Fisher, Raymond

Raymond (Ray) Fisher

Career base: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

 

Accomplishments:

1970, Philadelphia Singles Shoot (American darts) – Champion;

1972, North American Open Darts Tournament – Open singles Champion;

1973, North American Open Darts Tournament – Open singles Champion;

Wins by City:

Chapel Hill NC, Virginia Beach VA, Detroit MI, Washington DC, Long Island NY, Riverside CA.

Member of the Philadelphia Darts Hall of Fame since 1987;

Member of the National Darts Hall of Fame (Maryland) since 2000;

Competed against Eddie Faye (Philadelphia legend) at the age of 19; retired from active league competition at the age of 72, being the oldest dart player to have competed in Philadelphia open dart leagues.

“I won a match against Nick Virachkul, 31 games to 28 games of 301, for $500. The match was played on an elevated diaz with three steps to it. After each shot you had to go down the steps while the other person took his shot then back up to take yours.

I won a match game of 3001 against Alan Evans, the then world champion, in 1974 in which I averaged 95.77 per turn (31.9 per dart), including the out shot, which inspired a poem by Jerry Walters and an article in the British press headlined: The game Alan lost could bring him fame.”

The Poem:

A team came from jolly olde England to fun city on St. Patrick’s Day

“The best in the World,” they were touted, when they came to the US to play.

It is true that they never were beaten, and were entitled to worldwide fame,

but the team brimmed with over confidence the day that they stepped off the plane.

The Yanks were just rank beginners, and the English would put them to shame.

Why, the Yanks still threw wooden darts they had used in the American game.

The dart world was in for a shocker, from the time the first dart was thrown.

The crowd could hardly believe it, the Yanks were holding their own

The people all cheered for their idols, the excitement hung heavy in the room,

And the smiles of the English had vanished, as the Yanks had sealed their doom.

When all of the scoring was over, the Champions had been dethroned,

But their pride could never be taken, the defeat must be atoned,

The Champion of Wales gave a challenge, to play any Yank in the hall,

One game for a thousand dollars, to be paid by the one who would fall.

Ray Fischer accepted the challenge to play Alan Evans of Wales,

He offered to play five oh one and was laughed at, “That game’s not for males,”

“Let’s play a man’s game,” England answered, the score should be three thousand and one.

Ray accepted the figure, and opened with a “ton.”

The match was no even contest, Ray Fischer had won great fame

As he beat the great Champion soundly by throwing a ninety nine dart game.

The World Title still belongs to England, but notice has hereby been served,

that the USA is coming, and believe that as gospel word.

 

“I started playing darts because of my father. He was a good dart player but wasn’t interested in anything beyond playing for beers locally. He was a really good triple player, in fact he did a trick with the old Ohio blue tip matches where he’d put one in the cork and he’d light it with the dart.

When I was 13 or 14 he brought home an old dart board they we throwing away, and some old darts and set it up down in the basement so I could play. No one showed me how to play, like how to hold a dart or shoot it, I just picked the dart up and the most comfortable position I was in I just threw it. A lot of people think you aim a dart. I don’t aim a dart, I look at what I want to shoot at and then it’s accuracy of your arm, that’s all. I don’t see how you could be competitive for very long aiming a dart, that’s very difficult to do, you have to have a very easy stroke. Any body who is any good, they stroke, they don’t aim. Sometimes I go around and look at how other people do it, and I can see how they can be good at that, but I can’t do it that way.

My father would come down and beat the crap out of me on the dart board, of course, and I got determined to beat him. I kept practicing and when I got around 17 or 18 I beat him and he’d never play me after that. He played with me but not against me. When the English dart game came around the guy my father used to play American darts could never get him to play, but one time he did. They played 301 double bull on and double bull off and my father beat him. After that he’d never play the guy again. He’d always complain about a sore elbow or shoulder or something and he’d go around bragging how he’d beat John McShane. He was totally different than me in that if I lost to someone I had to get even. I always aspired to be the best, I wasn’t content to be mediocre in some bar. If I heard about somebody who was good down on Frankford Avenue I’d want to go down and play ’em. I guess that came from the way I grew up and all. I had to be the best.

