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American Darts
by Frederick Everson

An American Dart Game

I was in high school in the mid 1960’s when I bought my first dartboard. It was made of wood, as were the original boards according to most dart lore. But unlike a cross section tree trunk, my board was made of end grain wooden cubes. I was not concerned with history or tradition in my dart game. I bought the board that I saw in the local bars where I sometimes accompanied my father or my grandfather while they had a glass of beer. Yeah, those were better times when you could bring a child into a tavern for a soda while you enjoyed a seven ounce glass of beer that cost ten cents. I can still remember my grandmother giving my grandfather two quarters before we left for the corner tavern. Back then all I wanted was to be big enough to play darts in a bar and drink a glass of beer instead of a Coke, even thought I didn’t like the taste of beer. Things have sure changed.

The Widdy Dart Manufacturing Company manufactured that board and the wooden darts in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and I am happy to report they are still in business. In the taverns, the dartboards were contained in a green cabinet with a built in fluorescent light. It was decorated with white-stenciled scenes of baseball players, as baseball is the game that is played on this board, and like the professional game, the darts version is often played for money. Also included in the cabinet are numbered wheels used to keep score. One wheel is labeled in increments of 10, with another wheel that rolls up single digits. I’m sure it’s hard for a dyed in the wool Brit to imagine a dart game scored without chalk. The numbered segments on the dartboard used in the baseball game are, of course, one through nine. The narrow outermost ring on the board counts for three runs in the baseball game. The wider red ring that lies below the triple counts for two runs, and the rest of the segment counts for one run. As on the bristle board, all the scoring areas are divided by wire.

Rules may vary from house to house, but in most houses on this board, the player does not pull or score his own darts. One player shoots three darts. His opponent then scores the throw before he pulls the darts. Pulling darts before the score is agreed upon could get your arm broke.

The benchmark score for a good game here is 40, and any player who can consistently toss 40’s is apt to be top dog. Unlike the more gentlemanly English game on bristle boards, subtle heckling seems to be a part of the baseball game on the Widdy board. And there always seems to be at least small money on the game – most often a buck or two.

The distance to the line and the height of the bulls-eye are different from the English game, but then so are the darts. The line is seven feet three inches from the wall, and the bull is five feet three inches off the floor.

The darts are indeed made of wood and the flights are natural turkey feathers. Steel or soft tip players will readily adapt should they come across this regional dart game that lives primarily in the mid-Atlantic states. The strategy is fairly straightforward, but as in any money game, a fair amount of hustling takes place. The baseball game on the Widdy board is every bit as competitive as traditional steel darts, or soft tip darts, so if you get the chance to play, take nothing for granted.

Virtually every player uses house darts, so the playing field is fairly level. One modification of the baseball game when better players are involved might be “five no-count”. This means that you must hit a five or better to score. Hitting anything less is “no count.” There are some other games played on the Widdy board, but baseball rules.

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