cricket doubles – 2nd, Cricket mixed triples – 2nd;

North American Open (Las Vegas): Cricket doubles – 1st.

Other than 1985: Singles wins by place:

Phoenix, Minnesota, Columbus Ohio, Atlanta Ga., Washington DC, Baltimore Md., Virginia Beach Va., Philadelphia Pa., New Jersey, New York.

 

“I started with American darts after I got out of the service, about 1959 or 1960, I think it was. Before that I played a little pool and hustled some on shuffle board. One night I picked up the darts in a place and just threw them, and a friend asked me if I wanted to play on a team. I said yes and that was the start of it. In the first year they started me then the first thing you know I was the anchor on their team and I had a 42 average the first year I ever played darts. That how I started my career shooting darts and each year I set a goal of picking up two points in my average, and that’s what I did. I went from 42 to 44 to 46 to 48 up to 52. The year I averaged 46 I had a league high four game series of 57, 59, 61, 63 for an average of 60. My highest average was 52.9 across 118 games.

I bent my knees and dipped as I pulled the dart back and straightened up when I shot the dart forward and it was all part of the rhythm of my stroke. Early I did a lot of practice. I’d come in from work and play four nine inning games on my board. I did this every day, and played league darts on Tuesday night and go out and hustle a little on the weekend. I did that until 1969 when I went on the police force and started working shift work, then I cut back on my darts. I was a group player where you tried to put the first dart in a double or triple and lay the other two on them in a group where they all touched, that was called “feathers.” Which is great in American darts but in English darts it could hurt you when you tried to double out, you know? In American darts grouping would keep you scoring six or seven and the triple picking type of player would go for the triple and pick one or two or miss trying for triples only. In English darts when you’re playing for a double you have to be somewhat of a picker but in score you could group your darts for higher scores.

I had a bad accident and hurt my back in 1970 and it seemed like that would be the end of my dart career and after I hurt my back I didn’t practice anymore, I relied on the previous years of practice. But, it so happened that there was a state championship being played upstate for five man teams and I was asked to play in it with Eddie Hall, Dick Yost, not sure if it was Dale Melvin, and Charlie Young. Here Charlie had sent his cousin down from upstate to pick me up and I wasn’t playing because of my back and nerve damage in both legs. They were weak. I did go upstate, being half crippled, and we won the tournament in Glen Lyon Pennsylvania. The top upstate players were John Bobbie, Cam Melciore, Pete Polinski and Lee Breadbenner. In 1968, 1969, John Bobbie impressed me as the best dart player I’ve ever seen, bar none.

Dick Yost, who was the about the best in the city around 1963, grabbed me to play when I was averaging about 45 or 46 and worked on me. You know, come on kid and whatever, and my game would go right off, this is the way he worked on guys. It was a good learning experience though. Of course the day did come when Dick wouldn’t have anything to do with me on the dart board. It was kind of comical because some of the guys brought Lenny Craig, from over in Jersey after me too. We were playing back and forth and not all that well and this Ernie Kline jumped in the game. Well it turned out me and Lenny started coming on and Ernie lost all his money. Me and Lenny pretty much broke out even and that’s when the friendship started.

Little Al, Al Lippman, and I played and we played back and forth until we didn’t want to play each other anymore. He was a pick triple shooter and I was a group shooter. Al would usually win triple games and I would win score games. We were close friends and he was at the top of his game and I guess I was at the top of my game so we started looking for partner games, which we couldn’t get in the city so we started going all over the place looking for games. We went to New Jersey too, but little Al was recognized right from the get go and that was the end of that. It was pretty hard to go anywhere without being recognized.

Then another time around 1971, Joe Pachenelli and Ray Fisher got me to go up state with them to play in the Pennsylvania three man team state tournament, and we beat Pete Polinsky, his nickname is Primrose Pete, Cam Melciore and John Bobbie and I thought that was a great thing because up there you had to toe a 7′ 3″ line, and play with a Decco dart. The line in the city the line was 7’1″ and we used Widdy darts. I think in Jersey they heeled a 7’3″ line or something like that. Playing that line helped me transition into the English game, and it helped the upstaters also.

1970 While I was out of work on disability, with my bad back, I didn’t think it was right to go out playing darts, and it really bothered me to try to play. I wore a mustache for a while to be a little incognito, which didn’t work. That’s when Charlie Young got hold of some literature about a dart tournament in California where they’d pay you money, I didn’t go because of my accident, but that was the start of English darts in the area. I did go to the New York open in 1971 or 1972. That was the first I got involved in English darts. I got my bar in 1972 but was working too much to play darts although I had four or five boards up. Being known in Philadelphia and my friends being top shooters, that became the bar for dart shooters. I’d come out and play for a while, then lay low for a while with my back. The year after Al Lippman won his first US Open I went and it got down to me and Al in the finals. Al had been to England and wanted to go again and I didn’t want to go to because I was tied up operating my tavern, so, Al won again.

After my back problems, when I wasn’t going out to play very much, and not practicing, when I did go to a tournament I got to trying to hard because I didn’t have the confidence. Then, when I went up to Boston, around 1974, ’75 for a tournament and I’m playing for a double, with Tex Blackwood yelling “he won’t miss, he won’t miss,” I couldn’t let go of the dart. I couldn’t shoot it, and that was the start of the “Yips” for me. Yips will take away 50% of your ability, and I ended up with a case of dartitise, or the Yips for a few years. It’s like you’re leaning forward but you can’t let go of the dart and you’re going to fall on your face. I got to the point where I had to swing my arm around to even be able to throw. I believe it was because I wasn’t playing enough and had put too much stress on myself when I did show up. What I did was stop completely for about six months, then I tried again, and once in while I would get the Yips and other times not. I played against Ray Fisher out in California in the finals, the year he won the North American Open, and I had the Yips against him. I tried the best I could but it was very hard. I was playing against Bob Theide over in a tournament in Jersey and he got really upset because I had the Yips.

Conrad Daniels asked me to play with him in a match against Pete Polinski and Cam Melchiore, upstate, which Bob McLoed came in to officiate. We won that match. I saw a phsycologist about the yips but it didn’t help. I stayed away from darts long enough for the “Yips” to go away but other people, like Eric Bristow from England didn’t, I don’t think, and they stayed with him. He was the greatest English dart player I’d ever seen yet in the end the Yips just killed him.

In late 1972 and in 1973 I was working in my tavern from seven in the morning until four in the morning. There wasn’t any time for darts then, but later on I got some help and I could play again. I wouldn’t put up an American board in my place because I didn’t want anyone coming in to challenge me while I was trying to work. There were some people come in and challenge me and I would get upset because I couldn’t take them on. What I did was tell them I’d play for some horrendous amount of money in a couple of weeks because if somebody took me up on it I’d be able to practice for a couple of weeks, but it never came through, they never went along with it. I put up an English board and posters about tournaments around the country so some guys would try it because they could win some money. I really didn’t play much around my own bar. I’d go to tournaments occasionally but didn’t play there because they were all my friends and you don’t hustle your friends. And I had the Yips at that time too. Me and Charlie Cressman, from Quakertown would have matches once in a while. Sometimes he would win, sometimes I would. I’d played against his father in Upstate American darts. The only times I would get involved is when somebody would come in and hustle one of my customers then I’d get in a match with them at a later date.

