Horseshoe Pitching Facts & Folklore
Bob Dunn, NHPA Historian
This issue's Horseshoe History and Folklore article will cover an interesting story from the state of New York taken from my most recent book "Horseshoe Pitching Tournaments to be remembered."
FALCONER (NY) OPEN
This chapter tells about a local horseshoe club that developed a very unique and successful arrangement for the location of their courts. It may be helpful to know that Falconer is located near the south border of the state very close to the most western point of New York. An article that appeared in the December 1959 issue of the Horseshoe Pitcher's News Digest, tells this interesting story:
NEW YORK SUCCESS STORY
By Larry Proudman
"Local horseshoe clubs which experience difficulty in forming an effective organization with proper playing facilities might find a solution to their problems in the story of the Chautauqua County players in New York State.
Organized in 1950 with ten members the club conducted its activities on a single court located at a fire station. The city tournament was a ten-man round robin that year with one round (five games) played each night for nine consecutive nights until the schedule was completed.
Attempting to remedy this inadequate situation the club moved the following year to an industrial site where six courts were available. This too proved unsatisfactory for the employees played on the courts during the noon hour until the very last minute and then left the courts uncovered at the mercy of the weather. When the club members arrived in the evening for their activities, the courts were baked dry by the sun or flooded by rain.
This is a familiar pattern found also in public parks where the general public ruins the courts during the daytime eight by neglect or lack of proper tools and equipment to keep the clay and courts in shape. Most park departments fail to make provisions for the maintenance of horseshoe courts on the scale that they do for tennis courts and other recreational facilities. Seemingly they expect the horseshoe pitchers to do the work that is properly park department responsibility. It is not logical to expect club members to maintain public property for the use of the general public at their own expense.
Consequently, the Chautauqua County boys looked around for a plot of ground at the edge of town where they could install privately owned and operated courts but the expense of running water and electrical lies and providing other facilities was too great for a dozen or so to bear.
Finally, I was delegated to approach the Falconer Rod and Gun Club, a conservation club with 36 beautiful wooded acres at the edge of town. I outlined the needs and desires of our club at a regular meeting of the Rod and Gun Club which voted to allow us to become a regular division of the organization and to build four courts on the lower end of the club's picnic grounds. (This would have been about 1957). We also agreed to furnish the club with at least 20 additional members at the $2.00 membership fee.
We built the courts ourselves, mixing the concrete, digging the clay, building the forms etc. for a total of $60. Since the four courts were exclusively for our own use it was easy to obtain work crews to perform the work. We charged each member 50 cents per week during the season and from this assessment we paid for the construction of the courts, each player's membership in the Rod and Gun Club and turned in a balance of $20 into the treasury of the Rod and Gun Club.
We continued the 50 cents assessment the next year and had organized competition two nights a week. We added a fifth court and after deducting the cost of the court, paying our individual Rod and Gun Club memberships and paying for trophies and prizes given out during the year we had a balance of $80.00 which was turned over to the Rod and Gun Club.
This past year (1958) we built three more courts and installed lights and staged the New York State Tournament. We raised money by staging dances and social events in the club house of the Rod and Gun Club and from the concessions sold during the State Tournament. The Rod and Gun Club assisted us in building the additional courts and the installing of a lighting system.
Our horseshoe club now has eight beautiful lighted courts under the trees in the picnic area next to the plush club house of the Rod and Gun Club. We have use of the clubhouse and its facilities for our own social events and we participate in the affairs of the Rod and Gun Club as regular members and enjoy the privileges that go with it. The clubhouse itself is very plush, having a dining room that will seat more than 100 for dinner, a kitchen and rest rooms.
On the nights of our formal competition we take care of the 400 pheasants the club raises. This takes two men about 15 minutes to feed and water them. We furnish our share of the manpower needed by the club to maintain the grounds and clubhouse and we maintain our own horseshoe courts.
The beauty of this set up is that we not only are solvent financially and have first class courts and facilities but most important we never have any trouble in obtaining the necessary work details to maintain and improve the courts. Unlike the work done on courts in a public park or industrial setup and the results are rewarding and permanent;
I am sure that there are many horseshoe clubs in the United States who could effectively make similar arrangements."
The article made reference to hosting the 1959 New York State Tournament. In addition to that, the Falconer Horseshoe Club hosted the prestigious Eastern National in 1960 and 1961.
The author of the article, Larry Proudman was inducted to the New York Association Hall of Fame in 1975. Proudman had served as State Association President and in his Hall of Fame bio, it mentions that the Rod and Gun Club courts were even expanded to 16 courts.
Not many early day tournament results could be uncovered from the News Digests, but this one is from 1963:
FALCONER INVITATIONAL TOURNAMENT CROWN TO LINDSTROM
"The Falconer Rod and Gun Club Invitational Tournament was held in August at the club courts in Falconer, New York. There were five classes with 31 participants.
Wally Lindstrom, a former City-County Champion pitched his way to victory defeating all contestants in his class. Also, he pitched the highest single game percentage of 67.9%. Don Ludwick of Lander, PA, second place winner, pitched the best over-all average of 60.1% for the complete tournament.
A playoff was needed in Class B to determine the winner. Pete Scheria of Jamestown NY met Roy Gravink of Mayville, NY, winning 50 to 28 and becoming class champion.
