Pitch a few ’shoes at the Holiday Classic7/3/2013
You know the old saying, “Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades?” Well, if you never quite understood the former of the two, check out this year’s Holiday Classic Horseshoe Tournament.
“To pick one thing and say, ‘that’s what makes horseshoe pitching a great sport,’ would be very difficult,” said LeRoy Law, director of the Holiday Classic. “It is a sporting activity that everyone in the family can participate in together, whether it is in the backyard or at an organized tournament.
“I have pitched in tournaments from Pennsylvania to Wyoming and have yet to find a player who was not courteous and friendly. The friendships one makes is priceless. The game starts with a handshake and ends with a handshake.”
The rules of the game are just as simple as the courtesy of its players. Akin to children’s ring toss, a player pitches two horseshoes at a post in hopes to get a “ringer,” which is worth three points. A ringer is a shot where a horseshoe comes to rest encircling the stake. A single point is scored when the pitched horseshoe comes to rest within 6 inches of the stake (close counts, hence the aforementioned expression). This week’s tournament will be played at 40-50 pitches per game. Whoever has the best score advances to the next round.
“With each shoe weighing two-and-a-half pounds, the pitchers in this tournament will move approximately a quarter-of-a-ton of steel and walk about a mile,” said Law.
There are two types of games: Cancellation and Count All. Cancellation scoring is when you look at each competitor’s pitch before tallying up a score, and opposing scores can possibly cancel each other out. Count All is fairly straightforward: Every point scored is counted for each player. Cancellation scoring is used for most tournaments and will be used in the Holiday Classic as well.
This year’s tournament is expected to have around 40 competitors, both local and regional. Several past and present state champions will be participating. Players competing have established their ringer percentage (their propensity for pitching ringers) before the tournament starts and are seeded into five- or six-player classes according to their ringer percentage. That way players are competing with others of comparable ability.
Though it is a simple sport, these competitors have some unorthodox styles of play.
“I was playing an opponent one time when I noticed a small ball hanging from a string from the center of the bill on his baseball hat,” Law said. “The ball was at eye level and between his eyes. His idea was that he would use the ball for alignment with the stake!”
It may be a competition but it’s also Fourth of July holiday weekend, so everyone just wants to have a good time.
“It’s only a game,” Law reminded. “You’re participating for the fun and enjoyment of trying to make ringers, and to score more points than your friend.” CV
A Wednesday Night League at Holiday Park is open to anyone who would like to pitch horseshoes that night, starting at 6:30 and ending around 8 p.m. Horseshoes will be provided.
David Rowley is an Iowa native with a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Iowa and a master’s in film journalism from the University of Glasgow in Scotland.