#HR173 Rest in Peace Dick McGinnis

Monday, July 18, 2016
Column HR173
Rest in Peace Dick McGinnis 

Tuesday, July 12, 2016, dawned like any other summer day in Las Vegas, Nevada. The skies were cloudless, an intense sparkling powder blue – the as yet bearable sun calling visitors to “Come on out and burn. Let’s start another summer day.” That placid setting was rudely interrupted by the shrill ringing of the landline telephone.  Old people still have them.  It’s a sound like no other.

On the other end of the line, a lady’s voice introduced herself as Carol McGinnis…

“Howie Reed?”

“Yes.”

“ I’m Richard’s niece. I have to tell you that Richard passed away last night. His family was with him.”

In that instant, a 35-year friendship was taken away – not only from the Old Dart Coach but more importantly from anyone who ever came into contact with Richard “Dick” McGinnis. He was a unique person who touched more lives than his quiet, unassuming demeanor would suggest. Those who play darts today have no idea how indebted they should be to the likes of Dick McGinnis.

In the 1970s, when darts was an isolated game played mostly in pubs, Legion halls, and ethnic communities around America Dick McGinnis was there. He was a pioneer who was as good a player as there was. A retired policeman from Philadelphia who served his country in the Navy, Dick McGinnis won his share of tournaments as well as contributing to more than a few other darter’s share’s as well. He never gave up. Never gave up. The odds are good that he didn’t give up on life either – his engine just gave out.

He was one of the first sponsored dart players – representing Accudart along with all-time greats Connie Daniels, Nicky Virachkul and Lenny Heard, to name but three. Later players in the 80s remember him playing doubles with Nicky and or John Kramer. For mixed triples, Katy Hopkins joined the guys. When the North American Open was the gold standard for darts, he won the pairs with ex-sailor Ron Deane against the best in the world.

Former world champion Bob Anderson remembers, “So sorry to hear of Dick’s passing;, he was a great darter and a really good guy. RIP my old pal.”

One of the big events in darts was the Calcutta held in Dallas the day before the Dallas Open. In that event, an out-of-the-area player would team up with a local to play for big money. Teams were drawn (sold via auction) and play began.  Dick was drawn with the great English player Ronnie Baxter before he was known as “great.”  At auction, California’s Dennis Hasselt formed a betting syndicate to buy the team.  Baxter and McGinnis won in spectacular fashion. Ronnie Baxter has memories of Dick…

“The many passing comments I received from him, along with a drink – (the drink was for me, not Dick, as he hadn’t had a drink in years – to catch up were always a welcome divergence from the run of the mill in darts. Our initial and only partnership, and good fortune to boot, as doubles winners in my early days on the American tour, gives me great memories of a warm, honest… and straight to the point kind of guy he was. A massive loss to the sport of darts, a person who will be missed immensely both on and off the dart board.”

The standard equipment for a professional darter in the Golden Era, in addition to darts, was a cribbage board. Dick came well-armed on both counts. For Dick, darts, cribbage board, and penny poker machines ranked just beyond family and church.  It’s prophetic that international darts superstar Paul Lim remember him in those terms.

Paul writes from Singapore, “I am so sorry to hear that Dick died. He was an important part of my life and many others.  The days of the late Nicky Virachkul with Dick playing cribbage in darts tournaments – the friendship and challenge are unforgettable.  Rest in Peace, my friend.  I know you are in a better place than what the world is facing these days.”

Later in life, when travel to Las Vegas was impossible, weekly calls would arrive with results from the Thursday night poker game. “Got ’em for $3.81 last night. Too easy.”

My initial meeting with Dick McGinnis came in the early 1980s at a blind draw at Chris’s Club in Vallejo, California.  Dick had the “unlucky draw” to be paired with Howie Reed, who was barely good enough to be a beginner. Dick was on the California Swing (Golden Gate Classic, Santa Monica, and North American tournaments), up from Texas with Billy Glover.

Dick played for two, getting us to the second round with the patience of a Saint. All he said was, “Don’t ever give up.” He just never did. One of today’s bright stars is John Kuczynski, who remembers McGinnis.  “I was 21-years-old at Bullshooter in Chicago. We placed in the doubles together, turned me pro! He was a great man and role model. May he rest in peace.”

It is often said, “You can tell a person by the friends he chooses.”  With Dick McGinnis “friends” were those who gained stature by being associated with him.  Like the Alabama football team, there were no walk-ons with Dick. You didn’t walk on. You were invited.

As you read this, the odds are good that right now Nicky Virachkul and Barry Twomlow have pulled out a chair with Dick’s name on it – as next up for a game of cribbage. Nicky and Barry will each have a pint in front of them. Dick will have his coffee with cream.

From the streets of Philadelphia to locations around the world, Dick made friends all along the way, but most of all he was so proud of his family.

Driving around Las Vegas the flags are being flown at half-mast in remembrance of events of the day and week.  For those who knew and loved Richard McGinnis, they also fly for him.

Like Motel 6 spokesman Tom Bodett, we know that Dick McGinnis will keep the light on for us. It’s up to us to be worthy. He set a very high bar.

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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.