In 1984 or 1985, sometime in there Conrad Daniels set up a match between me and Rick Ney, who at the time was one of the best in the country with the potential of being the strongest in the world. He was easily handling Conrad and different ones in the area at the time, and I was down the shore with my motel business. I went up to Washington to a tournament and didn’t do well at all, got knocked out early. Rick had got on Conrad because he wanted a match, but Conrad said he didn’t think he could beat Rick, but that I could so without even asking me they announced at the Washington Open that there was going to be a match between me and Rick in Conrad’s bar over in Trenton NJ. I said I wished somebody would have asked me if I was willing to do it, you know? But what happened was, I showed up for the match a couple of weeks later, or whenever it was, in shorts since it was summer time and Rick was all hyped up and was telling me I wasn’t going to be able to quit in the middle of playing, since I was older and might not be able to last for the whole match. We were playing the first to win 26 501 games. So, it was a lot of fun, it was for around $10,000 I was told. Various one from Philadelphia and others from upstate put up the money. It was either 26 to 18 or 26 to 16, I defeated Rick and he was so stunned he almost got into fisticuffs. And after that match I got very close with Rick, he and his family used to come down and stay at my motel, but it bothered me over the years because I felt I’d really hurt one of the greatest American and English dart players and maybe one of the top world players. We’re very close, even to this day, but that’s always bothered me. What happened was, at the peak of his career where he seemed to be undefeatable, even against Eric Bristow, I showed up and he must have taken me too lightly, and his dominance of the game was no more. 

A few guys pulled tricks. It was like Norm Findley, sometimes he would stand close to a player and blow cigar smoke at him, as he was getting ready to play. I didn’t use mind games, Dick Yost was a great one for that, he would make you not play your game, too, I didn’t see much of that at tournaments.

Little Al and me played the English game with American darts to start with, then Tex Blackwood gave me one of his many sets which were a set of tungsten darts with little rubber flights on them. I used them until the dart broke and I couldn’t find another set like that. Then I got a set of Unicorn darts. I have a set of darts now that were given to me years ago. I don’t change darts and even flights I don’t change much. The type of dart doesn’t make any difference. Right now I think if I got a set of American darts in my hand I could outplay 80% of the players in English darts but not the top 10% or 20%, even though I haven’t touched a set of darts in the last three years. The last time I played was in the Ray Chesney tournament in Philly and I lost a tough match, 1 to 2, against Ray Carver who, I believe, is one of the top players today. I wasn’t aware of him from not actually playing in the last few years.

In 1984, I think just after I won the Masters, Unicorn asked me if I wanted a sponsor. I think it was because I was using their darts. They wanted me to attend, it was either 12 or 16 tournaments, I just forget how many. I was a single oh player from the sponsor, so I picked up Dave Kelly, from Boston, for a partner. At that time of my life, to be forced to go somewhere when I didn’t want to was tough. When I was in my 20s it was different. Come to think of it, having my air fare and hotel paid for might have had a lot to do with how much I played and won in 1985 and 1986. Whether I wanted to go or not I had the sponsor and had to go, so it was a fun year. I played with Dave Kelly for a partner, who was a great player I first met up in Boston when he was only 21.

I wasn’t into it that much before 1985. I’d play, then not go to any tournaments and when I did show up nobody knew how I was going to play because they hadn’t seen me play in a while. I was a disappearing act. When they had the Champion of Philadelphia tournaments, which were open only to Philadelphia players, I didn’t want to play in it because the other players were my buddies and I thought it was for them so I didn’t want to get in it and ruin it for them. I thought I was a level above most of the players, but that was from American darts because I had the highest average and I’d win high average, high single, high everything, so when the Champion of Philadelphia tournaments started I wouldn’t play, I thought it was for the other guys to have a chance to win. I did get in it the second year and ended up winning it, then the following year when they had it again it was double elimination and I got in the finals with Dave German without a loss, so he had to beat me twice to win. We get down to our match and a I heard some of my friends from Philadelphia cheering for Dave and that upset me so much that I just wasn’t going to make a double. I’d get down to a double a couple of hundred points before him but I just wasn’t going to make a double. He ended up beating me and I never attended another Philadelphia Champion event. The crowd never bothered me any where I played, even in England when the guys from Scotland were dropping their pants, but that time my feelings were really hurt.

There was another time I gave a game up, after not playing for a couple of years. I was playing in Long Island against my partner, Jamie Jordan, who won a New York Open doubles with me, and I wanted him to go on and win a singles event, if he could. Which he never did. I got down to 40 left way ahead of him, but the only way I was going to take the win was with two double tens instead of a double 20. Rudy Hernandez, a top New York player was watching our match and he couldn’t figure out what I was doing. I took several turns at it but kept busting. Finally I lost. Jamie never said anything and lost in the next match. I did go on to win the Cricket singles event against John Part from Canada.

I didn’t do anything special to get ready to go to a tournament. When I got there I’d throw to get in my rhythm but that was about it. If I didn’t get any rhythm I didn’t do any good, I’d be in and out. Sometimes, if I could hang in long enough and my rhythm would come in, then everything would turn out fine.

I preferred to play longer scoring games because the weakest part of my game was the double so if I could get a couple of hundred point lead I’d be OK.

I went to England a few times, the first time was the Pentathlon, they had one on the west coast and one on the east coast and I won the east coast and got to go over. I took Bill Saver with me because I didn’t like to travel alone. That was in 1977 or 1978.

There are pros and semi pros in darts where the pros are the very top players and the semi pros are the ones right below them. And all of them in the top 10%.

I guess my best experiences was when I beat Jocky Wilson one set in the masters in England. It was best of three sets each set the best of five games, and I took a 135 out with a triple 20 then a single and double bull, while winning the first set. He came back to win the next two sets. Then another time was when I beat Eric Bristow with a 170 out in one game at the Pentathlon.

I was an emotional person. I would always go with the underdog and would partner with them to help them. If a friend of mine got hustled I’d make a match and get it back for them, that was the kind of guy I was.

There was a tournament in New York where they brought over 40 of their best players and afterward Ray Fischer played Alan Evans for money. The British asked for a match and we said Theide was too good for Alan, and I had just beaten Alan in the tournament so I didn’t need to play him again, but Ray had been knocked out of the tournament early, so Alan could play him. They played and Ray beat him for a good deal of money. The Brits weren’t happy since in the tournament two Americans were first and second, George Silberzahn won and I came in second, then Ray beat Alan.

I would usually pick a partner that I thought I could help. There was Ray Davidson, from Philly, and it was like, who could he get to put him up in the national spotlight? So I felt, OK I’ll take him as a partner in Washington DC and we ended up in the finals against Jerry Umberger and Rick Nye in the finals of the oh one. We won. Well now Ray Davidson, you’re here, then he eventually went on to win a US Open tournament. I liked Dave Kelly, who I played partners with in 1985 and 1986, because he would psych me up. He’d tell me I need you, I need your darts and then I’d go. We did very well together, yea we had a very good relationship. I loved Ray Fisher as a partner and Frank Ennis as a great friend but only played with Frank one or two times as he was tied up in a sponsorship with Joe Baltadonis, from Mt. Royal New Jersey. I do wish I could have played more often with Frank as he was a great American and English dart shooter. He could easily pick doubles in English darts, which as I previously said was my weakness.

Then there was another tournament in New York where I got my loss back from George Silberzahn and beat him in the finals of the Rums of Puerto Rico New York Open.