I got into an American dart league when I was 18 years old, in 1948. I played for a while then I went into the service and when I got out everybody was playing where ever they were comfortable on the line. Some were toeing a 6’9″ line they weren’t playing the game according to the rules so I just quit for a few years. I got back in the league in the middle ’60s.

I began playing English darts around 1970. Charlie Young had discovered a tournament was being held in California for money prizes. Him and four other good shooters from the area went to the tournament and won every event and came home with $1500. At this time Joe Pacchinelli, Dan Valletto and myself were shooting in an American dart tournament in Freeland Pennsylvania. This was a three man team tournament where all of the best players in Pennsylvania competed. We won this tournament over a period of three weekends and received $21 each and a small trophy. To my surprise I was voted the MVP. Having found out about our guys win in California we asked Charlie how we could learn how to play this English game. He later had an English board put in his bar. From then on the game grew in popularity and that’s how English darts was introduced in our area.

In 1987 or ’88 I got my signature dart from Accudart along with a sponsorship. It was a 24 gram barrel with an aluminum shaft and a teardrop flight, in fact I have the case that has my signature on it. I won the NAODT the first time with wooden Widdy darts and the second time with metal darts. What brought me to metal darts was the Accudart sponsorship and as such I would use their dart. I had to work with the darts a while to learn how to throw them, they were like nails. I was used to shooting a thick Widdy dart and it took some adjustment. I experimented with longer shafts and shorter ones and my darts kept leaning down in the board. I told them to cut down the rear of the barrel and finally they started to go straight. So, all my work was put into the flight and shaft. I stayed with these darts and still shoot with them to this day. It’s very hard for me to shoot a Widdy dart now as I have become used to the thin metal dart. Accudart is out of business now but a few years ago Frank Ennis, and I went up to the Accudart factory, and they treated us like royalty and showed us these new darts they had, $100 a set, guaranteed not to fall out. So they gave Frank and I a set to try. I couldn’t get them to stick in the board. I shoot with two fingers on the dart and I don’t know if that was it, or what, but I just couldn’t get them to stick. I wanted to use them in the worst way, after all they were good enough to give me a darts, but I couldn’t use them. I tried everything I could not get them to stick in the board. I finally wound up giving them away.

When ever I wasn’t playing football or something, when I was young, I’d be practicing darts. For hours and hours I’d practice. I used to throw nine innings all the time and try to beat what I called par. That was an average of five, which is a score of 45 over nine innings. Anytime I could score over forty five I thought I was doing OK. I did that everyday for years. My game was to play steady, if you’re inconsistent you’re not going to get anywhere. I’d look at the center of where I wanted to hit with the first dart and then I’d play the next ones off that one. I was a group shooter, and I do that even today. My first dart is a guide dart, then I go from there. Other times I’d shoot the first dart then group the other darts with it so all three had the feathers touching. Like when I was playing Alan Evans in New York, all I could see was that triple twenty. You could have set off a bomb next to me and I wouldn’t have heard it. I wasn’t nervous, but I was scared that I might lose. It’s hard to describe the feeling of really being centered on what you are doing so much you don’t hear anything and nothing distracts you. It’s not like being actually scared but its being really keyed up, and not nervous. I’ve played for a quarter a game and was more nervous, but not that day.

When I switched to English darts I didn’t practice that much, I was getting older then and I was getting tired easier. Now my arm gets tired and I can’t play very long. I have to limit my playing time. If there was a game I wanted to get ready for, I’d practice doubles and singles. I’d try to play singles around the board without missing one and that was very hard. The best I ever did with doubles around the board was 60 darts. I find it hard to practice now because you’re playing against yourself, there’s no incentive to do it. What I did was strengthen my arm a little bit so I could get upstairs for the double twenty when I needed to. It’s a lot different going upstairs than it is for the double sixteen. I don’t even like the double sixteen. I’d rather shoot up top. I gear my game for the top of the board. I have to be careful on the low innings because I’m not that good on the low innings. I really have to be very, very careful how I shoot them.

