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17th National Dart Hall of Fame 2003

"Almost heaven, West Virginia,
Blue Ridge Mountains, Shenandoah River.
Life is old there, older than the trees, younger than
the mountains, blowing like a breeze."

--Take Me Home, Country Roads

Well, here we are again…nestled in the hills of West Virginia for the 2003 version of the National Darts Hall of Fame Tournament and Awards Banquet. Feigning illness, not that I really needed the excuse to take the time off-I boarded my flight, after having my shoes x-rayed. I know-some times you just can't be too careful. An uneventful flight to Pittsburgh, a short layover and into the Beechcraft 1900 for the short hop to Clarksburg.

Picking up my rental car, and I'm off to the Greenbrier to check-in for the weekend. It was an early flight today, so I have some time to kill before the events of the evening begin. Taking a chance, I drive down to the Moose Lodge, the venue for the tournament, and lo and behold, there he stood-the man himself: James Poliquin. Greetings and salutations were exchanged and the setup crew dispersed to collect the final ingredients for the weekend's events. Back to the Greenbrier for a quick nap-it's going to be a long night, as usual.

Once again, the Stewart Taxi service came to the rescue to provide transportation for yours truly. The setup is basically the same as last year. I grab my reserved section on the dais to set up the laptop, put finger to keyboard and we are underway. The bar is open.

The crowd begins to fill the hall-among the first, Bruceque (brew-ski)-Bruce Cottrell, Ed Rebstock, Howard Grimm, and, of course, the Stewarts. It is going to be an interesting weekend.

Two new dartboards were set aside for members of the Hall of Fame; current and new inductees, that are present at the tournament to sign. The dartboards will be presented to the winners of the 501 Singles events.

The evening started off with the Luck of the Draw 501. Claiming the top prize were the duo of Howard Grimm and Floyd Long. Jim Schmuck and Chuck Sizemore were the runner's up.

Just for fun, we attempted to connect my laptop to my cell phone and do a little web surfing while waiting for the matches to finish. Unfortunately, something somewhere just did not want to play so we could not get connected and we could not find a traditional phone jack handy to try and connect it the old fashioned way. Damn.

As all darters know, things go on during a tournament. The Hall of Fame is no exception. Some players throw fantastic darts, nine-marks, and of course, T80's. I did not know there was such a large hip-hop contingent here in West Virginia. Well, the GMC van rocking in the parking lot-probably covered them all-High In, High out, punctuating the T80. Those involved know who they are. The rest will remain unstated, although, being West Virginia, one just might wonder. Knock knock. Was that Phil Taylor? And yes, there was a standing ovation, because there wasn't time for an Honor Guard. Then again, there have been a few here that should have gotten a room, or at least asked for the GMC keys. Where is Bob Barker when you need him?

The final event of the night was the Luck of the Draw Cricket. Starting off the weekend with a double, Howard Grimm, this time with partner Dave Reese, captured first place with their victory over Alan Matthews and Mike Aducci.

Time to call the Stewart Taxi Service for transport back to the Greenbrier, however, they had closed shop early tonight-so, it was the Poliquin Taxi service that came through in a pinch. A full day of darts laid ahead, a gawd-awful early wake-up call impending, and my pillow is calling.

Yes, the call came early-damn early. The National Dart Hall of Fame Board had called a breakfast meeting, and I was invited. Piling into the awaiting van, it was off to Bob Evans®. Breakfast and coffee dispensed with, matters of business were next on the agenda. Much was discussed and plans for the future were formulated. Official announcements will be distributed at a later date. Time to head for the venue.

Mixed Doubles started the day. Tom and Debbie Stewart proved too strong for the duo of Dave Feldpusch and Jodie Clark and claimed the top prize.

Next on the order was the Ladies Singles Cricket. Mary Jo Chesney and CJ Slater faced off in the finals with Mary Jo claiming the title.

The Open Singles Cricket finals matched a pair of the best-Tom Stewart and Wade Wilcox. Tom obviously wanted revenge for his Second Place finish last year to Jerry Umberger and he got it in two terrific legs against Wade. Your winner-Tom Stewart.

Sometimes, you learn things at tournaments that can make a difference in your life, and sometimes, not. Advisory from a female darter-lighters do not work if you try to flush them in the toilet. So, now you know.

Ladies Doubles 501 saw some frequent visitors to the stage-Mary Jo Chesney and Amy Gartrell faced off against CJ Slater and Jodie Clark. When the last double was thrown-Mary Jo and Amy walked off with the top prize.

The final match before the dinner break and awards ceremony was the Open Doubles 501. When the final dart was thrown, Bruce Cottrell and Gary Kidd claimed First Place with their victory over Bob Walton and Howard Grimm.

The Moose Lodge prepared another fine dinner and the Awards ceremony was underway. Ladies and Gentlemen, the National Dart Hall of Fame Class of 2003:

Tidewater Area Darts Association (TADA) (Promoter) (Virginia)
Central Virginia Darts Association (CVDA) (Promoter) (Virginia)
Mike McLaurin (Behind the Scenes) (Maryland)
Howard Grimm (Player) (West Virginia)
Jim Wall (Behind the Scenes) (West Virginia)
Jim Schmuck (Player) (West Virginia)
Lori Bauernschub (Behind the Scenes) (Maryland)
Stephan Lord (Player) (Sweden)
Alex Campbell (Behind the Scenes) (West Virginia)
Richard "Moose" Kindel (Promoter) (Ohio)

The awards and speeches over, it was time to start playing. Mixed Doubles Cricket was next on the list of events-so away we go.

