GET IN THE GAME: Horseshoes

May 16, 2008 12:00 am

By GERRY STEELE

Baker City Herald

NORTH POWDER — Duane Wisdom, a retired U.S. Postal carrier, likes to kick back every now and then with a game of horseshoes.

Wisdom, who has thrown horseshoes since he was a kid, has competed in several tournaments since 1988.

"I threw shoes as a youngster in the back yard," he says. "I started competing in tournaments back in 1988-89. Horseshoe pitching is kind of like a social event."

Wisdom recently placed second in his division at a tournament in Hermiston. He says that tournament, and one in Kennewick, Wash., are usually the only ones he competes in.

"They're really the closest tournaments in this area," Wisdom said.

The tournament divisions are arranged similar to bowling leagues, by average.

"I've never been over 28 percent," he said. "That's about one in every four tosses a ringer."

To compete in tournaments, Wisdom says, a thrower must be a member of the Oregon State Horseshoe Pitchers Association. And, for some tournaments, competitors must also be a member of the national association.

Pitching has no age limits.

"A few guys up into their 80s are still pitching," Wisdom said.

Younger pitchers, called juniors, and women usually pitch the shoes from a distance of 30 feet. And, Wisdom says, once the men reach 70 years of age they too can throw from that distance.

The regular distance for most other pitchers is 40 feet.

Scoring in most cases is three points for a ringer and one point for the shoe closest to the peg.

Wisdom said some scoring systems go by 40 shoes and how many points are scored throwing that many. Other systems go to 40 points with no limit on the number of shoes thrown.

"People have a good time pitching," Wisdom says.

"If you have somebody to pitch with, it helps. I usually pitch every day," says Wisdom, who was the Oregon Singles Champion in 1999 in his class.

Horseshoes cost $50 and more, Wisdom says.

"But that's the only cost other than tournament entry fees and travel expenses," he says.

"Horseshoe pitching helps keep people active. It gets people to exercise and gets them out of the rocking chair. It's good upper body conditioning."

The conventional pitching motion is similar to pitching a softball, an underhand motion that lobs, or pitches, the shoe.

Wisdom says the sport isn't all that popular in the local area.

"I'd like to see it going in the Baker and La Grande areas like it is in the Hermiston and Tri-City areas," he says.

More information about the sport is available at www.pitchwithus.com/oregon.