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Danbury Horseshoe Club 

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Club makes its pitch for sport of horseshoes

John Pirro THE NEWS-TIMES

Published: 01:00 a.m., Tuesday, July 13, 2004

DANBURY - If the state hadn't closed Fairfield Hills Hospital several years back, Phil Groski of Brookfield might be pitching horseshoes on the pro circuit today.

The old state mental hospital in Newtown was where Groski and another former hospital employee, Dave Haddad of Danbury, refined their horseshoe-pitching techniques, spending hours on the hospital's indoor and outdoor courts. "If Fairfield Hills was still open today, we'd probably both be professionals," he said. On Sunday, Groski edged Haddad, his former playing partner, in a playoff to win the second annual Greater Danbury Open tournament sponsored by the Danbury Horseshoe Club. The men finished the nine-match round-robin with identical records. Haddad had to settle for second place, while Rick Sherwood of Danbury finished third and Bob Stewart of Danbury came in fourth. In the women's tournament, which was held Saturday, Ginny Kennedy of Danbury earned the top prize, while Roxanne Main of Ridgefield came in second and Deniene Wooster of Danbury finished third. "This was the second year for our tournament," said club president George Wooster of Danbury. "We wanted to have some event where players in the greater Danbury area could compete." The club, which Wooster founded 13 years ago, has about 60 members - men, women and children. The tournament, at the club's facility on Backus Avenue, achieved its goal of attracting area players who weren't previously members and making them aware the club exists, Wooster said.

 

 

 

Horseshoe enthusiasts tough as nails in rain
Tony Jones NEWS-TIMES CORRESPONDENT
Published: 01:00 a.m., Monday, August 29, 2005

DANBURY - Stan Butkus never felt any pressure. Not for a minute.
What the Bolton resident knew, of course, was that his flip style of pitching a horseshoe was almost perfect.Perfect enough for him to win the A division of the 15th annual Hall Of Fame tournament that was sponsored by the Danbury Horseshoe Club. "I enjoy pitching horseshoes a lot," Butkus said. "I've been competing for almost 20 years. For me, this is more than a competition. This is about seeing people that you haven't seen in a while." On a humid Sunday where rain washed out two classes and almost caused the cancellation of the entire tournament, Butkus was one of three winners. New Haven's Glen Ellis won Class B in a playoff with New Haven's Harold Peters. Dick Allspaugh emerged victorious in Class C, enjoying the only undefeated day in the process (7-0). Allspaugh was especially effective on the day. He racked up 107 ringers while pitching 350 shoes. That was the most in his class. Ellis enjoyed a 7-1 record on the day with a 41.07 percentage. It was Butkus, however, who took home the plaque in the tournament's toughest division. He went 6-1 during round robin play with 161 ringers and a 39.66 percentage. He shot in the same motion every time. He took a step forward, lofted his shoe high into the air and methodically watched the shoe nestle softly into the clay.
"I usually try to do the same thing in every tournament that I play in," Butkus said. "I never try to feel any pressure." The tournament featured seven local players, including tournament director Rick Sherwood who competed in the A division. George Wooster Jr., and George Wooster III played in the B division as did George Reale. Robert Mccullough, Mark Mason and Roxanne Main all played in the C division. Mccullough finished third in the C division with a 5-2 record. He was also second in the division with 100 ringers. Wooster III finished third in the B division with a 4-3 record. "I've been playing in this tournament since I was 10," said Wooster III, 26. "It's always the same every year. It's a lot of fun. I shot fairly well today. I wish I had shot better, but this is really tough competition. People come from all over the state. We have a great time." This year, the tournament had a sobering effect. That's because John Garcia, a Hall Of Fame inductee in 2004, died in his sleep earlier in the month. He was 47 years old. Sherwood said he was indispensable to club efforts. "I remember when the club was flooded by rainfall," Sherwood said. "John came, drained the clubhouse and re-carpeted everything. He meant a lot to the club. He's a big loss for all of us."
Sherwood said that a memorial tournament will be held next year in Garcia's memory.

