What could have been happening at Trinity Lutheran Church in Altenburg on a Tuesday night in January? Just about every parking spot was occupied, including the lot across the road next to the City Hall. And almost all of the vehicles had something in common. They were pickup trucks.
There could be only one explanation. Dartball. Not only dartball, but the annual end-of-season dartball tournament. Dartball teams from Lutheran churches all over Perry and Cape Girardeau County gather for this traditional event. I wrote a post back in 2019 when the tournament was being played in Frohna. That post, Dartball Tourney Time, gave some of the history behind this event, so I will not repeat it for this post. I encourage you to go back and read that article.
I knew that the tournament was taking place this year right down the road from where I live, so I decided it was once again time to attend the event. I know I also have some other commitments today, so I decided to take a day off from family research and instead do a quick story about dartball.
Six different dartball boards were set up in the Trinity Lutheran gymnasium. I must admit that this arrangement definitely filled up this room.
Almost all of the folks attending this event were men. They ranged in age from teenagers to seasons citizens. I did not ask for names, but it would be possible that there was a team there that included 3 generations from a family…grandfather, son, and grandson.
As in baseball, each team “fields” a team of 9 players and they are arranged in a lineup. Any extra players on the team may become scorekeepers or umpires (the ones who make decisions about darts that land close to an area on the board and remove the darts from the board when necessary). Darts are thrown by a “batter” until either an out or a hit is achieved. As you might expect, a team bats until 3 outs are made.
As seen in the video below, darts are thrown underhanded at the board that is a designated distance away.
As you might expect, nine innings are played in a dartball game, with extra innings possible in case of a tie. I watched the end of a game between my church, Trinity, Altenburg and Zion, Crosstown. Trinity was down by a run going into the 9th inning, but scored 2 runs to go on top by one run. However, Zion came to bat in the bottom of the 9th and promptly scored 2 runs to win the game. It was quite exciting.
When games are over, the results are submitted to the tourney statisticians, in this case a few of the only females in the building. They keep statistics on all the players who participated, and even batting averages are calculated.
In between games, players usually visit the concession stand where several items of food and drink are available.
A few photos I took require a little explanation. First, the photo below shows a collection of darts of prescribed size and shape that are used by dartball teams all across the country (mostly the Midwest). You will see some baby powder on the table as well. Players often use this powder to keep their sweaty hands dry for proper throwing of the darts. I guess it makes me giggle that these manly men use baby powder for this purpose.
Next, the photo below not only shows a similar collection of darts, but a few other accompanying items. First, what would a gathering of Lutheran men be without some beer being consumed. I know that during my teaching career, I served at churches and schools that would never allow adult beverages on their premises, but that is not the case here in Perry County. You will also see a container with money in it. Some teams inflict monetary punishments on their team members for poor performance. For example, if you miss the entire board when throwing a dart, you may have to place a designated amount of money in the team’s jar. I am told that some teams use this money for an end-of-the-year party.
I am going to include a few more short videos of the dartball action as well as a small gallery of photos.
I am going to add an editorial comment. I think such a gathering of Lutheran men is a good thing for churches such as ours. Many churches are experiencing a lack of male participation in worship and other church events these days. I think this area’s dartball league helps encourage the male population to continue active participation in their local churches. I hope this tradition continues for the generations to come.
This tournament is scheduled to take 3 weeks to complete, so if you’re in the neighborhood the next 2 Tuesdays, stop on by Trinity Lutheran Church in Altenburg, and you can watch the action yourself.