Over the years I did find out the lack of preparation hurt me. Other than 1985, that was one year that I did put time in the game and I did start practicing. Then there was drinking, you would drink too much and suddenly that got a hold of you and there goes your game too. At tournaments it seemed like you’d need few to relax yourself, even though when I played American darts I never drank until after. At English darts tournaments, with not practicing, the drinks seem to relax you a little more so I felt I didn’t have to practice, but there were many times I’d get on a hot streak and then the alcohol would get a hold of it and that would be the end of it. In Las Vegas, in 1982 or 1983, I knocked off Jocky Wilson, who just won the world championship, two in a row with seven and eight dart 301 games and got in the finals against Nicki Virachkul. We had to wait several hours until the finals and I didn’t take care with the drinking so I had trouble picking doubles and lost. We’d made arrangements prior to playing to split the money anyway so that didn’t matter. But anyway, in many tournaments over the years the partying and late hours affected the result.

1984 I had just won the Masters tournament to go to England, and the publicity bit didn’t bother me anymore so I thought I’d put a little time in. I got a sponsor, General Sportscraft Unicorn and I went on a little spree of playing steady in 1985 and won in Minnesota, West Palm beach, Atlanta Georgia, Phoenix, Washington Open, New York Open and a lot of other places. It seems like that year and the beginning of 1986 I was hot as anything. When I didn’t let the alcohol get the best of me I was pretty much winning every tournament I got involved in. I got involved with the World Cup in Australia that year. Myself, Rick Nye, Tony Payne, and John Kramer, we had to play the English and we defeated the English 8 to 0 and got the gold metal. I played doubles with Rick Nye and let him down against John Lowe and Eric Bristow, who went on to win. If I’d have played just a little better we would have won because Rick was at the top of his game.

In 1986, what with not playing much and living down the shore, except for going to a few tournaments, and I got tired of the tournaments, I wanted to spend more time with my family. Winning all those times didn’t have anything to do with it. My interests in life were changing so I gave up my sponsorship and retired – again – for about the fifth time. I had just started wearing glasses my thumb hit them when I pulled the dart back and that interfered with my game and timing with my rhythm.

The time came, like when I went to England when I was 50, and I wished it could have been when I was 20 or 30. I’d lost some of the adrenaline, some of the drive. In 1985 I picked it up some but as fast as I picked it up I lost it again. Once you loose the adrenaline it’s gone. I found on Sunday at tournaments I’d be thinking about going home instead of going on and winning, and I wonder if that affected how I played. But I did show up in 1989 in US Open and won it for the second time. Came out of nowhere and beat Ray Davidson. Then I went to Atlantic City Jamie Jordan in 1990 or ’91, and Friday night I didn’t feel good, so I took a couple of aspirin and a bottle of Pepto bismal and it eased off. The doctors told me the aspirin probably open the clot and let the blood through. I played the rest of the weekend, and did fairly well. I went to the hospital and had angioplasty from a heart attack. I’ve had irregular heart beat too and I thought that showing up every couple of years for a tournament might not be a good idea. The extra stress from not being prepared and all wasn’t good. I did show up one last time in Atlantic City because Brian Dougherty, from Philadelphia called me and asked if I would be his partner, so I did. It was a shame for me and Brian because I didn’t play so well, especially in the doubles, and we didn’t play very well together. Brian played a great game against Taylor, from England and beat him in the singles. That would be the last time I played other than the Ray Chesney in Philly in 2000. I didn’t play on Sunday because I didn’t feel well. When I returned home I ended up in the hospital with irregular heartbeat.

So I got into golf, which to me is a more relaxing game and later on in golf, who knows maybe I’ll end up getting in the senior league and play against Arnie Palmer, Jack Nicklaus or Wes Keys. Wes Keys? Who is Wes Keys? Just another good American dart shooter out of Philly who was strictly a hustler and not just in darts, but also golf too, in the 1960s.”

 

Interviewed Sept. 2003

Passed away 2008

Umberger, Gerald

Gerald (Jerry) Umberger

Career base: Pottsville Pa (50 miles NW Philadelphia Pa.)

 

1979 – 81- 83- 85- 89- 91, World Cup Team.

1982- 83- 84, Nations Cup Team, Royal Hawaiian International Champion.

1983, Lucky Strike Triple Crown of Darts (Highest single prize $15,000)

1988, East Coast Championships Singles Champion.

1989 Cleveland Rock & Roll Singles Champion;

Rochester Genny Light Open Singles Champion;

Lake Erie Classic Singles Champion.

1990, Sarasota Gulf Coast Classic Singles Champion;

Blue Bonnet Classic Singles Champion;

New York Open Singles Champion;

Cincinnati Spring Fling Singles Champion;

Cleveland Rock and Roll Singles Champion.

1992, Cleveland Rock and Roll Open Singles Champion;

Fire Cracker Open Singles Champion;

Syracuse Open Singles Champion;

Wolverine Classic Singles Champion.

1993 Arachnid Plastic Player of USA;

Virginia Beach Classic Singles Champion;

Long Island Lady Liberty Cricket & 501 Singles Champion.

1994, New England Darts Challenge #15 Singles Champion;

Samson Dart Classic (England) 2nd place;

Lake Erie Classic Singles Champion;

#1 Arachnid Plastic Player (USA);

Virginia Beach Classic Singles Champion;

Long Island Lady Liberty Cricket & 501 Singles Champion.

1995, Va. Beach Classic Cricket & 501 Singles Champion;

Cleveland Extravaganza Singles Champion;

New England Darts Challenge #16 Singles Champion.

1998, Snow Blind Cricket Singles Championship.

1999, National Singles Champion, North American Open

 

“I started English darts when Steve Farcus, of the Spider magazine, came to Pottsville looking for good dart players to interview and play against. This was American darts. I guess he wanted to learn about them. He was in Philadelphia and someone told him, whatever you do don’t come to Pottsville because there are a lot of really good players up here. Well he did and stopped down at the Firehouse where I played and they called me. I thought it was a joke, or something stupid you know, so my dad went over, then calls up and said I’d better get over there because there was some guy over there that had darts that come apart. So I went over and he asked me to throw the darts at the American board and he couldn’t believe how good I could throw those darts without ever throwing them before. Well, then I didn’t know you had to have your own darts and that’s all you can throw. Then I was told you had to drink to play, you know? Guys would ask me how I could play so well without drinking. After I started going to tournaments that just came with it, you know? I don’t know if that was a good thing, because I’ve won a couple of good singles tournaments without drinking, ‘course I won a tournament with a cast on my foot too so if your going to win you’re going to win, no matter what you’re going to get lucky and win. There’s a lot of luck in it, you know, like there’s times when I’d be playing somebody and I’d miss a double and he’d miss then I’d take it out. He could have hit it, then I would have lost. I think it’s luck when somebody misses and you get a chance to win. I know out in Cleveland a few years ago they had three singles, like 501 then Cricket, then 501, and I won all three, first time it had ever been done, but I was lucky there too, you know? In the third one I was tired. I played some young guy and he had me beat but didn’t go out so I ended up winning, but I should have lost in the first or second round, I think it was. In every tournament there’s one game, or one match, where you can be beat, but get a break. I’ve done it all, I’ve lost to about everyone. I lost in St. Louis to a girl in the first round, and out in Kansas I lost to a young kid about 16, I guess. I didn’t want to kill him so when I’d hit a triple 20 I’d throw a couple of singles, then when I got down I couldn’t hit the double, and he won. I guess you could say I’m an equal opportunity loser.

