1980 World Tournament
Huntsville, AL - July 24-August 3, 1980

Permission granted by author, Gary T. Kline of
"The Official N.H.P.A. History of the World Tournament 1909-1980", Reflection Press, Dayton, Ohio
Gary T. Kline's book on past world tournament (before 1980) is recommended reading for any horseshoe pitching enthusiast. With his kind permission, we bring excerpts from his fabulous collection of data, to wit:

President Wally Shipley, now serving the longest tenure of any N.H.P.A. president, would find himself with much to be pleased about this year. Huntsville, Ala., the space capital of the world, would prove itself one of the warmest hosts horseshoe pitching has ever known. Southern hospitality was evident at every turn. Ose Vessey, who has worked miracles for the Alabama pitching program, can rightfully beam with pride at the efficient manner in which this event was presented.

It seemed only fitting that the space capital would be the place for the N.H.P.A. to step forward into the computer age. Secretary Donnie Roberts, aided infinitely by lifelong friend James "Pop" Johnson, the former Kentucky and Ohio pitching great, reduced a great amount of paperwork for the unsung heroes that have the responsibility of maintaining a smooth tournament. As usual the hard workers behind the scenes were Ralph Dykes, Ill.; Francis Asher, Ohio; Pete Shepard, Mass.; Harry Schmidt, Wash, D.C.; and Vince Yanetti, N.J. The media coverage was outstanding, especially from the large number of television cameramen present. Hopefully in 1982, when the N.H.P.A. returns, the newspapers will take a more active part in the festivities. As usual a non-profit organization handled the food concessions; this time the Huntsville Jaycees, who are quite a group of super individuals. If newspapers would cooperate in the way of publicity, huge overflow crowds would materialize causing a rush on food and drink. This would enlarge the Jaycees' coffers which are always spent for the betterment of their communities.

In a magnificent publicity stunt, President Shipley and the pert Shelia Roberts pitched horseshoes on the moon. Actually, this happened at the Alabama Space and Rocket Center on a simulated lunar surface while the television cameras merrily whirred away. Naturally, Shelia had an easy win.

For the first time in history, the N.H.P.A. held its party prior to getting the competition underway. Another historic first was the induction of Hall of Famers at the party. Ben Leighton finally received the highest honor along with Bernie Herfurth, Ralph Maddox, and Ray Martin. On the dance floor Glen Riffle, Art Tyson, and Ronnie Simmons once again proved Fred Astaire has nothing on them. The friendships renewed and made during the party carried over for the duration of the tournament, with everyone one big happy family.

Qualifying scores were much lower than usual with the stickiness of the clay and tight stakes being the major causes. Nonetheless, 1978 World Champion Walter Ray "Deadeye" Williams scored 556 points to bring his lifetime qualifying average to 548, the highest of all time.

An outstanding crop of rookies made the field: gentleman Leroy Rowe of Indiana; surprises John Smith of Kansas and Charles Webb of Illinois; Fred Church, the North Carolina State Champion; and Steve Hohl, the 1978 Junior World Champion, now ready to make his mark among the men. Paul Day, with college out of the way, was ready to resume his career. Those present who had won the Title were Titcomb, Kuchcinski, Steinfeldt, Hohl, Williams, and defending World Champion Mark Seibold. Donnie Roberts, with an ingenious new scheduling concept, could practically guarantee an exciting climax.

After six games the leaders were Seibold, Williams, Hohl, Steinfeldt, Kuchcinski, Knisley, and Simon; all still undefeated. Tied with 5-1 marks were Titcomb and Zadroga. Don lost his opening game to Kabel, 50-43. Al fell in game five to Day, 52-43. Knotted at 4-2 were O'Connor, Schultz, and Kabel. Jack bowed to Kabel, 50-31 and Tyson, 52-34. Joe was trounced by Webb, 55-22 and Roberts, 55-16. Wilbur went down to Schultz, 52-38 and Gonzales, 55-33.

