Preston Humphrey Jr. runs a dart league at Blueberry Hill on Wednesday nights, the same night of the week Chuck Berry plays his regular gig there. Humphrey has never thrown darts with the rock & roll legend, though Berry did watch him represent the league once.
One night Joe Edwards, owner of Blueberry Hill and manager of Chuck Berry, brought the star down to the pub’s basement Elvis Room, where Humphrey was hosting the dart league. The rooms upstairs were crowded, and Berry was simply looking for a place to eat his dinner in peace.
“Joe shows up at the bottom of the steps and Chuck Berry is standing there with him,” Humphrey said. “And Joe says, ‘Is it OK if we sit down here and eat and watch TV?’”
The anecdote says something about the humility of Joe Edwards, one of the region’s most transformative developers, and the respect he pays his staff (in this instance, volunteer staff). Edwards felt the need to ask his dart league manager before he intruded into dart league space.
It also says something about Preston Humphrey Jr. and how tightly he manages the pub’s dart league, which is recruiting teams for the next season starting June 11.
“I’m Blueberry Hill’s ambassador of darts,” Humphrey said, with utmost sincerity.
Humphrey – who has been alive exactly as many years as Blueberry Hill has been hosting darts, 42 – grew up in north St. Louis. He started throwing darts at Blueberry Hill while studying law at Washington University in 1996. He attended the league as a spectator until one of the competitors, Art Thames, pressed him into playing.
“He literally drug me into a doubles match,” Humphrey said. “I had never thrown a dart in my life.”
Humphrey already had been coming for the camaraderie, and he found that aspect only got better once he was competing. When he graduated from law school, passed the Missouri Bar and got a job as a junior attorney, he found he needed that weekly camaraderie more than ever.
“One of the things they don’t tell you in law school is how unhappy-slash-miserable a young attorney’s life is,” Humphrey said. “When you’re the low man on the totem pole getting yelled at by your bosses, at least you knew on Wednesday night you were going to have some fun.”
He started to help run the league for a few years before taking it over officially in 2007.
“Preston is one of those wonderful people who enjoys the social aspect of people,” Edwards said. “Everybody likes him, and that is always important in leadership. He has built up the number of teams and built up interest in the league.”
Humphrey is trying to build up even more interest in the league, which meets at 7:30 p.m., on Wednesday nights. It costs $15 to join, with the proceeds mostly funding a banquet at season’s end. It’s a sport that can be mastered and played competitively, and Humphrey does have to referee occasionally heated disagreements. But anybody can play.
“You don’t have to be good at it to enjoy the game,” Edwards said. “You aim at a certain spot on the board. You miss. You aim again. You hit! Whoopee! Then you have an adult beverage to celebrate.”
It’s not difficult to appreciate why Humphrey might need a little ritual entertainment. He is now a self-employed attorney practicing personal injury law and federal criminal defense. Many of his clients — accused sex criminals and alleged interstate drug dealers — are probably not the sort of people you’d want to drink beer and throw darts with. When Humphrey closes his briefcase at the end of the day, he needs a sanctuary.
“As much as it has meant for me, that’s why I took over the league, to make sure it’s there for other people,” Humphrey said. “I love this place. I have met friends for life playing darts here.”
For more information on the Blueberry Hill dart league, which resumes play June 11, email Humphrey at email@example.com.
Chris King is the editor of The St. Louis American, where this article originally appeared.