When I started, over at the Firehouse where my dad played, I was so small I had to use a chair to pull the darts out of the board. My dad says him and my two brothers used to knock hell out of me until I got to be around 14 or 15, then we couldn’t beat him anymore. So I played until I could beat my dad and brothers then I went looking in other places and played until I could beat guys there, then I kept moving and looking for better players, you know? I started playing in a league when I was 18, in an in – house league. My first year I averaged around thirty eight I guess, then the last two years I played I averaged 50 or better. Then I started playing English darts and the average dropped down to 49, then 48 and I quit. The transition from the American darts to English wasn’t very difficult for me because up here we stood behind the line which put us closer to the English distance than the Philly players because they heeled the line and that put them foot closer. I played Bob Theide over in New Jersey in a money match and I had to tell him, either he moved behind the line or I couldn’t play him. That was too much to spot him.

The way I started playing English darts was there was a benefit for Bob Theide in Philadelphia and I knew Bob from American darts so I went to support that. I went to Danny Valletto’s bar so I could learn a little about the game before I got in the tournament. After that there was a tournament up in Connecticut and I got in the finals but I didn’t know what I was doing with out shots and lost to Frank Ennis, who was probably one on the finest players in the country. I tried to turn 56 into 32 by hitting the double 12 for 24. Well I hit it on my third dart and Frank went out.

I don’t remember what I did as far as practice, but I didn’t practice for anymore than an hour. After I got to about 22 years old I didn’t practice any more. I hung an English dart board in my cellar, but I never practiced. I spent some time getting used to the change of distance from American to English but there wasn’t any routine or anything. Funny, when I came in second over in England they interviewed me and when I told them I practiced for an hour or so after I got there, the British pros told me never to say that. Tell them you practice for hours every day. One thing I’ll tell people about darts is don’t do what I did, do what I say: practice. I was never ready for a tournament and if I had it to do over I would have been. I won, but if I’d practiced I could have won more.

Every time a good player comes along there is something different about them from regular players and you can see it, but I don’t what it is. Conrad Daniels had one of the best minds I’ve seen in darts. He had the ability to lock in when he was playing. He was playing in one of those national cup things and had 60 left, so he was shooting for a single 20, you know? He hit the double 5, and the expression on his face never changed. He just drew the next dart back and hit the double bull for the win. I could have been a lot better if I could have been the way Conrad handles his mind. When I did something like that I’d get mad and rather than just shoot I’d be thinking about how did I do that. I’d have shot for the bulls eye but I don’t know if I’d have come close to it. I think everybody is thinking a lot when they’re on the line, planning the shot and where to play the next dart if that one misses. Then, when you’re playing bad you start thinking about that and not concentrating on the shot. The best description of concentration I’ve ever heard came from a baseball player, “the ability to think of nothing.” When you’re playing good you don’t think of anything, you just shoot and shoot.

Maybe one of the things about me is that I have very little motion when I shoot. I don’t move my arm much and don’t move my body at all. I only draw it back 8 to 10 inches before I shoot it, just a short stroke. If you want to shoot a 180 you have to do the same thing three times in a row, so the less you have to do the better.

When I started playing English I started with Apex American darts. I cut the feathers down so I could shoot them the added distance and height. I got my first set of English darts when Al Lippman gave me a card for Accudart and I sent away for them, they were about 18 to 20 gram, but as I played I moved up in weight until I got to around 24 gram. I had a lot of bounce outs when I started, until I used the no bounce out kind of dart with the loose point. I’ll recommend them to everyone. I shoot them off my thumb, instead of my fingers, and they spin in the opposite direction of everybody else but I don’t think it makes any difference.

The dart barrel don’t really matter except I like the front a little thicker because when they drill out for the loose point it makes the front lighter and so I like the thicker ones because that makes up for the drilling. The dart you use really doesn’t make much difference.

I think the shaft and flight is what controls the dart. I can take anybody’s dart and put shafts on them and cut down the flight so they’ll be OK. I can trim the flight until it does what I need. I started the “coal cracker” kind of flight because I cut my flights down so they’d go right. I was in England and they wanted me to play in this place so I borrowed somebody’s darts and asked for a pair of scissors to trim down the flights then went ahead and used them.

It’s harder playing in tournaments than it is for money. You can lose a few games playing for money and come back, but in tournaments it’s best of three all the time and that’s hard.

Playing tournaments or money matches I always let the other player beat me. A consistent game will win over the distance. It’s a lot harder playing best of three because you can loose right away where playing for money you can lose a few and still come back. You get programed into the best of three games and then it doesn’t matter. In 1994 I came in second in Samson Dart Classic, in England, after playing Dave Kelly, Dennis Prestly, Cliff Lazarenko who was 6th or 7th in world at the time, then I played Phil Taylor who was a true number one in the world, then Peter Emerson in the finals. I messed up on two games, one game I was on 32 and missed the double, then another one I missed a single trying set up my out shot and that lost it for me. I played four matches that day and didn’t take advantage of the four hour break between games to go lay down and rest, I should have, I was tired. In 1999, I won the US Championship and got to play in the News Of The World but didn’t do well at all. I didn’t concentrate on the reason I was there well enough and my attention strayed, so I couldn’t represent my country the way I would have liked. Funny, I tried to win that so many times and the year I won it, I quit.

There’s mind games people play sometimes. I was playing a guy I beat the year before in the same tournament we were going to play each other again, and he tried to upset my by saying, real cocky like, the only reason you beat me last year is because I missed a double.” All I said was, “you have to get a shot at a double first.” I won. We were good friends, it was just darts, and didn’t change us being friends.

I had sponsors, several, and I changed from one to another because one would offer me more, or the business would drop off and my sponsor couldn’t afford it anymore. I was still friends with them when I left a sponsor. There wasn’t a contract, it was just a handshake deal. They paid me because I was popular and people liked me, they didn’t care if I won, I was just another pretty face. They approached me, so I don’t know how to go about getting a sponsor. I spent my career being a free agent. I guess my biggest regret is splitting prize money among team members. I’d win the singles and by the time it got split among four people I didn’t get very much, so I lost money that way.

I’d go through times when the dart would go through the air sideways for some reason and I’d wonder why they were crooked and start holding my hand differently of stuff. But I just kept throwing and after a while they’d straighten out. When that happens even when the dart lands in the triple, it’s still not good because you can’t do it again. When I played a lot sometimes the dart would land tail down and the only thing I could think is I must have twisted the dart a little harder when I released it. The harder you throw the more the dart tails down. If you lob a dart it will never stick straight out, it’ll stick up. If I just hold the dart straight and bring it back straight then shoot it out straight the problems seem to go away.

I stopped playing in 1999. Went to soft tips and I’ll go to tournaments off and on but it’s kind of strange, you know, because the people cheer for the other guy now where they used to cheer for me. I don’t play now and they don’t know me anymore you know? That’s OK though, because people used to cheer for me. In the beginning people would cheer for Conrad Daniels but after about 5 or 6 years after I began winning, they cheered for me. One year, in Las Vegas we won and when I went on stage to get the trophy the people went crazy and some guy told me it was the loudest applause ever. I stood there holding up the two trophies and it was nice, that people would do that for you. When I was playing a match and people would cheer for me sometimes it would embarrass me. I’d feel bad for the guy I was playing against, but I don’t take it personal if they are cheering for the other guy.