I used to play with an intense fervor, I hated to lose. Hateful of losing. Losing made me feel as if I was inferior. I couldn’t stand losing, I’m sort of an introvert and a little self conscious from my upbringing and I couldn’t tolerate losing. I always wanted to look good and be looked up to by people. It wasn’t just in darts it was everything I did. I always went to play knowing I could win. I thought: I can win, I can win this.

When I was 18 years old I played in a bar down at 3rd and Cambria streets in Philly. I could play on the team but I couldn’t drink. I used to bet on scoring 50 and I’d do it more often than not. One time I shot a 60. I once played Joe Walls from 29th and Girard, a very good shooter, we played a nine inning match for $50 a game. The first 12 games nobody shot under a 50 and it was tied six to six. Then I won the next three games and won the match.

In the English game I have a certain way I play the different innings. The sixteen is the one inning that really bothers me, I have to really push it in there. I think being able to play all the innings is knowing the board. I’ve played a lot of Cricket so I’ve learned how to play the board and I know where the innings are and how to play them. I approach each inning differently. I shoot high on the low innings, I shoot for the wire at the top of the triple. I’m not a guy that shoots under darts that’s why I go low on the twenty but I can’t do that on the low innings.

When I started I began memorizing the number combinations for what I had to make to end the game. It was sort of like mathematics came easy to me in that regard. I usually play 501 games and until you get down to 100 you try to score as much as you can. All you have to do is remember what shots will get you down to a double. You either try to get to 32 or 40, unless you are desperate and you need one shot for 50. Now, there’s only one number below 100 that you can’t take out with two darts and that’s 99, but all the rest you can take out with two darts.

In New York at the US Darting Association International Classic, in 1972. I’d been knocked out early, mostly through a mistake in my counting where I thought I had 32 left but it was really 14. Well that 7 could have been that big and I’d have never hit it. It threw me way off and my opponent kept plodding down and plodding down and finally came down and beat me. So then, while everybody else is shooting, I’m keeping score and during this time I’m throwing and I’m hitting everything I’m shooting at. I’m thinking here I am knocked out of this thing and I’m shooting beautifully. Then everything was over and George Silberzahn won the tournament. The British were complaining the game that had been played in the tournament wasn’t a man’s game and they wanted a game for a thousand dollars and put Allan Evans up to play 3001. The Americans at this time were tired, so I went over to Bob McCloed and said, look Bob I’m hitting pretty good, how about giving me a chance? So he said OK, and everybody agreed to let me play him. Bob put up $500 and my team members that I played with that weekend put up the other $500 and we played. We played 3001 and I was to get the lead right from the start. He started with a 60 and I shot a 125, just missed a 180 and from then on I was just looking at the triple twenty. The British looked at me like, wow where did this guy come from? The long game was right into my style of play, the longer I play the better I am. The worst part of winning that match was that it was hard to get a game after that. No one would play me. When you beat the best player in the world it scares people away. Well, that was my 15 minutes of fame. As a result of that match, my good friend Jerry Walters wrote a poem describing the match and making a point of how good a showing the Americans made against this outstanding English team.

Early on there were usually some money matches against a couple of really strong players who wanted to play. There weren’t very many single matches so you really couldn’t get anything going. We did have one singles tournament and I beat Theide in the finals. Al Lippman played Joe Patchanelli, Joe won then Theide played Joe and won, then I played Theide and beat him. I beat him down at Al’s 11 to 7. That was in English darts, I couldn’t beat him in American darts. At one time they had a tournament in the American Legion hall with all the best American dart players there, and Bob Thiede was by far the best, bar none.

There was one time, in Charlie Young’s place after a tournament there, some players started a money game. I did not play at first and they were chiding me about not playing. Just then a young guy they didn’t know came in and I said I’d take him for a partner and they said OK. Well, we played and after a while they ended up going around the bar trying to get more money after we won about $500 from them. That was the time George Silberzahn and I played partners.

