Participants share domino stories

Andalusia Star News


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People from all over the country travel to Andalusia every year for the World Championship Dominoes Tournament and this year is no different.

Some 126 dominoes players registered for the first day of play on Friday with people traveling from as far as Missouri and Minnesota.

Dr. Charles Tomberlin founded the tournament in 1976 and never thought it would still be going on all of these years later.

“It started as a bicentennial project in 1976,” Tomberlin said. “I never thought it would go past that first year, but here we are 42 years later and still going pretty strong.”

Tomberlin said that the tournament started off just as a random thought and he never intended to actually hold a tournament.

“I was playing dominoes once a week and having a lot of fun doing it,” he said. “I jokingly said that I thought we should have a dominoes tournament. Everybody laughed and then not too long after that the president of the Rotary Club said, ‘We’ll have a tournament and Dr. Tomberlin will be in charge,’

“I needed that like I needed another hole in the head, but we did it and had a lot of fun and more than 70 people showed up,” he said.

Over the years, more and more dominoes players from across the country descended upon Andalusia for the tournament, but none bigger than the “Bear” himself; Paul “Bear” Bryant.

“Coach Bryant came down here four of the last five years he was alive and boy, did he draw a big crowd,” Tomberlin said.

More than 1,000 people showed up each time Bryant came down for the tournament, just to see the legendary Alabama coach.

“Coach Bryant never wanted to lose and he always wanted red dominoes,” Tomberlin said. “(Comedian) Jerry Clower came down and he played Coach Bryant one year too. Coach Bryant won, of course, but it was a good match.”

Dale County Judge William Matthews has been coming to the tournament for 40 years and some of his most memorable moments also included Bryant.
“They pulled a lady from the nursing home one year, she was like 97 years old, and she ended up beating Bear,” Matthews said. “I don’t know if he let her win or whatever, but it was something else to see that.”

Matthews also shared a story that he said he would never forget about Byrant.

“He was down here one year and had on a pair of red, crimson pants,” Matthews said. “There was a preacher that kept saying, ‘Coach Bryant, those are the prettiest red pants I’ve ever seen.’ He’d said it over and over and over all day.

“Finally, Coach Bryant needed a ride back to the airport and that preacher drove him. Bryant got on the plane and then turned around, pulled those britches down and threw them on the concrete and said, ‘here you S.O.B., you can have ‘em, you like ‘em better than I do anyway,’”

Larry Jackson hails from Oklahoma and said that he and a group of friends make the trip every year.

“A group of friends have been coming down here for the last four years,” Jackson said. “We take a week off for vacation and come down here and go to the casinos and come play some dominoes.”

Jackson said that the competiveness of dominoes is what drives him to make such a long trip.

“I’ve been playing since I was 6 year old,” Jackson said. “Since I was 8, I was playing with the grown ups and giving them a hard time with it.”

Father-son combo Rickey and Devin Rambo have also been traveling all the way from Kansas City, Mo. for the past four years.

“I first came here in 1998,” Rickey said. “I placed fifth and I was so excited about that.”

Rickey said that he began playing as a child, his father taught him, and at 17 years old won the Missouri State Championship in dominoes. When Rickey had his own son, Devin, he taught him the game he loved so much, as well.

“Dominoes is a big thing in our family,” Devin said. “If you’re a man, you want to play in our family. My dad taught me at a early age and the game itself just excites me so much.”

Rickey said that his son showed himself to be especially skillful at the game at an early age.

“I immediately noticed he had a special gift for the game,” Rickey said. “He always wanted to come here but he was so small that I didn’t want to bring him that far. He was so passionate about it that three years ago he told me he was going to come whether I went with him or not.”

Devin said that you have to think to get good at the game and that’s really what appeals to him.

“We’re both thinkers and being able to use my mind and to know what your opponent has or what I want them to play or how to beat them, it’s just wonderful,” Devin said. “It’s the best game ever invented to me.”

The World Championship Dominoes Tournament continues today at the Kiwanas Community Center for the doubles tournament.

Andalusia Star News