DAN WILLIAM PEEK
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".
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
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
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
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,
Washington A.D.A Open Ladies Individual Champion,
North American Open Ladies Individual Champion
Golden Gate Classic Open, Ladies Individual
St. Patrick Open Ladies Individual Champion, 1975
(Elkadart International Darts Handbook.
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