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

Leave a Reply