One of the reasons I stopped playing was I wear glasses now and that affects my game because the dart hits my glasses. I can’t see as good and I can’t look at a spot so I have to look at the whole double and that takes my area to hit down. Now days I have a small vending company that only handles dart machines and I have them out in a few places. I have an agreement with the regular vending companies that I’ll only do dart machines so it’s OK. I have about 23 teams in my league now and it’s all soft tip. I tried steel tip but the people didn’t want to deal with keeping score, so it didn’t go over. If I was a bar owner I’d want the machines because it brings in money on the side. There isn’t much upkeep and the vender does that anyway. I don’t play in my league but there was one team of girls I helped out by playing on the team. I’d get the score down but I wouldn’t take it out, I let the girls do that. They used to get a little mad at me in a good natured sort of way, but it was all OK. They gave me a little plaque at the end of the year and that was pretty cool. I do a lot of benefit type things now to show that darts are good. I think darts need help with the image they have. Darts seem to be doing OK around here and there’s a few guys on tour from around here now, and they’re doing pretty good so I guess the next generation of players are good players.”

 

Interviewed Sept. 2003

Theide, Robert

Robert (Bob) Theide

Career base: Morrestown NJ (Suburb of Philadelphia, PA)

 

Accomplishments:

1970, Most Valuable Player in the Pennsylvania State Dart Tournament

Culver City: 1st – Team;

North American Open: 2nd – Singles;

United States Darting Association Open – 1st – Singles;

1971, North American Open: 1st – Singles

American dart league (NECDL) High Average 48.5

1972, Garden State American Dart League High Average – 52.8

1973, Schmidt’s Open (Philadelphia): 1st – singles;

1974, Schmidt’s Open (Philadelphia): 1st – singles.

 

“I played softball at lot before I played darts, and after a game we’d go back to the tavern for a couple of beers. There was an American dart board in the place and since I didn’t shoot pool, I wanted something to do and picked up the darts. I started playing some people in the place and started winning games and the people would tell me I was lucky to win. I liked playing and started getting good at it so I started practicing and playing more often. Our business was up in Camden at the time and I’d go over to Kelly’s bar for lunch. I saw the dart board and stopped after work for a few beers and some dart playing. I asked Babe Kelly, the owner, about the dart team and he gave me a big score I’d have to make to be on the team, something like 51, and I told him I didn’t think I could make that much but I thought I could shoot 45. They never called me. Then, when I was going to Rutgers night school, I’d stop after school at a place called the Red Eagle to throw some darts. One time the bartender told me one of their players quit and asked me what team I played for and when I said I didn’t play for a team he signed me up for theirs. I played out the season under that guy’s name.

Some people, like a guy named Steve Brown, who was very good, said that some people just have a knack for darts and that I excelled because I was one of them. I didn’t say anything, but it was really because I put a lot of practice time in. I practiced the bulls eye for half an hour first. The reason was, Tommy Eagan told me three things about the bulls eye: if you can control the bulls eye, you can control the games; it gave the best place to develop your grouping of darts; then there was a game called bulls eye. After the bulls eye, I set up a platform to hit, like back to back scores of seven, and back to back doubles a set number of times, then back to back seven score and eight score. Basically it was get the first dart in the double, then play off that dart with the last two. I played for grouped darts and hardly ever played a game where you split darts. Jack Fletcher and Joe Schwartz, guys from Delaware county over by Philly, played those kinds of games. I played in three leagues at the time, on different nights, and I had Sundays off and Mondays off and Thursdays too. But then I’d practice on Sunday and stop in Fairview Gardens on my way home from work for a couple of beers on Saturday, and if I didn’t have to be home and somebody was there, I’d call my wife and tell her I was going to stay and play, if not I went home. A lot of times she’d go to her parents. And Friday nights I played a lot.

I didn’t pull the dart all the way back before I shot it, and I didn’t shoot it with my arm far out either, I sort of flipped it. After my accident, I found out a lot later, I started throwing it instead of flipping it and that was bad. I started pushing the dart out and that got me throwing off side to side. I didn’t take any time off after the accident, I guess I was afraid I’d loose what ever I had, but if I had I might not have started bad habits. At times I could really throw it out there and other times I couldn’t, I wasn’t consistent.

I used to play with Crazy Jack, Jack Eagan, who played out of Fairview Gardens. He was a 41 average player in the league, but for money he played a lot different. He used to play Jim Brady a lot and the more he drank the better he got, until he had enough that it would get to him. Brady would make sure he got enough for that to happen, too.

I didn’t play American darts all that long, maybe six – seven years. I got better at it after I got married because I’d practice at home at lot more. I didn’t play English darts all that long either, maybe three, four, five years is all I played really good. Then I had an accident with a train, over in Philly, and that messed that all up.

In 1970 I played in Philadelphia on an American dart team, and there was a guy named Charlie Young who had a bar there where I saw in Gains Score Card, that was like a news bulletin about darts that was in all the bars over there, there was a team going out to California to play in a dart tournament and they were looking for donations to help with the expenses. I got hold of Junior, Charlie Young, and told him I’d like a shot at playing on the team. So, ah, I paid my own way to California and went with them as part of the team. I had success out there. Basically the difference between American and English was learning to count for out shots and getting used to the longer line. They played English at eight feet at the time. I learned the game in four to six weeks and went out there and came in second place. The reason I lost was I didn’t count right on a couple of shots, and I think I drank too much. In December 1970, I went to a tournament in New York put on by Bob McLeod. It was the United States Dart Association Open and I beat Richie Yost in the finals. What pumped me up was that I had come in second place in California earlier in the year and I didn’t want to come in second place again.

That was the year I met McLoed and I started playing both American and English darts. The longer line in English darts didn’t make any difference once you got used to it, except you didn’t have the real good accuracy from that far back. In fact to get used to the eight foot line, I practiced at eight foot six a few days, then when you move up the line it feels close. In the Delaware county league, where I was playing American darts, they put down a toe board so you had to stay behind the line, so practicing the longer line helped my American dart game. I think I averaged 43 the first year in American darts, then I think I won high average with 46.8 the next year but ended up with almost a 53 average later.

In the beginning I didn’t play money matches, but when I did play for money I played with my own money. Most of the other players didn’t play with their money, they played with somebody backing them, like Lenny Craig and Richie Yost.

Yostie and me used to go to Trenton and play Ernie Reel and Jimmie Hasson and we just walked through them, in American darts, and won about $1100. I got into an argument with Yost because his backer put up the money for Yost and I put up my own money and I didn’t think a three way was split was right, I wanted it to be 50/50. I didn’t ask anybody to back me up with their money, I played on my own. Sometimes I’d get it from Art Caness, who owned the Fairview Gardens but mostly it was my own. When I got married I had a little kitty where I’d put money I won from darts after I took out my expenses for the night, and that was what I used to play money matches. If I won $20 in a night I’d put half in the kitty jar. That way I never went into my own money, so playing for money never bothered me because I was never playing with my last dollar. There was a guy who could play really well for quarters but as soon as you got the money up his game fell apart. There were certain people that way.

