The Daily Globe - Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

Dartball brings players from all over


February 10, 2020


HURLEY, Wis. — After three years the organizers of the annual “Shoot for the Vets” dartball tournament said the event has become popular around the region but they’d like to see more area teams participating.

The event at the Iron County Memorial Building on Saturday brought in teams all the way from Door County, Eau Claire and Rhinelander to compete with five-man teams of Hurley and Ironwood, said Arvid Sivula, the commander of Vietnam Veterans of America Gogebic-Iron Range Chapter 529.

“This is the first year for the construction company team from Rhinelander,” Sivula said. “We would like to get some more local participation.”

The event is scheduled in February at a time when there isn’t a lot on the activity calendars, he said. It’s also scheduled before the Wisconsin nine-man state tournament in March, he said.

Terry Ford, of Menomonie, Wisconsin, came up with the Eau Claire team. His team plays from September through April with several members who have played for 50 years or longer.

“By the time I get done this year I’ll have 50 years in,” Ford said.

Ford learned from his father and grandfather, who were farmers and played in the church leagues.

“It was church league back then with the farmers,” he said. “There weren’t many activities to do and we had church leagues with three, five-man teams.”

Ford said his mother wouldn’t let the boys start playing leagues until they were age 13. That was after the religious education and all of the church sacraments were received.

He learned the game at home where his father had painted a dartball board on the barn door. When the boys got done with milking the cows they’d play a game.

As the elderly players pass on there doesn’t seem to be a lot of interest from younger players, Ford said. He says the smart phone culture makes games like this seem old-fashioned but for those who do play they end up enjoying the fun and the social aspects.

“They don’t know what they’re missing,” Ford said.

Brian Roehm served as an umpire to check where darts land on the baseball diamond board design. The darts often land near the fine wires that separate targets representing baseball terms for getting on base, scoring and getting an out.

“The umpire has to stay three feet from the board,” he said. “There’s no heckling or joking around while the other guy is shooting. It’s a mutual respect game.”

Roehm is also a member of the Rigoni’s team on a Wednesday night Gogebic league. The team travels as far as Marenisco for league games in addition to Shoot for the Vets, and tournaments in Ontonagon, Bessemer and Hurley.

“I’ve been playing for about 10 years,” Roehm said. “It breaks up the winter.”

Art Lardinois, of Hurley, said he learned the game from his father and grandfather as a boy in Sturgeon Bay. Door County has the largest nine-man league in the state, he said.

The players throw darts underhand toward the slightly pitched board 20 feet away. To do that the darts are bigger and heavier.

“It’s a lot like horseshoes,” Lardinois said. “If you’re good at horseshoes you already have the rhythm for the game.”

Lardinois was so young when he started that he needed a stick to remove the darts on the high end of the board. When his family moved to Hurley, the game came with them, he said.

“I’ve been playing dartball for a really long time,” Lardinois said. “I like baseball and it’s good winter baseball and it’s a great team game.”

Lardinois is also involved in league play and will compete with a local nine-man team as one of 150 teams at the Wisconsin state nine-man tournament.

Half of the money raised Sunday went back to the first, second and third place winning teams. The other half goes to V.V.A. Chapter 529. There was also an artist’s hand-carved wood bowl as a 50/50 raffle prize for guessing the total runs of the entire tournament.

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