Column #HR224 Phil Jones – never forgotten!

Wednesday, March 28, 2018
Column HR224
Phil Jones – never forgotten!

The game of darts was conceived, born and nurtured in the pubs and social clubs of the United Kingdom. Like all sports, among those that become engrossed there’s a special unspoken bond. That bond is rarely shared with the outside world. Those that compete at any level are part of that fraternity. Those involved with darts at the highest level are part of an exclusive chapter within that fraternity.

The darting fraternity has no secret initiations, hidden passwords, clever handshakes or mysterious “protect with your life” secrets. When a member of the darting fraternity passes on there remains a void, an emptiness that can never be filled.

Phil Jones was a member in good standing of that “special chapter” within the darting fraternity. Sadly, he passed away Friday March 23 at 71 years of age in Las Vegas Nevada. The darting fraternity lost a cherished member. Those in the “special chapter” lost a dear friend and colleague.

Jones never claimed to be a great player but he loved the game as much as anyone could. Should he have claimed great darting prowess his claim wouldn’t have held up to even casual scrutiny since he lost the “Match of the Century” at Roger Nickson Morning Star Pub in Peckham to the Old Dart Coach way back in the in the 1980s.

He possessed a special bubbling personality with a welcoming smile that was apparent to all that came into contact with him. He had a brilliant command of the English language, both spoken and in writing which, combined with his magnetism, resulted in a stage presence that propelled him to the apex of his craft. His command of language is some achievement as he started life in Wales and could become conversant in Cockney on a moment’s notice.

Asked to describe himself Phil would say he was a “sportsentertainer” which fit him to a tee. Before he stepped on stage as the first Master of Ceremonies for the PDC on television he worked for years at the pubs and social clubs of the darts world. For 17 years he worked with Bobby George, which included stints entertaining the troops in foreign lands.

As the ODC can certify, working with George is always an adventure. With George, Jones worked service bases in Europe along with “metal shipping containers” (used as housing) in the Falkland Islands. Once while sharing a beverage together he reckoned that “the Falklands was better than some of the places we worked.”

Jones was the referee for the World Dart Federation’s first World Cup held at Wembley in1977. Never one to miss an opportunity to steal the spotlight, “he actually started his match (between the eventual champions Wales and France) a few minutes early just to make sure he was the first one.” As a darts writer he was a mainstay of Darts World with his column Cockney Pride. In one column he took on Howie Reed when Reed had the audacity to list the top 10 players of the world taking the tenth spot for himself.

Pub governor Roger Nickson arranged the aforementioned “Match of the Century” which marked the beginning of a lifelong friendship. The same Nickson arranged for Jones and Reed to play pairs at the British Open. Drawing Mr. John Lowe and the late Barry Twomlow, the pair of Jones-Reed took a hearty “care into the wind” approach to the world famous champion opponents. Jones-Reed showed up! They took their beating which was made more tolerable by applying copious amounts of aiming fluid (which didn’t work) before, during and after. Mr. Lowe and Mr. Twomlow went on to win the title. That’s understandable as they survived Jones-Reed.

When Reed was writing boxing for Ring Sports, Jones would occasionally provide columns that were brilliantly conceived, knowledgeable and professional executed. His knowledge of all sports combined with his personality qualified him as a “sportsentertainer.”

Former PDC Tournament Director Tommy Cox paid tribute to a “…great friend. It’s been a shock and Phil will be sadly missed.”

PDC Chairman Barry Hearn spoke of Jones. “He was a terrific guy and was instrumental in the early years of the PDC’s growth. It was fitting that he was inducted into the PDC Hall of Fame because he was a major part of the PDC and the face of the organization until his retirement. He was a really good fella who enjoyed life, loved darts and always had a smile on his face.”

Jones retired from the stage in 2007 which was a banner year for him. He married Michelle with the icing on the wedding cake his election to the PDC Hall of Fame.

When a member of the fraternity passes on they leave the warm memories. They are remembered, not particularly for their triples and doubles, but for those moments that can be remembered forever and cherished.

The memories flow like lava in an attempt to fill the void…

There was a memorable night in London when Jones, George and the ODC met at the Tate and Lyle sports and social club by Tower Bridge on the River Thames. Jones and George were there at the request of the Governor Jim “The Bizz” for Race Night. The ODC just showed up. (A Race Night event was where pre-recorded horse races were run with patrons betting on horses with names supplied by “celebrities” who also did the race calling.)

Sharing a pint or two with Jones was always fun regardless of the venue. It could have been the Morning Star in Peckham, a wine bar in central London, a pub in Porta Palencia on the Island of Majorca, cruising the Mediterranean in a “borrowed boat,” The Clubroom of the “old” RHADT at the Sahara, The Lakeside Inn & Casino in Lake Tahoe, El Casa de Reed, The Orleans Casino or any temporary bar at any darts tournament anywhere.

One late afternoon on an August day in Las Vegas, Jones, BJ Clark, Dick McGinnis, Dave Servis and the ODC made their way to the Santa Fe Casino in North Las Vegas. Their goal was to enjoy some refreshing beverages, bet on the horse races from Del Mar or play the poker machines and just enjoy each other’s company. It was a memorable outing among dear friends.

With Phil Jones passing the ODC is the only one left from that August outing.

Maybe as they read this up in heaven they’ll chuckle about the “can’t miss horse” the ODC gave them. Surely Jones, McGinnis and Servis are playing the poker machines as BJ sips a vodka and tonic while maybe musing with surprise that they haven’t been forgotten.

They will never be forgotten.

For those in the fraternity of darts the next time you raise your glass for a taste of the Golden Elixir…

Do it for all those who share your love of the game.

The ODC will raise his Miller Genuine (with ice and lime) to Phil Jones in particular and to all those (Dave, Dick, Barry, BJ) that have left us in body but remain with us in spirit. Raise your glass as a way to thank them all for what they brought to the sport, for their friendship and for all the richness they brought to our lives.

Stay thirsty my friends.

 

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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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