The Rare One


During the series of the “Rare Ones,” several dozens of shoes were reviewed and described. No single shoe received the spotlight and assumed a whole article-that is until now.

   In researching and documenting the earliest pitching shoes, 1921 is the year noted for the beginning of manufactured shoes, bearing brand names. There is evidence that pitching shoes were sold in 1920 and even in 1919, but we have not proven if those shoes had brand names or other identifying markings. One patent for pitching shoes did exist prior to 1921, that by William Martin of Cleveland, Ohio, but none or very few may have been produced, for none have been found bearing the cited dimensions. There are some Martin shoes in collection, but only models manufactured during 1924 and later.

   The official or standard dimensions for pitching shoes that exists today were drafted in 1919 but not adopted until 1921. Shoes produced prior to 1919 seem to be a bit more round in shape and somewhat smaller in size, at least a ½ inch shorter in length. This is determined by some brandless shoes that have been found that consistently bear the difference in shape and all have a weight of 2 Ib. 4 oz. or less. On all these pre-1919 shoes, the calks are all deeper than me calks prescribed in the 1919 draft of dimensions.

   This all leads up to what is declared to be the first find of a pitching shoe that pre-dates 1919 and bears a brand. While passing through a flea market last August, I came across four old hookless horseshoes all taped together as a set.

As I was picking them up, it was quickly obvious that this wasn’t a matched set. Two shoes were the found Diamond Officials, but the other two had much deeper calks and the toe calk looked to be 4 inches across. As I maneuvered the shoes around looking to see if there was a brand name on the strange pair, I read something that sent a shock of excitement through my body. A bold "F. Crum" appeared across the toe and certainly was the hint of a major historic find.

   The Grand League of American Horseshoe Pitchers’ Association formed on May 6, 1914 in Kansas City, Kansas. One of its members was Frank Crumm, who is listed in our World Tournament program as the first elected president in 1914. His name appears in other journals as the official referee of the 1915 World Tournament held in Independence, Missouri. That reference also mentioned the organization published the Horseshoe Guide in 1916. While it can be assumed that the organization’s scoring and playing rules were part of the document, there was no doubt some guidelines for standards of shoes used in competition.

Boy, would a copy of that publication be a great find!

Somewhere in some library or historical center somewhere in Kansas or Missouri, there has to be a copy waiting for a NHPA member to come by and claim a photocopy of it. The "Horseshoe Guide" would not only be interesting reading, but might answer many questions as to the shoes pitched in competition, prior to 1921.

   Although the name on the shoe has only one M in the Crum, there is too much coincidence to not accept this shoe as part of the sport as set up by the early-day Kansas City organization. The shoes have the heavier and deeper calks. The shoe measures a ½ inch less in width and a full inch less in length than the dimension drafted in 1919.

   In many regards, this is a "missing link" to the fact that there were official pitching shoes prior to the NHPA. And what a marvel that this pair of shoes has made it through all these decades to be found today by a horseshoe collector.

   For those who are curious, the price for the shoes-$5.00 for the pair.


   When you are at the World Tournament 2000 in Bismarck, stop by the Horseshoe Trader display to see the F. Crum shoe. There will be over 150 antique shoes on display. Shoe identification will be part of the program from August 2-5, so bring your old mystery wonders along and we see if we can figure out what they are. Shoes being donated for the NHPA Hall of Fame collection will also be accepted.