 

Danbury man a ringer for Horseshoe Hall

Jaime Garzon NEWS-TIMES CORRESPONDENT

Published: 01:00 a.m., Saturday, October 29, 2005

After playing horseshoes since he was 13, Rick Sherwood, of Danbury, was inducted into the Greater Danbury Horseshoe League's Hall of Fame on Oct. 2. "It was a big honor for me," Sherwood said. "It was shocking." The induction took place during the horseshoe club's annual banquet at 20 Backus Ave. Sherwood is the sixth member so honored. "I enjoy the game. It's competitive. I meet a lot of people and I get to travel. My best game ever was 22 ringers out of 30 shoes," he said. "The whole family loves it. We go on camping trips and play." His sons - Jonathan, 7, and Andrew, 5 - love to play and so do his girlfriend, Deniene, and her daughter, Mary. Sherwood's spent the last 15 years as a member of the local horseshoe club, which meets Wednesday nights during spring and summer. Each year, the horseshoe Hall of Fame members induct a new member, someone who has gone above and beyond his duties as a club participant and competitor. "Rick's been with us since we started building the courts 15 years ago," said club president and founder George Wooster Jr. "He's always been there when we needed him." Sherwood volunteers his time to paint the courts and maintain them when needed, and sometimes does the cooking at club events. "He's always stepped up to help out, and he is one of the top pitchers in the club," Wooster said. "He's averaging about 45 percent ringers for us." This means if he throws 100 rings, nearly half of them will circle the stake or land within six inches of it. Sherwood has been playing with the club since 1990 and is one of almost 60 members - men, women and children. He's competed in tournaments all over New England, going for plaques, trophies, and a couple of times for money. "I do it because I love the game," Sherwood said. He'll be competing in a Rhode Island tournament this weekend. "I'm going up against one of the best in the world in Brian Simmons," Sherwood said, referring to the 2002 world horseshoe pitching champion. "That's going to be exciting, going against someone of his caliber. I'm a little nervous, but hopefully after the first couple of shoes, I'll get the butterflies out."

 

Danbury Horseshoe Club makes championship pitch Published: 01:00 a.m., Monday, July 7, 2008   

Driving on Backus Avenue in Danbury on a Wednesday evening around 6 p.m. can be an interesting experience and it has nothing to due with the usual mall traffic. If your windows are rolled down and you happen to pull into the Boston Billiards parking lot there's one sound that will surely echo into the car. Metal on Metal. PING! ... PING! ... PING! The Danbury Horseshoe Club has been located in this same spot to the left of the billiards club since 1991 and the fun-loving members loves their horseshoes. After a weekend of Fourth of July celebrations which most likely included leisurely games of backyard horseshoes at many barbecues, the Danbury Horseshoe Club goes to work every Wednesday night for league play. The approximately 50 people at the courts last Wednesday were having their usual fun time pitching horseshoes, but six of the members were little more focused on preparing for a big week. Rick Sherwood, Phil Groski, Gary Bianconi, George Reale, Tom Plummer and Roxanne Main will all be traveling to York, Pa. today to compete in the World Horseshoe Tournament. Connecticut will be represented by a total of 57 pitchers The two-week tournament begins today and features more than 1,300 contestants from all over the country. Entries from 46 US states, five Canadian provinces, and two other countries (Japan and Norway) will vie for the crowns. Champions will be crowned in the following divisions; Men, Women, Senior Men, Senior Women, Elder Men (over 70 years of age) Junior Boys, Junior Girls, and Cadets. Pitchers will compete for $170,000 in prize money and trophies. There's a lot of pride and bragging right on the line this week in York. The first world championships one took place in Bronson, Ka. in 1909 according to the National Horseshoe Pitchers Association web site. 'It's going to be great," said 41-year-old Danbury resident Rick Sherwood. "You want to go out there a prove yourself against the best players. It's a lot more serious. There's not too much talking between competitors once you start playing." A member in the Danbury club since 1991, Sherwood enters the tournament with a 46.7 percent pitching average. Each member from Danbury will be competing in a class against 15 other competitors at the same skill level. All entrants had to complete at least four NHPA sanctioned events at their division pitching distance during the past year. "It's a great thing for the club," said Groski, 51, who also serves as the club's vice president. "Once you do a few of the tournaments it's like second nature. You have to stay focused." Reale, 56, battles arthritis, but it hasn't stopped him from continuing his love of horseshoes. He took part in the world tournament three years ago in Bakersfield, Calif. "It was a lot of fun," said Reale, who has traveled to many states for tournaments. "It's a great atmosphere and you meet a lot of great people. I still talk to some of the people I met three years ago." Main, 54, is feeling a little more pressure being the top-ranked player in her class. She worked with two-time world champion Brian Simmons of Rhode Island to improve her swing during the winter. "I made a few little changes and it has helped," Main said. "I just want to do well and have a good time. I'm really proud we have a big group going from the club."

