The 1940’s

In the last issue we read Part I of Leland Mortenson's accounting of the 1940’s. When we left off, he had mostly covered the World Tournaments. Now in the final pages, Mortenson covers some of the political aspects and those involved. Now remember, this article was written in 1949.

THE 1940’S

Harry T. Woodfield is an untiring fellow, and there is no limit to his vision. He constantly thinks horseshoes, and as Dale Dixon of Des Moines, declared at the Milwaukee convention, “he has more horseshoes in his blood than all the rest of us together,” and he also constantly is alert as to what he can do to help the horseshoe pitchers which causes one to remember a printed statement made by Rod Thomas, Washington newspaper correspondent, “In more than 35 years of working in the newspaper field and meeting people in all walks of life, Harry Thorpe Woodfield stands out as the person who is most earnest desirous of wanting to help his fellow man.”

During his seven years as President of the association, Mr. Woodfield performed service after service, but two of them stand out brilliantly over the others, the Army Program and President Truman’s pitching activities.

In the fall of 1944, Mr. Woodfield was successful in having the writer appointed Director of the Army Horseshoe Pitching Program. The result of the entire project was that horseshoe pitching by June 1945, was the third most played game in the Army, and the writer was awarded the Army Commendation Ribbon for Outstanding Service.

A complete report on the army project is contained in the Horse Lover Magazine, as is a report on Jimmy Risk's exhibition before President Truman. A copy of the Horse Lover article is also on file with the War Department.

In 1946, Major General Vaughan had become impressed by the results of the Army program, whereupon he conceived the idea of suggesting to President Truman that he have a court installed at the White House.

As President Truman had pitched horseshoe as a boy, he was easily convinced that the general had an excellent idea. Before the plan could be put into effect, it was in the newspaper. President Woodfield read about it.

Mr. Woodfield thought that the President of the United States should have good courts and he wasn’t trusting anybody about it, so he offered his personal services for building the courts. The offer was accepted.

Admiral Nimitz, a personal friend of President Truman, an ardent horseshoe pitcher, and a friend of Jimmy Risk, wanted to get things started right, so he invited Jimmy to come and pitch an exhibition before President Truman.

Risk, a colorful young man, a first-class salesman, a dapper dresser, and an excellent exhibitionist, threw all his best into the show and made a fine impression upon the President, upon the Army and Navy officers present, and upon the press which was well represented.


If the writer had been preparing this report a year ago, he would not have found it particularly necessary to mention the Total Count System. However, during the past year the movement behind this revolutionary plan has grown to threatening dimensions. This plan is often referred to as the Chess System, in deference to D.O. Chess of Cleveland, Ohio, an early and present crusader for its cause.

There is nothing mysterious about the plan, and it is basically sound. However, it removes part of the competitive attractiveness that exists in the scoring system at the present time. The Chess System had grown like a mushroom the last year, having spread from Ohio into Indiana and Kentucky. But, from a national standpoint, it is still favored by only a very small minority.

A Mr. D.J. Cowden, Adair, Iowa, deceased several years ago and was advocating this plan several years ago, that the pitchers toss a certain number of shoe per game and that the count be by the total scores and not by the cancellation system. He carried on his campaign largely by correspondence, but it was apparent that not a handful were impressed by his arguments.

Mr. Chess carried on a one-man campaign during the thirties, and because of his zeal, the plan became known as the Chess System. By 1939, Mr. Chess had picked up some followers in Ohio and sent them to the 1939 convention.

As a result of the appeal of Mr. Chess’ followers, a clause was added to the National Constitution permitting the State Associations to use this method of scoring within their own states. No other action has ever been taken by a national convention to broaden the scope of the Chess System. It is not and cannot officially be used in a tournament which extends across the boundaries of states. It is therefore illegal from the association standpoint to use this system in any tournament admitting entries from more than one state unless both state associations agree to it, or if more than two states are involved. All of those so involved would have to agree. It is illegal for a notional tournament whether it is for men, women, or is a league tournament for teams.

In 1948, the followers of Mr. Chess were successful in getting Arlo Harris a zealous advocate of the Plan, elected president of the National Association. Soon after taking office he appointed Johnny Sebeck, also a Chess System supporter, to be his publicity chairman.

Mr. Sebeck had tackled his job of publicity director by publicizing the Chess System with a religious fervor that is causing some of the opponents of this plan to become worried about its possible ultimate victory.


