From The Desk Of John Martin



NY/PA Challenge Match 2015

“Don’t poke the sleeping bear”



The 2015 NY/PA Challenge match celebrates the tenth consecutive year of this renewed competition. Each year, eight New York and eight Pennsylvania horseshoe pitchers compete for the huge traveling trophy that declares “who kicked whose butt” that year.  The event alternates between NY and PA, with the 2015 event being hosted at the beautiful indoor pitching facilities of the Tri-County Horseshoe Club in Groton, NY.


The weather was gorgeous as PA arrived for the 10:30 am start. The PA team was made up of Al “Peanuts” Long, Joe Belcavich, Steve Swisher, Barry and Brandon Savage, Larry Wolfe, Jim Yefko and team captain Dale Estep. After winning the past two years, they were confident that they would be taking the coveted trophy back to PA.


New York significantly bulked up their team this year by adding sharpshooters Doug Kannus, Dennis Leonard, and Dave Scott, in addition to regulars Dave Conrad, Joel Hines, Fred Sheldon, “Buck” Gofgosky, and team captain Chuck Riegles.


Round one ended with NY sporting a 5-3 advantage. Round two further increased the NY lead to 11-5. We broke for a delicious pizza lunch provided by the hosts. After lunch NY continued to dominate, with PA only managing to win one of the remaining rounds. The final score was NY 39 to PA’s 25.


Highlights of the day included Buck Gofgosky recovering from a 31-12 deficit to win 40-39.  Eric Conrad and Dave Scott each won 7 of 8 games while Doug Kannus, Buck Gofgosky, Joe Belcavich, Barry and Brandon Savage all won 6 of their 8 games.


After a group meeting the PA folks finally figured out what went wrong. One week earlier, their team captain had competed in the first sanctioned winter tournament in Groton. He had chosen to bring the Challenge Match trophy with him and leave it in Groton so that the local pitchers “could remember what it looked like” after residing two consecutive years in Dallas. He had also hung a tag from the trophy that read “Temporarily on loan from the Dallas Area Horseshoe Club”. It is now painfully clear that one should never “poke the bear” prior to competition!


Congratulations to the NY team for their huge victory. There is no question as to “who kicked whose butt” in 2015!





Although I no longer pitch, I was able to attend the tournament at Camden on Saturday as a proud spectator.  Meeting friends from recent tournaments, as well as seeing some from games long ago, was a special treat.  Dick Pike and I had a chance to chat about the game of shoes as we knew it  "in the old days." We both regret the game does not attract youngsters, and this is becoming a serious threat to the survival of  the game. Youngsters today would rather stick their noses in an I-Pod, than their hands in mud.  Those of us who condemn them should look around, just about half the adults on the street, in cars, on busses and even church will at some point look down to listen, see, or send messages.  As of now there doesn't seem to be an answer..  


What a terrific day it was Saturday,  bright and sunny with  temperatures in the high 70's to mid 80's. At any other club you might have been hard pressed to find a shady spot to watch the pitching, but at Pine Grove just about every court can be seen from under the tall pines that surround the courts. If per chance there is ever a shower, they have a  large covered pavilion with plenty of seating. Of course that would not happen, as members like Pete Grant, Karen Graham, Darlene Newey, Natanna Maggio, Kelli Metott, Ken Fraser and Ward Seymour, are in charge of weather arrangements, in addition to the myriad of details that putting  on  a successful tournament like this entail.


The food was great and the prices are reasonable, the people in the kitchen and cashiering are pleasant and accommodating, they deserve a pat on the back from all of us. To me the courts looked terrific, the clay was the best I have seen, since the days that I had to turn and level it.  There were plenty of score keepers, runners and  judges were on call.


 I wish all who attended, either as a pitcher or a spectator, would let those members who made this a great tournament know how much it was appreciated.  That won’t happen!! so, THANKS TO THE PINE GROVE CREW FOR A GREAT TOURNAMENT from everyone who was there... .  GOSH I MISS PITCHING!!!   jm



Desk of John Martin (March 2015) Eugene Oleski from Pa. and update on Tino DeAngelo Click here to read

Vic Davis (July 19, 2014) Click here to read

Charlotte Reigles "Strikes Again" Click here to read

Desk of John Martin (May 1, 2014) "Tom & April Scheffler Appreciation" Click here to read all about it

Desk of John Martin "Mike DiMartino (February 12, 2014) Click here to read

Desk of John Martin (Last entry for 2013) "Bob Dunn's Facts & Folklore (December 31, 2013) click here

Desk of John Martin "Personal Message (December 16, 2013) click here

Desk of John Martin "4 Dead" (November 18, 2013)  click here


Desk of John Martin "The Perfect Pitch" (November 14, 2013)


In the 40's my Father who immigrated from Europe, had two dirt horseshoe courts on our farm in the town of Fenton. On Sundays during the summer, his friends would come up to pitch shoes.  Lucas Smyk, owner of a meat

market on Glenwood Avenue in Binghamton remarked about one of the men who threw a "Perfektni Hodit."

