ON POINT
DAN WILLIAM PEEK
APRIL, 2002

SPECIAL TO PHILLYDARTS.COM

 

This is the first of several articles I expect to write on the theme of "stories that were not included in To The Point: The Story of Darts in America".

 Pebble Publishing


As I rummaged through my files in preparation for this task, I was reminded of the biggest challenge I faced in writing To The Point, which was that very few of my informants had any kind of fix on the dates of darts events. They could remember whole series of matches shot for shot, but seldom were able to come up with a date.  

My solution to the "date dilemma" was to look for at least one reference to the event in question in the print media. Failing that, I would go back to the informant and try to get a commitment on the date. Failing that, the story would often go to my "b" list of stories for the book.  

This may not seem fair, but one of my objectives in writing To The Point: The Story of Darts in America was to create a central reference of media notice of darts in America, as well as to document some of the oral tradition of the sport. Take into consideration too, that the story spans more than a century and encompasses the daily life of millions of people. None of whom, it seems, circled championship dates on their calendars nor kept a darts diary.  

Usually dart stories take a considerable amount of sorting out.  

For example, an article which appeared in the Philadelphia "Evening Bulletin" on November 20, 1981 stated that British-style (English) darts was introduced to Philadelphia in 1969 by Charlie Young. Young was a long-time promoter and player of darts who owned the Manor Bar with his wife, Alice. The Bulletin article described him as " a legend in the world of American darts - a game shrouded in mystery and laced with tall tales....".  What the "Bulletin" reporter probably meant was that Charlie was one of the first American-style (Widdies) shooters in Philadelphia to start playing English darts when the so-called "darts explosion" of late 1960's and early '70's came along. As readers of To The Point know, British- style darts was introduced to Philadelphia decades before the "explosion". The story of Charlie Young as the entrepreneur of English darts in Philadelphia also appears in The Book on Darts by Jack McClintock (New York. Random House: 1977). I did not include it in To The Point because it is less relevant in my book than it might have seemed to McClintock or the "Bulletin" reporter. Charlie Young is, of course, prominently featured in To The Point.  

A similar genesis tale, also excluded from To The Point, is told of darts in Manhattan. It is said that in 1967 an East Side pub called "Mothers", staged an eight-board tournament, which started what one magazine called the darts "craze" in New York City (Newsweek, June 2, 1969).  The fact is that, in the late 1960's) English darts were emerging simultaneously in cities all over the nation. Nothing about the sport was revealed by its appearance in one city. So I excluded all such claims and references from my book.  

By the early 1970's the "darts explosion" was well underway and Philadelphians, for reasons made clear in To The Point: The Story of Darts in America, were in its vanguard. One of them, Helen Scheerbaum, would come to be recognized as, arguably, the best woman darts shooter America has produced.  

When I interviewed Helen in 1998, I asked her to tell me about her most memorable match. She immediately told me the story of her game against Adele Nutter in New York City. As I had come to expect however, she could not place the date nor the event with any certainty.  

Here is how the story goes, from my notes. I will show you how I spackled in the dates to darts stories in To The Point. I should mention that I called Helen this week to see if I could get a better fix on dates. But she was unable to improve on her original recollection.  

One date in this story is certain, Helen Scheerbaum first shot darts in November 1972. She had fallen in with Charlie and Alice Young's dart shooters at the Manor Bar.  Alice Young and, perhaps, Cheryl Kauffman had started a two-pub dart Women's dart league - The Manor Bar and a place called "JR's". (At this point wondered if Charlie might have owned both places, his nickname was Junior - I never followed up on the thought however).  

One day sometime in 1973, Charlie told the Ladies teams about a darts tournament in New York City. They all decided to take the train to Manhattan and enter the contest. Maybe it was the "Pimm's Cup", maybe it was the "Cutty Sark Open", could have been the USDA Open. (Hold on- it couldn't have been the 1973 USDA, Carol Robinson won that one. Has to have been one of the others).  

Whichever tournament it was it was the first time Helen had competed in a big, out of town venue. Helen did what her companions from Philly expected, she progressed to the final leg of the tournament. Her opponent in the Championship round was a New Yorker named Adele Nutter. Adele, who had won the previous year's tournament (Whatever tournament it was) was heavily favored against the unknown Philadelphian.  

Helen won. Adele congratulated her and invited the entire Philadelphia contingent to join her at her sponsoring pub for a victory celebration. When the group arrived at the pub, they found banners congratulating Adele billowing above a victory buffet complete with champagne. It had not occurred to Adele's supporters that she might not win.  

"When I realized that Adele was offering the victory celebration to me," Helen said," I thought it was the most gracious gesture I had ever seen."  

That night may have been Helen's initiation into the world of professional darts in America. She had bested Adele Nutter, considered by many to be the best darts shooter in New York. Even Midnight Liz, a legendary Manhattan darts player and promoter, paid homage to Helen that evening. (The May 18, 1970 edition of the "New York Times" reported that Midnight Liz, 25 years of age at the time, played darts "14 hours a day in an East Side pub where she stays from 2 in the afternoon until 4 in the morning, wandering around from match to match.") The celebration went on until dawn, with the champagne filled trophy being passed around the pub.  

Right there we have a great darts story. But it gets better. Almost 30 years later, Adele and Helen are constant companions, often seen at east coast darts tournaments.  

The April 1975 issue of "International Spider" contained this editorial notice: "People are talking about the amazing string of victories set by Helen Scheerbaum of Philadelphia. She has won the Ladies Only event in the last seven major prize-money tournaments throughout the country. The question now being asked is can any darter (male or female) match this record of first place wins?"  

I was able to reconstruct the "string of victories" mentioned, they were:

  • USDA Ladies Individual Champion, 1974

  • Cleveland Extravaganza Ladies Individual Champion, 1974

  • Washington A.D.A Open Ladies Individual Champion, 1974

  • North American Open Ladies Individual Champion 1974

  • Golden Gate Classic Open, Ladies Individual Champion, 1974

  • St. Patrick Open Ladies Individual Champion, 1975

    (Elkadart International Darts Handbook. London: 1977).  

Helen has had a remarkable career. People still remember her battles with Carol (Toulson) Robinson and Sandy Tinnerman as being some of the most exciting darts matches ever witnessed.

 


I look forward to seeing your views and comments in the PhillyDarts.com On Point Forum. Until then, Good darts and best wishes.

 

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I'd like to thank Dan Peek for writing this article for the dart shooters in Philly. If you enjoyed this article, please take the time and post your comments on the ON POINT forum. I created this forum to allow people to post questions and comments about the articles he writes for PhillyDarts. Comment about the book too!! I'm sure he will be thrilled to read comments from the city that hung the first dart board in America!!

- Mike Broderick


PhillyDarts Exclusive

Dan Peek Author of "To The Point: The Story of Darts in America"  was at the Rae Chesney Tournament January 2002. I was able to get a picture of him with Frank Ennis. We talked for a while and I asked him if he would be interested in providing any articles for my website. He mentioned he wrote about 1000 pages for the book, but the book was edited down to 308 pages, therefore he had extra articles about Philadelphia Darts and shooters!

 We worked out a deal and he will be allowing me to publish some of his work here on PhillyDarts. I've created a link so you can check out he book and order it online. Please support him and his efforts to document stories and history of darts. He will amended the book in 2005.