For many years a few horseshoe pitchers have been able to devote all their time to exhibition pitching, sometimes on a salary basis. Others have been doing this on a part-time basis. The most successful full time operators have been Ted Allen and Jimmy Risk. Both have appeared at Madison Square Garden, Risk had been on three U.S.O. tours of the Pacific.

Some part-time exhibitionists are Guy Zimmerman, Casey Jones and Dean Brown, Long Beach, California.

The exhibition pitchers serve a very useful purpose in bringing the game to the eyes of people not otherwise accessible. Usually, the pitcher appears as part of a sport troupe and the fans present are people of all walks of life except the very poor.

An exhibition by Ted Allen at Madison Square Garden in the late thirties or early forties was seen by some men who later were officers in the Athletic Branch of the Army. They were so highly impressed by the skill displayed that they were later very vulnerable to the appeals of Harry Woodfield when he made his drive for Army support in 1944. And don’t forget that the Army program was a factor in President Truman getting interested, sort of a chain reaction.


The first publication devoted entirely to horseshoe pitching was the Horseshoe World published by R.B. Howard, London, Ohio. This magazine extended into the forties, ceased publication while the Unites States was at war. It first came off the press in 1921, was a monthly magazine and the subscription price was $1.00 per year.

(Editor’s note: Mortenson misspoke a little. The actual first horseshoe publication was Barnyard Golf, published by Art Headlough (Editor) and Edward Twynham (Business Manager), Akron, Ohio. Barnyard Golf called itself the official organ of the National Horseshoe Pitchers’ Association. The publication began April 1921 and continued into 1923, the subscription cost was 50 cents per year).

In 1947, Harry T. Woodfield started publication of the “Horseshoe News” a mimeographed magazine, still being published every two or three months.

On September 15, 1948, Byron Jaskulek, New York, brought out the first issue of “The Horseshoe Pitcher”, an attractive booklet style publication.

It has been suggested several times that the Association run a page or two in some large magazine, thereby gaining more readers.

Roy Smith, the Los Angeles author, arranged such a plan with the Horse Lover magazine in the spring of 1947. Horse Lover continued the arrangement until the summer of 1948 when it was discontinued because the pitchers themselves were coming across with too few subscriptions.

Subscriptions to Horse Lover magazine were carried by most of the nation’s leading libraries including New York City, Chicago, Cleveland, Omaha, Los Angeles and St. Louis. Real fans near those cities will still get a lot of enjoyment out of reading the articles which appeared in those issues from 1947-1948.


While horseshoe pitching is far more popular in the United States than it is in any other country, it is played extensively in Canada and to some extent in Mexico, Germany and perhaps in other countries.

Dr. George Siebert, Giegen-Brenz, Germany represents the association in Germany. McKay Whittle, Australia, is contact man for that country.


Since 1936, the A.A.U. has been conducting state and national amateur tournaments. These can be extended into the Olympics as soon as there are six nations able to put up horseshoe teams.

Nearly all over the country the park departments in all cities sponsor regular tournaments: service organizations, like many other groups, sponsor tournaments for their members.


In a few cases, cities have formed leagues to play against one another for the league championship. A plan of this type has been suggested for the National Association.

Back in 1922, 130 American colleges and universities included horseshoe pitching in their intramural sports programs. For many years, the National Association has felt that horseshoe pitching should be a regular inter-scholastic sport in the high schools and colleges, but not much systematic and consistent effort has been expended along this line.

In 1948, Bryon Stoney carried on such a campaign in Iowa and almost but not quite, saw his efforts crowned with success. W.A. Banta, Indianapolis, is one who has proceeded with the same effort in his city.

For many years our leading pitchers have appeared in sports shorts. These pictures have been a lot of value in promotion of the game.

Some thought has occasionally been diverted to the possibility of the association raising sufficient funds to pay Hollywood to write a moving picture of several reels which should tell the complete story of the game and really sell it to the public. The thought of the association showing the pictures, lecturing and otherwise selling the game has been discussed.


As 1948 came to its close, horseshoe pitching had reached the greatest height of its short career.

But the members are not at all satisfied and most of them are looking forward to the day when horseshoe pitching will either pack in the cask customer at a profit to the pitchers or that the same end can be achieved by attracting more dues-paying members to provide cash to the association to be paid out as prizes to the players.

With a concentration on team-work, organization and good judgment, it seems that the march ahead can be of progress.

End of part two – To be continued