I think the rules the leagues use are mostly several pages long and are all a little different. They involve how many players are on a team, who’s allowed to shoot, some leagues prohibit out of town shooters, even women you know, they draw all kinds of barriers. I’m not sure why, well I do know why, they don’t want somebody coming in from out of town and taking their trophies and money, it’s that simple. But then there’s other leagues that encourage that and because they do get the best players. The one thing that holds true, no matter what, in American Darts the better players want to be together. Invariably that ends up with the power house teams that crush everybody and that’s not fun either, even for them. They don’t want to go out week after week and just crush everybody and win, win, win. See, as an example the North Side Dart League put caps on the average. You can’t put Johhny K, Darin Young, Eddie Shoepe, Chris Kuehn and Mark Wuerstle all on the same team. You’re just going to kill everybody. So, lets put a cap on the average, I think they use 210 points for five guys, that’s forty two, forty three a man. Darin and Johnny know, if they dont’ shoot fifty or better on a Thursday night, in all probability their team is going to lose. It’s not a big league, there’s only about eight teams, I think, but it’s a very competitive league and it produces a lot of good averages.
There are three brands of American Darts that are used and it gets to be a geographic thing. Up in the north part of the state they use Widdy darts, the Bethlehem City League shoots Apex, then there’s other leagues that shoot the Darto dart that’s a little heavier with bigger feathers that seems to be easier to throw. The barrels are made of wood instead of some exotic material. They’re carnival darts, that’s really what they are. They are not the most precise dart. That’s where the skill comes from. If you take an American Dart player and you put precision darts in their hands they can really produce. They’re used to throwing a very light dart that is kind of touchy. The Apex #1 Dart is only about 12 to 13 grams, Widdy weighs 13 to 14 grams, and the Darto is 15 1/2 grams.
The dart board is made from the end grain bass wood assembled in a butcher block fashion. It is the softest of the true hardwoods. I’ve done a little research because I have interest in the game. It has this ability to heal itself. It gets full of holes and gets better, to a point then it will begin to deteriorate. An American dart board should last the average player a life time at home. I don’t use a potato here in the shop. (I do in competition!) A potato makes the darts stick better but there is nothing exotic in a potato by the way, it just makes the dart point wet so it penetrates the wood better and gives it better grip.
American dart leagues used to be a city game and most of the equipment is still manufactured in Philly. But you don’t find so many American dart boards in the city anymore. The English darts came along in the seventies and took over, because the players were good, they had a skill level that put them at the top immediately. English darts took over the city, and of course, people also moved out of the the city to the suburbs. So American Darts moved out of the city into the suburbs and country areas like the Hazleton and Freeland area, the coal regions were always good places to find American Darts. There was a lot of unemployment up there and a lot of these guys had time on their hands and this was a way they could have fun and not cost them very much money. This produced a good number of quality players in that neck of the woods. Good competition leads to a good depth of better players.
That depth of talent led to the rise of top players like Johnny Bobby, Camy Melchiorre, and Jerry Umberger. More top shots like Lee Bredbenner, Pete “Primrose” Polinsky, Charlie Mateyak. They were just the best of their day. Some of them crossed over ito the English game but most of them didn’t and they were some of the best dart players ever, but nobody knows who that are unless you play America Darts.