 

 

Young Gun: 8-year-old wins Class F title at Danbury Horseshoe Club's annual Hall of Fame tournament

Brett LoGiurato Contributing Writer

Published: 01:00 a.m., Sunday, May 31, 2009

While 8-year old Andrew Sherwood was pitching horseshoes Sunday, his 10-year-old brother, Jonathan, was wearing a shirt that pictures Andrew fixing the clay around a horseshoe stake. At the bottom of the picture, below then 2-year old Andrew, it says, "If I can do it, so can you." It might as well be the motto of Andrew's life. By far the youngest player in the field, Andrew won the Class F championship in a playoff at the Danbury Horseshoe Club's Hall of Fame tournament Sunday, an event hosted annually by the club.
But that's no surprise to anyone who knows him well. Andrew, who hails from Danbury, has been beating the odds from the moment he came into the world. He was born premature, only five months into his mother's pregnancy. He weighed only 1 pound, 14 ounces at birth. Doctors were skeptical he was going to make it, said Demiene Wooster, Andrew's mother.
"He was my miracle child," said Wooster. And once he beat the odds at life, Andrew started doing the same in horseshoes. By the age of 2, he started pitching when his grandfather gave him a couple of plastic horseshoes. By 5, he was the New England "cadets" champion among players under 18, a streak he has continued for three years. And on Sunday, he captured the Class F championship against players more than 50 years older than him. "He'll probably be coming for us next year," Class E champion Larry Stramiello said.
That Andrew was immersed in the sport of horseshoes so early in his childhood is no coincidence. It's part of the family tradition that starts with his grandfather, George Wooster, who founded the Danbury Horseshoe Club in 1991. Andrew's father,
Rick Sherwood, has had the highest ringer percentage in New England four separate times and placed third in Class A, the highest grouping in the Hall of Fame tournament. His mother and sister, Mary Wooster, have also been state champions.  His brother was the state champion in 2005, and that's where Andrew gets much of his inspiration. "He was not playing well in a tournament last year," said George Wooster. "So I went up to him and said, 'Pretend like you're playing against your brother.' That got him going."
And Andrew plays with the savvy of a veteran and the fearlessness of a child who hates to lose at just about anything. In Sunday's playoff, opponent
Irv Straiton got six points in one round on the strength of two ringers -- which occur when the horseshoe encircles the stake as it lands. Immediately, Andrew went up to Straiton and said, "Why'd you get that six-pack against me?" Even his technique is a childlike simplistic one. "I just go straight back and straight forward," Andrew said, as if others hadn't already tried that one time after time at family reunions. The method helped him improve from a 17.6 career ringer percentage to 21.6 on the day. As Andrew advances in his short horseshoe career, he already has a sponsor, A-Z Landscaping, which pays for his trips to state, New England, and even national events.
For now, Andrew will always be one of the youngest in the bunch, whether playing against 16 and 17-year-olds in tournaments or 50 and 60-year-olds in Danbury. But is anyone betting against him anymore? Tournament wrap-up Fun, competition, and beautiful weather -- for the most part -- led to a great day at the Danbury Horseshoe Club's Hall of Fame tournament Sunday afternoon. Seventy-seven year old Dick Allspaugh of New Haven, a regular at the tournament and a horseshoe pitcher for over 50 years, said he always enjoys coming out to Danbury for the tournament.
"Win or lose, I always have some fun," Allspaugh said, sporting the original uniform of the club. In Class A, the highest class, Glenn Ellis beat Dave Lick. Class B went to Nick Longo, while George Wooster III, son of the club's founder, George Wooster Jr., placed second. Ray Haversat took Class C, with club president Mark Mason coming in third despite being seeded eighth in the group. Dave Taylor won Class D, , and Keeley Donovan Class G in a playoff.Larry Stramiello Class E. Overall, tournament director Aimee Schlemmer and Mason were extremely pleased with the turnout and competition. "I couldn't have asked for a better day," Schlemmer said.