Lenny Craig and I played one really good match in a place in Gloucester. Lenny beat me because I started out real good and we were shooting well into the 50s and 60s then after about four hours I was shooting in the low 50s and Lenny was still hitting 55 and 60. We were playing what was called a freeze out, where each person would put up an amount of money, in this case it was $100, then play for so much per game and when somebody won the $100 it was over. We were playing for $10 a game and I was only a few games away from breaking his back earlier, because I came out strong. There was one game in that match where I played something like 67 and lost it. I didn’t crumble after that and it wasn’t the deciding game or anything, it was just a game we played during the match. That was just the caliber of darts we were playing. I remember me & Whitey Vitorski played Jack Fletcher & Joe Swartz and Whitey shot a 57 and I shot a 69 and we barely won. We weren’t keeping track of what the whole score was in those games but we would sometimes add a game up at the end. Most of the time we didn’t know what the total score was.

Ernie and Jim came down to a place Lenny Craig and I were in, looking for Lenny Craig to play a money match. Lenny wasn’t sure about the money end, if there was any, so we went up there and watched Ernie drop $500 in a card game, then another $500 on the dart board, and that’s a lot of money for a guy that did roofing for a living. He had Joe T. , the owner behind him but still, that’s a bundle. There was some talk that Ernie was connected to the Irish Mafia, but I wasn’t sure about that.

I didn’t start out playing money matches. I started playing for beers, then a quarter a game after I got better and thought I could win. Then after a while, when I’d win most of the time, I started playing for more. At that time I controlled the number of beers I’d drink. I’d have a couple, then just sip on one while I played. I remember one time, a matter of months after I got married, I played a match downstairs in the Fairview Gardens until 7 O’clock in the morning against Peanuts, John Lowery. He got action. He took me into south Philly where we got to playing $100 a game against a guy named Sonny Ricobini. A couple of his brothers, or step brothers got killed, not from darts, from other things. The guy ended up owing us $600 but when I found out who he was I wasn’t going to try to collect it. I told Lowery his cut of the winnings that night was the $600 we were owed.

Me and Joe Dick went to Springfield one time and got playing partners for $100 a nine inning game, and I wanted to get more so I told Joe I was going to hold back a little and for him to pour it on, because he was only throwing fours, five’s and sixes, and he said he was trying already. We played the Store brothers up there, and their favorite game was triple thirteen, and like I said, if you play them off their game they’ll stop calling it, I made three triples eight out of nine games, so we didn’t see that game any more. That didn’t work all the time though. Some good players, if that was their game, they’d come back at it because they’d figure you had your shot and they could still play really well in it.

Bob McLoed was trying to do things with English darts and began using me to build himself up. He had connections and everything and tried to get darts on cable TV, I think Joe Baltadonis played in one, and George Silberzahn did something in Boston, but it never took off. He connected himself with Kwiz darts in England because Unicorn had a distributor in America already. He became sort of a sponsor, but he only paid my entrance fees and I got a royalty off the sales of my signature dart, but that was about it. I was sponsored by Schmidt’s beer just before my accident. They paid my travel and board as well as entrance fees.

The first English dart tournaments I played in I used the Widdy, wooden dart. I thought the metal darts were too heavy and then when I did get a metal dart it was Silver trim. Those darts were thinner, and gave me shooting room in the triple and had a grip on them. I used feathers flights, Silver trim flights were the best, Unicorn and Kwiz flights fell apart. I used feathers about all the time, although I did fool around with the plastic ones. I needed the feathers because I didn’t throw hard. Like, I couldn’t throw a nail like Barry Twomblow from England. He used to come over here for Unicorn and put on exhibitions on TV doing things like knocking an apple off someone’s head with a 20 penny nail. That stopped the time he hit the guy in head with the nail, he missed the apple. Kwiz duplicated the Silver Trim dart and that became my signature dart. Brass darts were 15 grams and 20 gram darts were unheard of. I guess the longer you play the heavier dart you want because I switched to the 18 gram dart later. Silver Trim drilled the brass dart out and put lead in them to make them heavier. Eventually I went to an 18 gram tungsten because after I saw them I realized the 15 gram were too thin.

In English darts I’d practice the doubles because at that time the tournament games were double on, double off and if you don’t get double on, you don’t do it. Practice on doubles not only got you into the flow of it, it gave you confidence. In fact, I had a couple of tournaments I won where I was throwing double on all the time, I never missed a double on.

I joined a team in New York City in a place up on 88th street I think it was and I’d drive an hour and a half each way to go play. They had a board back in the corner and people only played in there in league nights. There was a place called the Anchors Away, though, down near Hells kitchen and they played a lot in there.

English darts got started in South Jersey out of Fairview Gardens because we had a team there that was part of the Philadelphia English dart league. I knew the owner and I talked her into it. That was the first team in South Jersey I can think of. After that I talked Joe Baltandonis into putting English dart boards in his place: the Mt. Royal Inn. The South Jersey English Dart League started that way.

I took Joe to the 1971, or ’72 US Open, and he beat me. I didn’t like that he didn’t know how to count and there were people telling him how to count and that broke my concentration. That’s a big thing when you start hearing what people in the crowd are saying. That’s a big bad thing.

I went to California in 1970 and came in second, then in 1971 I won it. Pims Cup, a British liqueur, came to the United States because they wanted to advertise in football until they found out what the price tag was, so then they ran this tournament and got a lot of advertising out of that. They ran a few tournaments then had a round robin in Chicago with the three winners of the other tournaments, one east coast, one west coast and one central. I won that and then went to England and I did pretty good there. You didn’t play heads up over there, you shot partners and we played all their top players in a tournament in Trafalgar Square. We won one match when I took a 102 out. The people loved that because the caliber of player at that time wasn’t what it was later. The team was Jack Carr, from California, me, and Jackie Eagan, the woman from Washington DC who won the women’s section. I’d never played in a tournament until I went to California, even in American darts I didn’t play in a tournament until later at the state tournament. I think the secret to tournament darts is concentration, where you get to the line and blank everything out and zero in on what you want to hit. When I was playing well I’d pinpoint where I wanted to hit that first dart, I’d zero in and concentrate on that spot for the first dart then group off it. I knew if that first one went I could put the other two in there too. I learned something else from Lenny Craig about darts. I played partners with Lenny at a tournament against a couple of other players, then after we’d played for quite a while two of us quit, but Lenny and the other guy played more, and after the other guy quit Lenny played all night against some other guy, a German guy I think. That got me to thinking, if you practice for two and a half hours that has to be equal to five hours of playing and stamina has something to do with tournament play. The waiting, at tournaments, is difficult to handle. I’d try to find a board to stay loose on, so I’d be ready to play, right out of the box, like you have too. The problem with that is that the board you practice on might be different than the one you play on. But you have to stay loose and ready. Towards the end I didn’t do that, I’d sit and relax with a beer between rounds of play.

The first one I went to was held in the Culver City civic center, I think and it was like a gymnasium, with bleachers, you know? There were twenty some dart boards, maybe, and about 150 entrants. We got in with the people from northern California because they were outsiders too, because most of the people were from southern California. The first thing I wanted to know was where I could practice and relax a little.

