Column #HR20 Talkin’ “Turkey” – the Best American Darts Player of ALL TIME!

Thursday, September 9, 2010
Column HR20
Talkin’ “Turkey” – the Best American Darts Player of ALL TIME!

Should you ever travel to Istanbul, Turkey, which we all know use to be called Constantinople, you might like to know that their famous Blue Mosque was built by Sultan Ahmet I. The Old Dart Coach doesn’t know about the origins of the Mosque but does know about the name change. Por Que? ‘Cause he can sing the opening verse of the 1953 hit by the Four Lads.

Every gal in Constantinople
Lives in Istanbul, not Constantinople
So if you’ve a date in Constantinople
She’ll be waiting in Istanbul

Even old New York was once New Amsterdam
Why they changed it I can’t say
People just liked it better that way

So take me back to Constantinople
No, you can’t go back to Constantinople
Been a long time gone, Constantinople
Why did Constantinople get the works?
That’s nobody’s business but the Turks

Now you may wonder what relevance this trip down memory lane with a touch of history and geography has to do with darts. The answer is none. Not a darn thing. Zero, Zip, Nada. Question asked and answered.

Now moving on as we must…

The ODC doesn’t Twitter even though his “Momma could dance but his Dad didn’t rock and roll.” The ODC can bitch, moan, complain and at times drool but Twitter is beyond his capabilities. That’s just one of the reasons he declined to vote in the Dartoid’s World poll to find out “who is or was the best darts player to have ever represented the United States?”

The main reason for his lack of participation is that the poll is only a reflection of the current world of darts or someone’s word of mouth accounts of the past. The poll is unfair to those playing today as well as those of the past. The sport of darts changed forever with the advent and popularity of the PDC coupled with the decline of major tournaments in the USA and the decline in quality of the World Dart Federation via the BDO which are joined at the hip.

At press time the late Nicky Virachkul was leading the poll as the best ever. Hard to argue with that choice although Jerry Umberger, called “Umby” by a truly good darts writer, Ms. Janet (can’t spell her last name), should be a “joint #1.”

Nicky was the only player from America ever to win a World Cup Singles when that event drew the best in the world. If the late Barry Twomlow “taught the world to play” then Umberger taught them to have fun and smile while doing it. These two, Umberger and Virachkul, were giants when the game was in its Golden Age in the USA.

Can’t argue with Larry Butler being the best of the current crop as he’s the only Yank ever to win a PDC Major. According to the ODC, Virachkul played in his last tournament in the Thailand Open in the late 1980’s or early 1990’s. He played pairs losing to a duo anchored by the ODC. The ODC when playing doubles was always an anchor and we know what anchor’s do for boats. When Virachkul lost he said, “If I can’t beat you I quit.” Nicky also introduced the ODC, before he was really that old, to Thailand which helped both the Thai economy and the ODC’s off oche “recreational activities.”

ODC PICKS THE BEST

Nicky Virachkul and Jerry “U” Umberger must lead any list.

Consider Conrad Daniels. His methodical play would unnerve opponents but not as much as his quality of play. Won the first big TV tournament in England called the “Indoor League” which stunned the Brits. Nothing more fun than stunning a Brit. He was a forerunner of the American dart boom. Stopped traveling when business interests were successful so left the sport when it was on the way up.

Paul Lim. Along with Virachkul the best Asian player ever, as John Madden would say, “Bar None.” Won the Pacific Cup Singles four times on the trot. Played internationally for Papua New Guinea, Singapore and the USA. Tossed the first 9-darter on live TV and is still one of the best when he enters. Missed out on qualifying for the World Championships this year by £50 pounds. He had to pass on the recently concluded PDC events in Canada due to business. Like a Timex watch he “just keeps on ticking.” A true gentleman and a credit to any sport.

Rick Ney. No list of American players on the international stage would be complete without Ricky “The Hammer.” He was larger than life and a true character. One of the many that came out of Pennsylvania, which in darts history produced a fair amount of good players and genuine characters. He could play. Was instrumental when America beat England in the four-person at the World Cup in Brisbane despite playing “commando.” He was also a great doubles partner. He and Umberger got lucky one year to beat the ODC and his partner (Carl Parson) in the finals of cricket doubles in Houston. Good guy Carl Parson, he of the silver hair, couldn’t overcome the anchor.