The novelty of the night had to be the gentleman who showed up to play in a kilt. There did not seem to be a clan Tartan, so, we can only guess his affiliation. We could have asked-but what fun would it be to take the mystery out of it? One could assume he was Tarzan™, playing for Clan Greystroke…

Mixed Doubles Cricket saw Gary Kidd and CJ Slater face off against Howard Grimm and Amy Gartrell. Are these names starting to sound familiar? And the winners are CJ and Gary.

Aside from being pretty awesome on the dartboard, Debbie and Tom Stewart create confectionary, a sideline from the wonderful taxi service. They have produced beautiful custom National Dart Hall of Fame chocolates. Being creative, they have also produced many other fine custom works. You have to attend a Hall of Fame tournament to view some of their finest work. Sorry, the photo shop would not print those pictures.

Note to self: avoid women with markers or other writing objects. Hopefully, it will come out in the wash.

The Ladies Doubles Cricket is now underway. The giggles continue. There has to be a law against having this much fun. Facing off in the finals, Mary Jo Chesney and Amy Gartrell are paired against Wilma Schmuck and Debra "Nutty" Peterson. The winners are Mary Jo and Amy.

Everyone who has ever played darts knows 'you know'. So, there I was, sitting at the control desk, as usual when this tournament comes around. It is Saturday night, and of course, that means nothing less than, the "Almost Heaven" luck. I have passed that "rookie" stage-been there, done that…many, many times. But, this time it is different.

I was sitting there, when they came running up to the control desk-"we need one more player." "You know…I have to put in my name (and associated cash…) and see what happens. "Almost Heaven Luck of the Draw is closed." I tried, Lord knows I tried-Mike, Jim, anyone-give me a good partner…" Mike McLaurin chuckled-"Not here-it is a blind draw." Jim, same answer. "Put in you money…see what you get!" Seemed like a good idea at the time. The names are called and my partner is Chris Bender from Virginia Beach. I immediately tracked him down. The conversation went something like this: "Chris, I'm sorry-I haven't thrown a dart all day. I can probably hit anything between three and 140." His response, "Go warm up." I toddled off to a board and started to throw. I was right-3's and 140's and a lot in between. I found Chris again. "We have two missions right now-beating Jim Wall and winning everything." "Sounds good to me," his response. A little background seems necessary. Jim Wall is a former Marine (never call them "ex"). Chris and I were both sailors. There is a natural rivalry between us. Any time a sailor can 'better' a Marine is a good day. Hopefully, today is one of those days. The first match is against Howard Grimm and his partner. Having written Howard's name several times in the past two days-there is a bit of respect, not fear. The old darter's motto, "Respect few-fear none" comes to mind. I cannot say that I was totally awesome, but I was decent and Chris helped a lot. We then faced Jeff Morris and Debra "Nutty" Peterson. I seemed to be getting my game face on. Another 2-0 victory and on to the Finals. Some call it "kismet," others just dumb luck-but there we were-facing Jim Wall and Greg Hutchinson in the finals. In a flash it was over-and the winners-Chris Bender and your humble author. OO-Rah. Somewhere in the background, Queen's, "We are the Champions…" echoes.

Sunday. AM. Early. Wade Wilcox has volunteered to put on an exhibition and training session for all interested. I guess I should be here-and so I am. Not that all the tutelage in the world could really help my game…except when it comes to beating Dartoid. Nah, that's too easy. Wade put on his usual excellent performance before the appreciative crowd-he should make a video. In fact, he just might. I'd buy that video (or DVD).

Someone reported another hip-hop session in the GMC van Saturday night-although there weren't any witnesses this time. Did someone say "One Hundred and Eighty?"

Back to the reason we are here. Time for the Mixed Triples. The finals are set-Tom Stewart, Deb Stewart and Ed Rebstock will challenge Howard Grimm, Amy Gartrell and Bob Walton for the top prize. The winners are Howard, Amy and Bob.

We are down to the final two events-501 Singles. The first finals-the Ladies. Amy Gartrell and Sandi Lawless squared off. Your 2003 National Darts Hall of Fame Ladies 501 Champion is Sandi Lawless.

Wade Wilcox and Tim Hopkins met in the Men's finals. The National Darts Hall of Fame Men's 501 Champion is Wade Wilcox.

Jim Poliquin presented Wade and Sandi dartboards signed by all members of the National Darts Hall of Fame that were present at the event as part of their First Place winnings.

And now it's over. The crew is tearing down the dartboards and cleaning up the hall. Time to head back to the Greenbrier for the post mortem, watch a little TV and wait for my flight on Monday.

As usual, Jim Poliquin and his terrific tournament staff put on an exceptional tournament. A good time was had by all. Right Rudy?

Reporting from Moose Lodge 52, Clarksburg, West Virginia-Bruce Gerber.

© Copyright 2003. Bruce W Gerber. All Rights Reserved.

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