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Boulder Camera June 1958

Championship Pitching

Fundamentals Are Important

The Fundamentals of Pitching Like a Champion According to Ted Allen
Horseshoe pitching and bowling have sometimes been mistakenly referred to as being so similar that one should perform as well in one as in the other. The similarity lies in the fundamentals, such as stance, approach (or step), swing, follow-through and timing. Although horseshoe players usually make good bowlers and vice versa, they must learn to apply the fundamentals differently, experience in horseshoe playing can help in bowling.

Styles of individuals differ greatly, but nearly everyone can apply the known skills. Presuming that you want to become a top horseshoe player with an average of 75% ringers pretty consistently, or one of the rare 80% tourney pitchers, then adopt one of the styles of top players. My style is from a lifetime of experience – a technique that gives me my smoothest performance and no wasted motion.

STANCE: My stance (picture no. 1) is becoming more widely used... The position of the fee, left foot a few inches or more to the rear of the right (2), gives one an easier start towards that coordinated step and swing forward. My right foot is always placed exactly even with the peg near me. Your foot may be a few inches to the rear of the peg if your step is longer. Be sure of the exact position every time, for when you reach perfection in form even a minor change will make the difference in a hit or miss.

AIM: Squarely face the opposite peg, aligning the body with it also enables the swing to be in line. Sight your eye to a target about 2 to 4 inches above the ground and the peg to which you are tossing. This gives some leeway – in case of a slight error of too great or not enough distance – and you may still get a ringer. After releasing the shoe, always follow the shoe in flight with your eyes.

It doesn’t matter whether or not you hold the shoe close to the face, just so the arm is straightened out into a full swing (3) backward. Some bowlers may have a tendency to use the same position as in bowling, but remember, the weight of a bowling ball is such that a short swing may suffice and the elbow may bend more in the release, whereas a lighter horseshoe requires a longer swing and a more delicate touch with the arm remaining outstretched during the release. So the swing is started from higher up.

Both backward and forward swing should be as near in line with the peg as possible, like a pendulum. The peak of the back swing should be easy and natural, and not forced so far as to throw one off balance, but neither should it be chopped off suddenly. The speed of all moves should be the same, the movements should be so coordinated and smooth as to look like one motion. The peak of the back swing is determined by your own particular body build.

Your step (4) should also be straight in line. It enables your swing to be correct, too. ‘Cross stepping’ (stepping out of line) is often done under pressure when the person is over anxious and cannot concentrate on his form – just the same as when a bowler approaches his mark in a wavering line.

GRIP: You can have all the fun you want in holding and pitching the shoe in odd manners, but for better pitching it is a must to hold and toss the shoe so it makes 1 ¼ turns, or 1 ¾. I am using the former. To get the proper turn (normally clockwise) involves several factors besides the side on which to hold the shoe.

There are two points to remember in gripping and throwing the shoe that each individual must work out in his own tanner. First, the position of the fingers and shifting them along the side of the shoe until it is satisfactory balanced and controlled. Second, the amount of rolling (twisting) of the arm and wrist outward in the forward swing to get the right turn. Some individuals must twist the shoe more. In the above photos, I am bringing the show back flat, but like most players, about the time I reach the top of the back swing I will turn my hand in and bring it forward about half flat, finishing off the swing and follow–through with a slight roll. Many players require more twist and must bring the shoe past the leg with the thumb entirely towards the leg. Practice will determine your need o this score.

POINT OF RELEASE: Release of the shoe (5) at the height of the shoulder, neck or face, is necessary to get the proper arch of the trajectory. Consistency in the latter helps to control the turn. And the easier the shoe lands around the peg the fewer the ringers which will jump off. Other techniques are also known to help ringers stay on. The follow–through in this game is much softer and slower. Should you use the same in bowling the result might be a dead ball and more splits.

Normally, a right hander turns the shoe clockwise, but a couple top players throw the unorthodox ¾ reverse turn. One, Curt Day, and myself established a new ‘World’s Greatest game’ in the 1958 Nationals. A ¾ turn normally results in an extremely low ‘grass cutter’ shoe. Good for the wind, but allows for no margin of error.