Lutheran Dartball League to enter its 70th season this October

Bob Klosterman sat in his home sifting through old memories he compiled.

More than 160 laminated pages covering the 69 years of the Lutheran Dartball League.

Klosterman loves stats, and he loves Dartball, so he combined the two into this well-documented history of the league, consisting of league standings and tourney scores for each year, records for each individual team — season and tourney — 50th anniversary team bios, all-star game history, league officers, tournament locations, Dartball scholarship history and old team photos.

This will be the third edition Klosterman has completed over the years. The first he published in 1985, the second in 2002 and now the third right before the Lutheran Dartball League enters its 70th year of existence.

The league was started in 1952 and started with five churches in Dudleytown, Sauers, Redeemer, Wegan and Jonesville. Klosterman’s father was on some of the first teams to compete.

“I loved to go with Dad to watch him play,” Klosterman said. “I started my team when I was a senior in high school. We were terrible the first few years, but we just kept getting better and better, and we’ve ended up winning 14 championships.”

Klosterman’s team is the Dudleytown Mets, one of the more successful teams in league history to this day.

Jonesville was the very first league champion in 1952, and Jonesville went on to win eight of the first nine championships. Then Wegan West showed up. Wegan W is the winningest team in league history with 2,463 wins, and they also won the league the most times at 16.

Over the league’s 69 years, it has averaged more than 23 teams per year and has played 99,104 league games.

“The greatest thing about Dartball is you can take on a team and have a 12-year-old and a 90-year-old and be competitive,” Klosterman said.

The board is shaped like a baseball field — a diamond with first, second and third bases and home plate. The rules are just like baseball, as well. Three strikes you’re out, and three outs end an inning.

There are markers across the board that determine whether or not you foul the ball off, get a strike called, hit a single or double or triple, hit a home run or get called out at base. Each game is nine innings, too, and takes about a half-hour to play, so teams play three games against each other in one setting.

The main strategy while playing Dartball consists of trying to throw for either first or third base. They’re the easier squares to hit, and if you keep hitting first base and getting singles, you’ll load the bases and eventually score some runs.

The most runs scored in a game in the league’s 69 years was in 1985 when Klosterman’s Dudleytown Mets put up 68 runs in a night. The games were played at Wegan East, and the Mets won 30-5, 16-6 and 22-11.

“We were just on fire that night,” Klosterman said.

The atmosphere during games is exciting, too. While one team is up to bat, the other team is always trying to throw them off with good-natured, funny comments.

The Midwest gets a majority of the credit for starting Dartball. Life Magazine ran an article in 1941 stating cities like Philadelphia, Kansas City and Milwaukee were the strongholds of the sport. According to Klosterman’s research, there was evidence of a Lutheran Dartball League in Milwaukee as early as 1932.

Still today, a simple google search of “Dartball” will bring you to clips of teams in Milwaukee with the biggest presence of the sport.

However, the league here in Jackson and Bartholomew counties has been going strong for almost 70 years, and Klosterman doesn’t want that to slow down any time soon.

Last year, the league had 17 teams — six less than the average, which Klosterman believes came as an effect from the COVID-19 pandemic.

To no one’s surprise, Wegan W won the league last season.

Each season lasts from October to March, and at the end of the year, there’s a big single-elimination tournament one night that features all of the teams.

After a couple of years off, Klosterman is getting back into playing this upcoming October. He encourages if anyone is intrigued by Dartball to form a team and join the league.

“I’m getting back into it this year,” Klosterman said. “The president is Jeff Hubbard, who lives in Dudleytown. Secretary is Steve Hoene. They can contact me or Steve Hoene or Jeff Hubbard to get involved.”

Last year, it was $175 per team to join the league.

Klosterman also wants teams from the past to send any old team photos they may have. Of all of the stats and information Klosterman has gathered over the years, team photos is one thing he wants more of.

“My hope is that the Lutheran Dartball League will continue to flourish and that someone will carry on the history after I am gone,” Klosterman wrote. “I hope many dartballers will get as much enjoyment from my book as I have gotten from compiling the information.”