When ever I’d lose I thought of it as a learning experience, a way to improve my game. I would get mad but I didn’t let it get to me. Losing made me mad but I didn’t say anything to my opponent. I’d go sit quiet and get over it. You know, it happened, so it happened, you can’t worry about things like that because it won’t do any good.

Joe Baltadonis and I did get a match with Lucie Varga and Ernie Rill over in Roebling New Jersey and we shot our behinds off. We beat them 26 to 12 and in the 38th game we had a 12 dart 501 game. They didn’t want a rematch but I did play Lucie a match for $500 and won 16 to 15.

One time I was invited to New York to play in a series of matches by a fella named Robinson who was setting it up. I played the first match against John Toddy for $500 and I won the first 12 games and beat him 26 to 7. Never heard from them again about another match.

In 1971 I went to the Cleveland dart tournament, that was the first one I went to and I used my Widdy darts. I went out in the first round! Then I went around the place looking for money games. Then in 1972 I went to the North American Open Dart Tournament in Culver City, California and won it. In fact, I didn’t loose a dart game in California for two years, I won it the next year too.

You get on these rolls. A lot times you get lucky, there were times when I could have been beaten if the other guy would have hit the double. It’s possible that the other guy might not have missed if he was playing against somebody else, but you never know. There were times when I felt intimidation against some people so I guess other people could feel it against me too. I did have a reputation the second time out there and I guess that did help a little bit, but they didn’t know me the first year, you understand? There was a football coach who said luck is the result of hard work and preparation, so I guess that’s true in darts too. The reason for the pressure is, you can’t afford to miss, or you’re out. You have to do it right then. What people don’t understand is that darts is the same as any other professional sport. You don’t know who’s going to win all the time, you see some who are a little better than other ones, but you don’t really know who is going to win. You have to be able to adjust to the game. Winning has to do with knowing the game and making the adjustments. You have to adjust to the board and adjust to the situation around you, you can’t let people bother you when they’re talking and all, you have to concentrate. You know, there’s a lot to it. If I get thrown off my game I can throw darts all around the board the same as anybody else, but if I’m concentrating it’s different.

There is a lot of waiting around at tournaments. You could be called in the first round and then wait for hours until you’re called again, and what do you do all that time? I’m not a drinker, so I’d shoot the bull with people and try to get into a game of pinochle or something.

Once out in California, I think it was in the second North American Open, this young fella, came over and said, can I have your autograph. Well, I was flattered and said sure and gave it to him. Then he said, I thought you were ah, Duesenberg or somebody. They set him up to do that you know. You don’t mind that because when they’re doing that they’re thinking about you and you’re a little bit of a celebrity. They wouldn’t do that to somebody that gets knocked out in the first round, so I took that as a compliment.

It’s not always true that the two best players win in partners, compatibility is important with partners. How they take you shooting a poor shot is important, and patting you on the back for good shots is good too. Frank Ennis was always that way, that’s why I liked playing with Frank. I considered the person rather than the dart shooter but of course he had to be able to play well. I know Danny Valletto, as good as he was, he needed a pat on the back and I would do that. I didn’t have any sense of glory about which partner makes the winning shot. If my partner did it I was just as happy as if I took it out. When Danny and I played in the National Unicorn doubles finals tournament in Memphis, I couldn’t have asked for a better partner. That was the time George Silberzahn’s partner, Tony Money wanted to play for money the night before the tournament and I was going to play him but Danny did and he beat him. Danny could beat anybody at any given time. He had this match in Trenton against a young guy named Rick Nye for a lot of money. He drove up from Wildwood to play in shorts and a cap, he looked like he just got finished working. He proceeded to win the match easily. Rick wanted a rematch and Danny says, I’ve got some things to do, so call me in a couple of months.

I never really disliked anyone I played with or against but there was one guy up in Jersey I didn’t like, but he was the only one. I had a aura about me that I was angry at a person I lost to but that was not the case. I was just angry about loosing.