 

New Haven Independent News Article

8/17/09

Flippers, Turns Pitch Their Best

by Allan Appel | August 17, 2009 11:06 AM | |

That’s Harold Peters getting on his game face to go for a ringer. Next to him is Dick Allspaugh. Between the two of them they have been pitching competitive horseshoes for about 70 years.  They were among some 30 players who gathered on Sunday morning on Springside Avenue at the base of West Rock to play in a tournament at one of New Haven’s best kept sports secrets: The New Haven Horseshoe Club. “It’s a simple but frustrating game,” said Bob Carl, a retired postal worker, who has been pitching for five years. Yet Carl keeps coming back to play and practice on the 17 courts, which have organized play 7 to 9 every Tuesday night May to October. “I do it for the punishment,” he said with evident irony. Although the property belongs to the city, members maintain the splendid grounds, courts, with their posts and clay, along with the clubhouse on a volunteer basis. Club President Chris Surprenant (foreground) said members recently put in a new light and a new roof. Over the last three years too they have saved the parks department the trouble of mowing the lawns as well. The site is a little rustic refuge just up from Blake Street where, when the tournament got underway, you could hear the clang of shoe against post, or the plop of a shoe that missed its mark in the recently wetted clay, and some bird calls, and some friendly jibing, but not much. Of this game, which Surprenant said goes back to the Romans, think of the atmosphere of golf, but with a working-class panache. For many of the players, it’s a serious avocation, with local, state, regional, and, in some cases, national rankings or aspirations on their mind. for a precis of the rules. Amy Hansen of North Haven is the current women’s state champ. She has a ringer percentage of 52, which means out of every 100 tosses, 52 encircle the post. She came to the sport through family tradition and particularly her dad Roger, who’s an organizer of the sport’s hall of fame. To make sure the kids got the pitch, he built a full length, 40-foot court in his basement for his children so they would not get rusty in the winter months. In the first of the tournament’s six games, she was teamed with John Reilly and was playing against Bob Carl and his partner Dirk Deitz. As the sun slowly moved across the lawns that separated the courts, you could hear calls of “four dead” reverberate, which means that each player in a particular round scored two ringers with their tosses, negating any scoring. “Ringer three” meant that out of four tosses, one encircled the post, scoring three points; if there are no ringers, the shoe closest to the post wins a point, but that must be within six inches; beyond that, no points are tallied.  In this tournament, the aim was to score as many points as possible with six games of 30 shoes each. For Debbie Scully (left background, with Glenn Ellis foreground), also a state champ in years past, the pleasure of the game is still the wonder of it. “Every time I put a ringer on the pole, it’s like the first time. I’m amazed,” she said.  Akin in its hand-eye coordination demands to bowling, the sport is one of the few in which men, women, and even kids can compete in tournament play based on skill level, reflected in ringer percentage alone. For the championships, it is gender as well as age-based. At the halfway point in the first game Sunday, Bob Carl was getting soundly beaten by Amy Hansen. “It’s hard to beat a 30-footer,” he said. By “30-footer” he meant a woman. According to the rules of the National Horseshoe Pitching Association, women, those above 70 years of age, and children can all pitch from 30 feet away, not the normal 40. So in Sunday’s tournament, which drew people from Wallingford and Norwich and as far away as Rhode Island, 8-year-old Andrew Sherwood teamed with his dad Rick, of Danbury.  Click for an article on the Danbury Horseshoe Club’s site about their “young gun.” Sunday he was competing, and seriously so, against Butch Freer of Milford. Andrew, playing since he was 2, was last year’s state champ for his age group. By the end of their first game, both Freer and the young Sherwood had four ringers each, while dad Rick had eight. “That’s a little below his percentage,” said his dad, but he was generally really happy with his son’s tosses. A toss, explained Glenn Ellis, whose ringer percentage of 63.5 made him second in the state last year, can either be a flip or a turn. Harold Peters was flipping against him, which meant, said Ellis, that the horseshoe somersaults in the air. A flip spins or rotates in the air. Yet it’s more secure when it lands. “Only one flipper has been a world champion,” said Ellis who works for the phone company but finds time to practice at the club at least an hour a day. And practice definitely is required in this game that looks simple, but … According to Dirk Dietz, who was at this point neck and neck against Amy Hansen, a ringer percentage of 40 will get you in the top 1,000 players in New England. Only ten of 1,000 players will average a ringer percentage of 50 or better over a season. “One of my goals,” said Ellis, “is to be among the top five players in the country.” What do they score? About 89 percent, said Ellis, who then went back to his pitching. The New Haven Horseshoe Club has about 38 members. The clubs in Danbury and Shelton, where Hansen plays, have more than 200. For those interested in joining the New Haven club, the contact is Chris Suprenant . At the end of the first game Amy Hansen’s team had beaten Bob Carl’s 55 to 30. “You can’t beat those 30-footers,” Bob Carl repeated. “You can’t beat 30-footers like Amy,” Harold Peters corrected him. The next big event at the club will be state championships, on Sept. 27 and 28. Spectators are welcome.

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