A playoff between Ken Hopkins of Falconer, NY and Henry Borgstrom of Dunkirk, NY determined the winner of Class C with Borgstrom winning out 51 to 43.
A playoff between Dave Marsh of Russell, PA and Norm Shongo of Stockton, NY determined the winner in Class D with Marsh winning out 51 to 41. Tony Cusimano was high percentage with 65.6% for one game.
Class E was won by Willie Burch of Warren, PA winning five straight games.
1963 Falconer Invitation Final Standing
|Ludwick, Lander PA
||Spicer, Akley PA
|Mount, Cherry Creek
For some reason more of the Falconer events were reported once the 1980s rolled around. Since the previous tournament reported, the courts have been expanded to 16 and renamed the Larry Proudman Memorial Courts. Because no mention is made of the Rod and Gun Club, the courts probably have been relocated to the Falconer Park. This next event was held in 1982 and there are some national stars entered:
S. KUCHCINSKI VICTOR OVER MUDGETT AT FALCONER, NY
"A record number 104 men and women from New York and Pennsylvania participated in the Falconer Horseshoe Club Open Tournament held on the 16 Larry Proudman Memorial Courts in Falconer Park which will be the site of the New York State Tournament.
Steve Kuchcinski from Erie, PA captured the championship Class A title with a 6-1 record and averaged 66.0%. Kuchcinski shot 77.5% (31 of 40) in a playoff game with Dick Mudgett to win his first ever Class A title. Mudgett, from Cattaraugus, NY and the local club's top pitcher, had defeated Kuchcinski earlier in the round robin but lost to third place finisher Gene Small from Bath, NY to force the playoff game.
Six women from Pennsylvania comprised the Ladies Class with Russell's Joyce Spicer coming out on top. Spicer averaged 39.2% and finished with an unblemished 5-0 record. Lu Collins finished one game back and averaged a fine 43.2%.
Men's Class A - S. Kuchcinski, Erie, PA 6-1 66.0%; D. Mudgett, Cattaraugus 6-1 65.8%; G. Smalt, Bath 4-3 57.3%; R. Collins, Sugargrove, PA 4-3 55.9%; F. White, Erie, PA 3-4 55.6%; J. Kuchcinski, Erie, PA 3-4 53.4%; J. Mathys, Bradford 2-2 47.3%; E. Kuchcinski, Erie 0-7 37.8%
Women's Class A - J. Spicer, Russell, PA 5-0 39.0%; L. Collins, Sugargrove, PA 4-1 43.2%; D. Butcher, Erie, PA 3-2 34.9%; L. Marshall, Warren, PA 1-4 25.0%; S. Porter, Russell, PA 1-4 23.9%; D. Mickelson, Warren, PA 1-4 19.8%
The 1984 Falconer Open had even more name players. It appears that the Men's Class was a 12 player class but only the top four finishers were reported. The Class A winner, Mike DiMartino is truly a star pitcher. Mike, a member of the New York Association Hall of Fame won many tournaments including major events as the Dogwood Festival in 1985, the Eastern National in 1984 and 1987 and he was nine times New York state champion; 1981, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1989, 1990, 1996, 2006 and 2007. The Class B winner, Kurt VonKleist is also a well-known name playing today in Pennsylvania. The Women's Class A had two National Hall of Fame pitchers entered:
MIKE DIMARTINO SWAMPS 1984 FALCONER OPEN
RUTH HANGEN WINS LADIES TITLE
Men's Class A - Mike DiMartino, Churchville, NY 11-0 84.7%; Steve Kuchcinski, Erie, PA 9-2 73.0%; Don Kuchcinski, Erie, PA 8-3 75.7%; Steve Hohl, Wellesley, Ont., CN 8-3 72.8%
Women's Class A - Ruth Hagen, Getzville, NY 6-0 70.2%; Lorraine Thomas, Lockport, NY 4-2 64.7%; Joyce Spicer, Russell, PA 2-4 37.0%; Rhonda Haw, Ontario, CN 0-6 32.2%
This final entry from July 20-21, 1990, has Kurt VonKleist winning the Falconer Open:
Men's Class A - Kurt VonKleist, PA 6-1 67.0%; Ron Kuchcinski, PA 6-1 74.0%; John Mathys, PA 5-2 65.8%; Robert Jones, NY 4-3 62.5%; Bob Hays, NY 3-4 57.4%; Glenn Brown, NY 2-5 59.%; Al Conklin, NY 1-6 5.6%; Bob Brown, PA 1-6 50.6%.
Below is a listing of the champions for the few tournaments reported:
Falconer New York Open Champions
1963 Wally Lindstrom PA 5-0 57.1%
1982 Steve Kuchcinski PA 6-1 66.0%
Women - Joyce Spicer, PA 5-0 39.0%
1984 Mike DiMartino NY 11-0 84.7%
Women - Ruth Hangen, NY 6-0 70.2%
1989 Ron Kuchcinski PA 6-1 71.9%
1990 Ron Kuchcinski PA 7-0 73.6%
Women - Marian Gee, NY 5-0 53.7%
Junior - Mike Drayer, PA 4-1 27.8%
1991 Men - Kurt VonKleist, PA 6-1 67.0%
Women - Lorraine Thomas, NY 6-1 62.6%
Junior - Steve Wilkinson, NY 4-1 28.0%