The Philadelphia women’s league has a mixed partners tournament every year. Helen Scheerbaum asked me to be her partner one year and we got knocked out in the first round. She asked me again to be her partner that next year. I was reluctant to do it but did, and we won. Our toughest match was against Joyce Hamilton and her partner, who was a girl. She was the last person to enter and there weren’t any men left so she took the girl. It took three games to beat them and one game I hit a 180, I couldn’t believe how hard it was. Here we’re talking about an 80 and a 73 year old player winning a tournament, how do you like that?

In the early ’80s Danny, Helen and I used to shoot mixed triples and won three straight: Dallas, Cleveland and Detroit. I believe that is a record that still stands.

After I won the NAODT the second time, I was approached by Accudart, an American company that manufactured darts. They became my sponsor until about 1987 or 1988. After that I stopped going to tournaments. I was in my late 50s or early 60s and I was getting tired, I couldn’t take all that waiting. I felt my time for going to these tournaments had run its course. It was time for the younger players to take over.

The most memorable moment for me was that first win in California, the NAODT in 1972. I still cherish that and I still have that trophy. You never know if you’re ever going to win again, and I was eliminated in the first round in my first tournament I played in so after winning I felt like I was on top of the world, I really did. Funny thing, we had stopped in Las Vegas on the way to the tournament and went to Circus Circus where they have a dart concession. We were breaking all the balloons we shot at and the guy told us we had to go. I said, that’s probably the only thing we’ll ever win out here.

Another fond memory is when, in 1969 or 70, three of us from Philadelphia went to Freeland, upstate Pennsylvania,, and won the three man state tournament in American darts. No one from Philadelphia had ever won up to then. It had always been upstaters. One hundred and forty three teams entered and elimination’s were across three weekends. It was double elimination and in the finals we had to beat the other team twice since we’d lost in the first weekend. We came out of the losers bracket to get into the finals. I was voted most valuable player in that tournament.

Then there was beating Allen Evans and the poem Jerry Walters wrote for me which is now in the archives at Texas University in Austin.

I am also a member of the Philadelphia darters hall of fame and the national hall of fame.

The most devastating loss I ever had was when Tony Money beat me in the finals of the US Open. I’d come in second I don’t know how many times and I really wanted to win this one. I wired my out shot from 108 and Tony took out a 68 to beat me. I was really disappointed but we did win $3300 in that tournament. Both tournaments I won out in California, $1000 each I only got $250 out of each of them from splitting with my partners. This is what we did then. Here’s another thing, if you’re going to these tournaments and if you don’t win you’re not making your expenses, and you have a family to take of, it’s quite difficult for Americans to be top players. Most of the dart players come from lower income neighborhoods and can’t afford going to tournaments. It’s very, very tough.

I did not play in a league this year, 2003. It’s getting hard to get up and go out and play, then get home at midnight and all. I try to play every Monday, Wednesday and Friday afternoons.

When Helen Scheerbaum wants to practice she calls me. She’s very, very competitive and wins a lot of games. She never quits. She doesn’t give you an inch either. I have to play at my best against her. Helen is also a good cricket player.

Everybody says I can remember every shot I every made in every tournament. I can remember a lot of them but not all of them.

I’m at the point in my life where I have a reputation in darts and even when I’m playing a younger player I’m still trying to win. When I give the game up it’ll be another thing but I’m still a competitive dart shooter. You come in to play me you’re going to be in a game, especially on my board. Now I just play the game for fun, I’ve had my day in the sun, I don’t need it anymore. I don’t want to play for money anymore. I don’t know if I can take the pressure, because I tire, you see. What’s the old saying, fatigue makes a coward of us all? My attitude is if you can play better than me, that’s all right, but I don’t like to play my friends for money.

I owe a lot to the game of darts. What ever notoriety I may have achieved, the places I’ve been to and the people I’ve met could never have been possible if my dad hadn’t shown me how to play this game. I’m forever grateful.”

 

Interviewed May 2003

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