When I was playing good I looked to get another good player as a partner for a better chance for some money and we usually chopped prize money with partners. Partner games is tough because you have to rely on another person and if they are a little off that could effect you. I guess Ray Fisher was the easiest person to play with as a partner. I remember one time I was with Joe Baltadonis, Ray Fisher and a few other people and we went to a St. Patrick’s day tournament, and Joe beat me in the finals. I didn’t like that one too much, but it taught me something. Me and Ray Fisher were in the doubles finals and I ran out of gas on the triple twenty so I switched to the triple 19 and I had a 171 and a number of 133s. The guys we played in the finals got so wrapped up in the game that after I hit to end the game the guy was going to the line to shoot and we had to tell him it was over, he lost. I think that is the way you have to be. I didn’t want to pay attention to the other person because if you compete to the other person’s score you can psych yourself out. I don’t think I looked at the other individual, I just wanted to score a hundred each time I went up. I remember a time in Canada when the other guy went up to shoot after it was over: I’d shot an eleven dart game.

I don’t think I played English darts that much for money.

One of the best trophies I have is the one for “Most Valuable Player” in the Pennsylvania State Tournament. I was up in Nanicoke, Pennsylvania and played for the Philadelphia team and we won. It was the first time a team from Philly won in a long time. That was in the early ’70s. I was playing both English and American at the time and was playing really well. There were only a few English tournaments but getting ready for them, from the longer line, made you a better American player. Lenny Craig is the one that put into my mind that the line doesn’t really make a difference. He used to play for money at arms length, at the line and back at eight feet. So I thought if he could do it, I could.

The Schmidt’s Tournament in Philly had a big trophy that if someone won it three years in a row they could keep it. Well I won it the first two years but they canceled the tournament after that so I figured it was mine and I kept it.

After I moved here to Delaware, I used to go over here to a place where a couple of older guys played. They even have a league around here somewhere. In about 1998, I tried going back to playing American darts and I could feel a difference in the way I shot a dart, I wasn’t delivering correctly. I sat down and thought about it, the way I used to do it, like analyzing myself, and realized that after my accident, I started developing bad habits to compensate for problems I was having with my eyes and other things, but I didn’t know it. Now, there was something with my leg, I didn’t have my foot right. I used to hold the dart side ways in front of my face before I shot it, so I’d have a second to concentrate a little more and to pick that spot out. Another thing, I was holding the dart up, in front of my eye, and I realized I used to hold it lower and look over it at the board like sighting a rifle. To play darts you have to have x amount of things and one of them is concentration. Another thing is a comfortable stance, and your release is another one. I think when you’re on you should take a picture of your stroke, then when you’re off you could take another picture and see the difference.

I guess if I applied myself I could have gotten it back, but to practice you have to have the time to do that practice and physically, I don’t know if I have the stamina, I have circulation problems with my legs. You have to have a clear mind, you can’t have problems with business on your mind. You need the concentration and the desire and I noticed, when I tried to pick up darts again after laying off for a while, that my concentration was broken by other things. When something you get out of your mind pops back into it that’s a sign your concentration is shot.

In the late ’70s I was only going to tournaments in New England, Washington DC and Atlantic City, and I played in a summer singles league in Philly and I did fairly good in that but I started devoting more time to the business and wasn’t playing or practicing much and tapered off darts. Then in the early ’80s, Barney, Ron Barnstead, and I were partners at a tournament down in Atlantic City, that was the last tournament I played in. I don’t know exactly why, but I stepped back and figured it was foolish to embarrass myself with the way I was playing, and that it was just a waste of time. You can’t play if you feel that way, so I stopped.”

 

Interviewed April 2003

Passed away June 2004

Scheerbaum, Helen

Helen Scheerbaum

Career base: Philadelphia Pennsylvania

 

“When I was 12 years old, my parents bought a bar in the Juniata section of Phila. We lived in the apartment upstairs and I helped out by serving the food. In those days, bars had free food and nickel beers. We also had a dart board. American darts were big then in Philly. I was immediately fascinated by the game. I was told to stay upstairs and away from the bar but I would find any excuse to go down to the bar and throw darts. When the inner part of the board got worn out, it was replaced so I would take the old part upstairs, prop it up on a chair and practice. I soon became very good at it. I was always competitive and loved all sports.

On Friday nights, guys would come in after work and they always ask me to play. We played four on a side and I would always make 40 or 45 or better. Soon guys would come in and ask to take me to other bars to play for money, they would back me, but my mother wouldn’t allow it. One day a promoter came in and asked if I could do exhibitions. Mom allowed that. We were billed as Helen and John and Betty and Bob. We played in different places for prize money, that was a lot of fun. There weren’t many women playing back then – mostly bar owners and waitresses – but they did have a tourney to see who was best. So, at age fifteen, I was the Lady Champion of Philadelphia.

Soon after that we sold the bar and bought one in Mayfair. We still had the darts, though. The guys would come in and there were a lot of money games.

One time, I remember, this fellow came in who wanted to play me. He owned a bakery route and he put that up for collateral and the others backed me. It was the 9th inning – 1 to tie and 2 to win. I accidentally dropped a dart and as I bent to pick it up a thought went through my head, “Helen, what are you doing?” I missed that inning. I just couldn’t do that. It was his livelihood. Not long after that, the board was taken down and I never threw another dart until I was 49 years old. In the meantime I got married, raised three children, my parents sold the bar and my husband died.

I was doing other things by then when a friend of mine said that ladies were playing darts at the Manor Bar. Alice and Charlie Young owned it at that time. I went there. They were getting up a ladies team in this new game – English darts. The ladies were hitting the wall, the floor, the ceiling and everything else. When I threw 3 darts, they all went in the board so they put me on the team. There were only 2 ladies teams – one at our bar and one at another bar – so we just went back and forth every week, playing each other. Now, of course, in 2003, we have two women’s leagues in Philly (one has many bars with several hundred ladies and the other is called the Advanced Singles League).

I continued to play with my Widdies (wooden darts). I still say that I played my best darts with them but I kept getting a lot of bounce-outs. I lost too many darts that way and I was told, “Helen, you’d better switch to brass darts”. There weren’t any tungsten darts yet. We shot from an 8 ft. line back then, later the line was made universal at 7 ft. 9 1/4 ins.

In 1973, Charlie took us to New York where they were starting to play tourneys. I came in 2nd place in my first tourney – that was the Rums of Puerto Rico. Two weeks later we went back and again I made 2nd place – that was the U.S.D.A.

I was invited to go to England with the 1st team to go abroad to play internationally. Al Lippman was our men’s champion. There were a whole bunch of us, a men’s team and a ladies team. Our ladies didn’t lose a match (there was even a ladies team from Sweden there, we beat them too). It was a wonderful experience and I’m sure none of us will ever forget it.

Bob McLeod became my sponsor. He got me a contract with Kwiz Darts who came out with a brass model of my Widdie darts. I was the 1st lady to have her own signature darts. Later, I was sponsored by Sportcraft. They supplied me with all my darting equipment. They gave me a choice of darts. I chose the John Lowe tungsten dart and I use a 1 1/4 in. nylon shaft with standard nylon flights (black). I’ve been using them ever since. They are front loaded with a short barrel and they just feel good to me almost like my Widdies.

In the 1970’s, 1971-1972, there were 7 or 8 ladies from Wash., D.C., Nikki, Linda, Patty Marie, Carol Toulson, Jackie Egan and others who went to New York to play the ladies up there at a place called Jacques’. Jackie and her husband owned “Mr. Egan’s” bar in D.C. Patty and the gang then came to Philly. We went to D.C. on a return trip to play them, then we had a thing going back and forth – it was the “travel team”. We went to New England, they came here. It wasn’t a tournament thing, we just wanted to play each other. We wanted to win but it was just for fun.