I once asked what did he mean?  Mr. Smyk an immigrant from the Ukraine, explained to me that it was shoe that seemed to float high through the air, and land softly with the caulks open, a "Perfect Pitch."

Many years later when I started pitching horseshoes, I was constantly on the lookout for that pitch. There have been many players who came close, but a while back I was witness to "exactly" what Lucas meant.

If you ever want to see for yourself, come to the Tri-County horseshoe courts when Dr. Bill Hornbuckle is pitching. He has that same smooth delivery, sending the shoes high into the air, they turn ever so slowly, and come down gently with the heal caulks open to the peg. Some are ringers, and some are not, but they are a thing of beauty, exactly what Mr. Smyk called  Perfektni Hodit,  "The Perfect Pitch"  jm


From The Desk  (October 26, 2013)


On Saturday October 26, 2013, the annual N.Y. vs. Pa. Challenge Match was held at the Tri-County Horseshoe Courts in Groton, N.Y.


“Tempus Fugit” - It doesn’t seem possible that over a year has gone by  since Dale and Lee Estep wrote an exceptionally accurate and complete summation of the 2012 match for this web site... 


This years match was hard fought by the combatants and exciting for the spectators. I am happy to announce the “Historic Trophy” once more resides in it’s rightful place in the T.C.H.C. lounge.


Doctor Bill Hornbuckle took careful notes of the individual matches and as soon as he compiles the results and they are available, I will forward them to anyone who e-mails me a request.


If you would like to know the details of the 2012 match, and how this competition had it’s beginning over 25 years ago, scroll down to 2012 Challenge Match. You will note that Pa. had won the trophy in two consecutive years, so it was


crucial that we would take it back this year..  Eric Conrad is our captain and selected a great squad to lead New York on to victory… he was also undefeated.. Thanks Eric !!!                                         Jm



From The Desk "The Longest Game" (October 14, 2013)


Saturday October 5, 2013 I came to Groton to visit with many of my friends both attending and pitching in the first singles tournament of this new season. Someone made the remark that these tournaments take so long, it might be wise to go to 30 point games for all classes. Whoa there! not so fast, I said.  Horseshoe games have been getting shorter, and shorter even in my time. I think 40 shoes is just about right.


When I first went to Dallas in the late eighties the format was 50 points unlimited shoes.  Fifty, sixty and even more shoes pitched was not uncommon. Peanuts Long then changed it to 50 shoes. Still later Dale Estep made it 40 shoes to keep pace with the "Pantywaists"

(not my description) from New York who had already come down to 40 shoe games..


I wondered what the longest match between two players might have been and found it in the N.H.P.A. "Horseshoe Facts and Folklore"


It was between J.C. Hanson and R.E. Dewey. They were to play to 5,000 points starting on  March 6, 1930.  The Game was tied at 5,000 points so it was extended to 10,000 points. This you wont believe, but it was still tied so they went on to 25,000 points, and on August 9th it was won by R.E. Dewey 25,000 to Hanson's 24,949 points. It's a good story, check it out.......                             jm


Desk of John Martin FAIR IS FAIR <----click to view pdf file  (January 19, 2013)

ADDRESSING THE STAKE From the Desk of John Martin pdf file Lesson #5  (December 30, 2012)


ADDRESSING THE STAKE From the Desk of John Martin pdf file Lesson #4  (December 20, 2012)


LUKE'S DREAM From the Desk of John Martin pdf file Beginnings of Tri-County (December 07, 2012)


ADDRESSING THE STAKE From the Desk of John Martin pdf file Lesson #3  (December 05, 2012)


ADDRESSING THE STAKE From the Desk of John Martin pdf file Lesson #2  (November 21, 2012)


ADDRESSING THE STAKE From the Desk of John Martin pdf file Lesson #1  (November 11, 2012)



From The Desk Of John Martin, “revisited”  (November 1, 2012)

Condensed from Bob Dunn’s

They Made More than Tractors



John Deere and International Harvester are common names related to farm implements and tractors, but at one time they made more, they made pitching horseshoes too.  In the early 1920’s horseshoe tournaments were common at rural gatherings as well as at countywide picnics.  The Farm Bureau was a major host at these events and a great supporter of the sport of horseshoe pitching.


There is no doubt; International Harvester produced regulation shoes for these contests as a method of advertising.  The early shoe had a rather round shape, deep and heavy calks, and most importantly, the I. H. insignia.


Because examples of this shoe have not surfaced in recent years, it can be surmised that they never ventured into the retail market.


John Deere is another story however.  It is known that a John Deere shoe was once produced by St. Pierre Horseshoe Company, out of a standard American horseshoe mold. They were also manufactured in a John Deere plant and dated as recently as 1969.


The answer to the question of why did John Deere make horseshoes, is partially answered by the fact that United Malleable Iron Company, a foundry owned by John Deere, produced it’s own brand of regulation shoes under the IMICO brand. They also produced a junior version somewhat smaller that weighed in at 1-1/2 pounds.