Tony Payne. He was never in any danger of winning a popularity contest but that aside he was one of the best. Would probably be at the top except for his two loses to Eric Bristow in World Cup play and “Tony Payne being Tony Payne.” Not fair to base a great career on a few missed doubles but then life isn’t fair. Payne had Bristow down with doubles to win in both Brisbane, where he tossed a 9-darter, and Toronto. Was part of a great doubles team when paired with either Ney or John “JK” Kramer.

Writing of John “JK” Kramer – he would be just below those named above. A notch but a darn small one. A very good player who arrived on the international scene late and left early. Won the North American (defeating Roger Carter) after being away from the game a number of years. That was probably the last year that the North American meant something before it was bought and turned into rubbish.

Another that should be listed is Dick McGinnis. His problem was that he never made a World Cup or Pacific Cup team. He should have but fell victim to “politics” which means he got “screwed.” Regardless, was always a factor and when in England he was always competitive. Teaming with Kramer and Kathy Hopkins he was part of a great triples team. Right there with Ney-Umberger-Karpowich . The main drawback for Kramer and McGinnis is that they roomed many times with the ODC on the road. That would affect anyone’s game. Early star’s Ray Fischer, Frank Ennis and the late Danny Valletto should also be tossed into the mix.

Three ladies from the Golden Age stand alone: Sandy Reitan, Kathy “2K” Karpowich and Kathy Maloney. If they were not the best in the world they were tied with the trio of Maureen Flowers, Linda “WB” Batten and either the late Lil Combs or Sonja Rolphs. While each one was a different personality they all shared the common trait of being great competitors. Reitan ruled the West with the two Kathy’s taking care of the mid-west and east. All won international titles and were “as they say” double tough. None roomed with the ODC so their game wasn’t affected.

No argument but that today’s best is Stacy Bromberg. She was just staring when Reitan-Karpowich-Maloney ruled the world so how she would have faired against them will never be answered. Stacy is the best in the world now and has been for some time.

That’s the ODC’s list. Don’t agree? Then get your own column.

SHARK SIGHTING IN CRAWLEY

Well not the entire shark but the “Jaws” showed up in the presence of Mr. Colin Lloyd who annexed a Players Championship for the second straight week. He won in Canada then followed that up with a win at Crawley on Sunday. True fact. On Saturday Adrian “Baby” Lewis got his second win of the year 6-4 over Steve Farmer. Those who are in the top 7 in the Order of Merit, which will be referred to as the “standings or rankings” from this point forward, passed on the trip to Canada and didn’t do well Saturday in Crawley. All were gone before the semis.

Lewis had to battle for everything as his first two matches went 6-5 including a 161 check in the last. After a “chuckles and giggle” 6-1 win he was again taken to the limit beating Mark Webster and Vincent van der Voort 6-5. In the final after being tied twice Lewis opened up a 5-2 lead only to have Webster capture the next 2. Webster missed darts to get to 5-all when Lewis turned out the lights with a double ace for the win and £6,000. Ah yes, double 1, the “C League” finish of choice.

On Sunday, Colin Lloyd was in good form taking out Simon Whitlock 6-4 in a match that turned when Lloyd broke a 3-3 tie with a 104 finish as Whitlock waited on 64. Even when Whitlock leveled at 4 he had to be thinking about missed opportunity, missed doubles and failure to hold serve. At 4-4 Lloyd hit double top and then did it again to win 6-4 after Whitlock missed a 120 finish to level. “It’s been a tough day and it’s very satisfying to win that. I had some really hard games throughout the day but I battled through them. It’s good to have that winning feeling twice in as many weeks. I’m not playing brilliantly on the Saturdays at the moment but I seem to love Sunday!”

When the Tungsten Tour hits Nuland in a fortnight, which we’re led to believe is two weeks, there’ll be more at stake than just a couple of checks for £6,000 for winning. This will be the last event where prize money will count towards qualification for the World Grand Prix. Like all PDC qualifying it’s not a simple thing. For the World Grand Prix the top 16 from the “Rankings”, then the 12 non-qualifying from the Players Championship plus 4 Irish/Northern Ireland players from the Players. Got that? Dennis Priestly is on the Players’ bubble leading Mark Webster by less than £300 pounds. Go Dennis.

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Howie Reed
The one and only Howie Reed (the Old Dart Coach) goes back decades with the legends of our sport - he knows where the skeletons are buried. Just ask any of the ADO and WDF old-timers! His widely popular column, Toeing the Oche, is a must-read.
Howie Reed

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