When Al Lippman died, we held a benefit tourney for his family. The Washington Area Dart Assoc. sent a busload of players to take part. So here comes this bus with all these people from D.C. Honest to God, we all almost passed out when they all came walking in. That time seemed to be the heyday of darts when people were having fun with it.

About this time, I got a call from Wash., D.C. saying there was a fellow who wanted to play me for $1000. I accepted. A bunch of us drove down there. We played and I struggled with my doubles that day but I did best him.

I didn’t practice a whole lot. We had the women’s league where we played one night a week and we hung out in this club on Sundays (Foederer Club) where we’d shoot darts all night, then sit around and talk darts ’til the wee hours of the morning.

I had a dart board in my dining room and Clem (who was my boyfriend) would come over and we’d shoot for quarters. He was an American darts shooter and a needler. He’d say, “Come on, fishcake, a quarter a game”, then he’d take all my quarters. Then I’d go to his house – he had a nice setup, with a bar and everything – and we’d play some more and he’d take all my quarters again. He actually made me a dart shooter. He made me angry! I’ve always been competitive, what to you mean “fishcake”!!! He gave me the drive to want to win. This desire to win is what makes a dart shooter. You don’t forget a loss, O.K.? You beat me now, but I’ll get you back. To this day, they know they’ll have to play to beat me. I still have the desire to win.

In my case, it was completely natural, so no one taught me how to shoot. It’s mainly hand and eye coordination. Clem was the one to tell me about the “wedge” – that is: 32,16,8,4,2 – for out shots. It’s what we called the wedge. I was so bullheaded I would say, “Oh, get out of here, a double is a double and I can hit any double” so I’d leave myself with a double 11 or something. Finally, he proved it to me and I’d think it out as I went along. Eventually, I went to double 20 because I’m comfortable at the top of the board.

 

I won most every national in the following days, weeks and years, starting with the 1st Schmidt’s Open, here in Philly in 1973. Then I went to Cleveland and this was very special to me. I lost the 1st 2 games and came back to win the next three in the finals. Clem jumped clean over the tables to get to me and after that everyone came to my room. We sang and celebrated all night long. I think I took my trophy to bed with me that night (heh, heh). From there I never looked back. I won every national after that, I had the jump on the ladies because of my background in American darts. The N.A.O.D.T., Disneyland (Anaheim) in 1974 was a big win for me and the following weekend, we drove to San Francisco. I won the Golden Gate there too. I won $750 in those two weeks that many years ago.

We (the women) had to fight for things in those days. All we had was the one event – ladies singles. I remember winning in San Bernadino and they presented me with this tiny trophy. The men’s winner got a huge one. I was incensed and let them know about it! A lot of the ladies in Calif. were starting to boycott some of the tourneys. I remember that one week when they all left the running tourney and went across the street to play in a bar. At the N.A.O.D.T. on the Queen Mary, we all got together for a meeting with a lady lawyer (Gloria Alred). She spoke to us and gave us some tips on what to do and how to proceed. We now have more tournament events but the prize structure hasn’t improved.

In 1974, I won the Cutty Sark Open in New York. I was presented with a winner’s cup. After the tourney was over, I happened to be standing outside the hotel where the tourney was held with this cup in my hands. Along came a passerby who dropped a dime into the cup. That dime is still in that cup until this day (smile)

One of my proudest moments was being invited to the Muscular Dystrophy Tourney ( in the Tidewater Area) as honored guest. They presented me with a beautiful clock-trophy inscribed “To Helen Scheerbaum – The First Lady of Darts”. The ladies of Wash.,D.C. presented me with a lovely gold locket, also (I still have it and I treasure it).

Gerry Umberger and his doubles partner shot with me in the triples event and we won. I’ve won many mixed doubles events with Frank Ennis and with Danny Valletto. I’ve won triples events with Frank Ennis and Joe Baltadonis, and with Ray Fisher and Danny.

My ladies doubles partner in those days was Diana Atchison from Wash., D.C. She and I won many doubles events in both 501 and cricket. We had good chemistry and she was so pleasant to shoot with. Partners have to like each other and have good camaraderie and a good rapport. It should never come down to blame, like “You should have done this or that” or why didn’t you do this or that”. Lately, I have been partnering with Joyce Hamilton and we have the same rapport. We won both doubles events, recently, in the “It’s A Women’s Thing” tourney in Annapolis, MD. just a few weeks ago (in 2003).

In 1975, Adele Nutter, Julie Nicole, Ellie Nicole and I won the ladies 4 person event in Michigan. I think that was the only time they included a 4 person ladies event.

In 1976, I did win the U.S.D.A. but there was no special award for the ladies – it was just another win, but I did receive a silver bowl.

One of my best memories is Caffney’s Bar in Wash., D.C. The owner was Nick Chantilles. He ran the 1st all ladies tourney and women came from all over. One group even drove all the way up from Florida in a motor home. Nick was the 1st one to give the ladies a chance to compete. He, later, started and ran the Washington Open for years.

In 1985, I went into the Philadelphia Hall of Fame, THAT was special. I was the 1st woman to receive that honor. The women’s league had a banquet each year and all husbands were invited. I didn’t know they were going to do this and when they called me up on stage to present it to me, I made a little speech announcing one of my retirements, I said you can do what I did and better, the whole place erupted and they all ran forward for my autograph. WOW, I remember that and it was a great feeling. People asking for autographs is a nice thing. Even in England, they did that. I took a whole box of wooden darts with me and gave them out as souvenirs. They called them carnival darts and it was fun.

Then at the Chesney tourney, here in Philly, they sold out of copies of the Bullseye News magazine which had my picture on the cover and they all came over for my autograph.

I also was the 1st person elected to the Charity Darts Assoc. of Maryland Hall of fame in 1988. They gave me a beautiful plaque inscribed “In appreciation For All You’ve Done For the Game” and the participant of darts.

Carl Holland came to town and opened a dart supply shop. I asked him if I could work for him and he agreed. I loved working there. People would come in and try out different darts and equipment and I think I helped them. One of my friends came in and said, “Helen, you look like a kid in a candy shop”.

With me, when I play, I get so into it that I don’t know when it’s over. I think there’s another game to play and I’ll say, “O.K., one more game”, and they’ll tell me, “Helen, it’s over, you’ve won”. When I’m really playing well, you could dropped a bomb and I wouldn’t have heard it. I always try to talk to my opponent afterwards because I know how much it hurts when you lose.

I developed tendentious in my elbow and have cortisone shots for it for a while but eventually that crystallized in my elbow and I had to have surgery to correct it. Then, later, I had to go back again because scar tissue had formed there. It took me a long time to get over that. I didn’t have full extension of my arm anymore and it destroyed my coordination. If I had just taken time off I’d have been fine but I didn’t want to. I didn’t want to miss the next tourney. I just wanted to play. I also started to think about how I was holding my dart, how I was standing and every aspect of my stoke. It just got into my mind, it’s a mental game, darts, and it requires great concentration on your target. Once you get your stroke down, and you know what you’re doing, don’t think about it anymore. I lost a number of years playing my best from these things.

I now have a “dart room” in my home with a dart board set up, where I have all my trophies, plaques and awards. I’m proud of each and every one of them. But, what I treasure the most are the many friendships I have made over the years – just playing darts.”

 

Interviewed June 2003