To what extent did John Deere market and promote these shoes is not known. Although not as successful as the tractor and implement business, the fact remains that these two giant implement companies.   jm



vs. Pa Challenge Match  Sat. September 29, 2012

From The Desk Of John Martin N.Y.

Included is an account of this years NY-Pa. Challenge Match submitted by Dale and Lee Estep.  For those not familiar with this event, the origin dates back to the mid 1980's.... A few Pennsylvanians and a few New Yorkers, gathered informally for challenge matches at a tavern known as the Radman Saloon, in Binghamton, N.Y. and at a two court facility in a boiler room of an industrial building near Scranton Pa.

The owner of the bar, donated an old trophy won by his tavern league team.  Upon cleaning it, polishing it, and removing the original inscription, it became the official challenge trophy. It is now inscribed, Whoever has possession of this trophy has "Kicked a Little Butt". 

The match alternated for nine years before ending, at which time it was 5 NY 4 Pa.  Why it was terminated is not clear, but Dale Estep heard about it from Al "Peanuts" Long and set about to start it up again.  It was reborn in 2006 and has continued since then. JM

2012 Challenge Match Results By Dale and Lee Estep

This years competition was held September 29th at the beautiful Dallas Area Horseshoe Club.  After alternating wins the first four years, Dallas had somehow managed to keep the who kicked whose butt trophy the past two years.

Eight of NY's finest against 8 competitors from Pa. 64 total games would determine who would own the trophy for the next 12 months.

Round one started with a momentary sprinkle of rain.  NY jumped out to a 5-3 lead.  In round 2 Pa. folks won 5 0f 8 games, tying the competition at 8 wins each.  In round 3 NY won 5 of 8 games and once again took the lead at 13-11.  In round 4 PA won 7 of 8 games, perhaps the smell of Grotto's pizza, home made ziti lasagna, and sloppy joes distracted the NY crew.

After lunch we split round five with 4 wins each.  PA led 22-18.  In round 6 Pa. extended their lead by winning 5 of 8 games.  The score was now PA 27, NY 21.  Round 7 was once again a tie, 4 wins for each team.  PA still led by 6, 25-31.  NY had a chance to pull out a victory by winning round 8 solidly, but it was not to be.  PA closed the competition by winning 7 of the last 8 games to finish 38-26.

Team captains Eric Conrad and Peanuts Long both won 7 of their 8 games while Tim Fettinger and Roger Wandell both won 6 of their 8 games.  Butch Maisel came back from 38-24 deficit by throwing 3 consecutive doubles to win 41-38.

This annual event continues to be the highlight pitching event of the year for many of the competitors.  As Peanuts Long once said about this competition, “It is like pitching in the backyard with friends.” The 2013 Butt Kicking event will be at Groton, and New York has vowed to dust off the cabinet in the lounge to make room for the returning trophy. Dale & Lee





From the desk of John Martin


A  few years ago I received a note from an old time pitcher and former State Singles Champion. Included was a 1980's editorial entitled "Have we helped or hurt the game?"” It dealt with the argument of mixing classes and handicapping.


He asked me for my opinion of where the game is going, and if we were making progress or not. He sent a list of 1985 NYS members that totaled just under four hundred and noted that we had about one hundred less now


I wrote back that; like it or not its usually for the good of the majority that rules change, be it sports, the work place, leisure activities, or government.


The editorial made it clear that in the fifties, sixties and even into the seventies horseshoes was more of a competitive sport than it is today.  In those days it required pitching 100 shoes to qualify for the limited number of classes scheduled, if you didn't get in you went home and practiced to get better.


Winning the tournament championship meant getting the most prize money, the biggest trophy and greatest recognition.  The thought of mixing classes or handicapping within a class would have caused an outcry as loud and thunderous as to bring the sport to its knees.


 Because of the need to excel or else you were out, overall ringer percentages were higher and competition was keener, it was  "survival of the fittest"  and the big dogs got the bone.  


 Fortunately for most of us pups, our leaders realized change was necessary in order for the game to survive and expand. To do so there needed to be an evolution from a true competitive sport to a level playing field that still retained an element of competition.  Mixed pitching and handicapping was introduced and gradually, although reluctantly, accepted.


 How many of us would have continued and be pitching today if we traveled to tournaments only to become spectators? Because of  the controversial changes, success is now spread to many who otherwise would not have basked in the glory of victory.


With the playing field more balanced, the cause of declining membership is not clear and the reasons should certainly be investigated. One thing is clear however, without the changes the decline would have been even more drastic.


Perhaps as a reminder of our roots, there should be a yearly “throwback tournament.  Discard the ringer percentages and have a 100 shoe qualifier with limited classes. To discourage sand baggers the higher the class the more the prize and those who fail to get in would be spectators and cheer for the “Big Dogs.”


Wouldn't it be poetic justice for a “Pup” to knock off a high percentage pitcher and send him or her back a class or two?   It may be wishful thinking but it just might make you pitch better.    jm