Deadeye, while allowing no one past 22 points, blasted Miller, 51-11 with 90.3 percent and Norwood, 51-7 with 91.6 percent. Carl Steinfeldt had the day's, and tournament's, best of 92.6 percent while slaughtering May, 54-7. Those having their highest percentage of the tournament were Tyson (87.5 percent) bombing Fahey, 50-4; Darnold (78.5 percent) in an opening game triumph over Potts, 54-22; Kabel (83.3 percent) ripping Fahey, 50-8; Simmons (88.1 percent) thumping Darnold, 52-12; Titcomb (86.0 percent) smashing Lord, 52-19; Zadroga (85.0 percent) bouncing Norwood, 50-12; and Simon (89.2 percent) smothering May, 55-9.

In the second six games the underdogs became aroused and upsets became the order of the day. The undefeated leaders were Knisley, Simon, and Williams. Alone at 11-1 was Zadroga. Tied at 10-2 were Kuchcinski, Steinfeldt, Hohl, and Seibold. Those with a faint outside chance even at 8-4 were O'Connor, Schultz, Simmons, and Hughes. Kabel was dumped four times by Potts, Hughes, Williams, and Knisley. Titcomb dropped four to Darnold, Tyson, Day, and Miller. Schultz fell to Darnold and Day. O'Connor was tripped by Roberts and Kugler.

Kuchcinski had a 17 game winning streak, ended by Roberts, 52-37, and was later upended by the busy Darnold, who was having the giant killing day of his life. Seibold was cut down by Lord, 51-28, and Kabel, 51-31, back to back. Steinfeldt was also nailed back to back by Lord, 52-26 and Kabel, 52-24. Carl (90.3 percent) took it out on Smith, 52-10. Smith was also punished by Knisley (91.1 percent), 52-10. Elmer Hohl was edged back to back by the ever present Darnold, 50-48, and then by Tyson, 52-48. Elmer's tournament high of 88.7 percent was dealt out to Roberts for a 52-16 victory immediately after the upsets.

Williams (91.1 percent) trundled Smith, the whipping post for the day, 51-4. O'Conner (79.4 percent) had his tourney high while topping Miller, 52-26. Roger Norwood (79.6 percent, his tourney best) gained his first victory, 51-43, over Hughes. Charles Webb (78.5 percent, his tourney best) upset Gonzales, 51-22. Copeland, after eight losses, captured his first win, 51-39 over Gonzales. Levi Miller's tourney best was 77.3 percent while losing to Zadroga, 53-46. Levi, after 10 straight losses, totally shocked Titcomb, 55-14. May ended an eight game losing streak by shading Fahey, 55-45. Steve Hohl, in game 10, broke into the victory column by topping Hughes, 52-27. Leroy Rowe, in game nine, won his first, 52-37 over Hughes. John Smith, in game seven, bagged Gonzales, 52-47.

After 18 games the undefeated leaders were Knisley, Simon, and Williams. Both Simon and Knisley, who saw the World Title go up in smoke after leading throughout the tournament in 1979, were trying to make amends. Walter Ray, after the worst title defense in history, was out to redeem himself and show 1978 was no fluke. Deadeye had become the favorite amongst the experts to get the job done.

The other remaining contenders in a 16-2 log jam were Seibold, Steinfeldt, E. Hohl (all who knew the thrill of being Champion) and constant contender Big Al Zadroga. Al was upset by Lord, 52-39. Walter Ray (91.1 percent) drubbed Roberts, 52-6 and massacred Darnold, 55-11 with 91.4 percent. After 16 straight losses Fred Church finally became a winner in a tense 50-48 win over Kabel. Tournament high percentages were established by Hughes (85.7 percent) who jumped on May, 50-9; Fahey (88.6 percent) who walloped Copeland, 50-3; Gonzales (80.6 percent) who slammed Church, 52-15; and Potts (80.2 percent) who still fell to Elmer Hohl, 50-35.

The tournament's strangest match was Gary Roberts, an apparent victor over one of the game's all time bears, Carl Steinfeldt. After the match, Gary was sent back to the courts as the scorekeeper had erred and the match had to be resumed. The elation Gary had felt earlier vanished as he finished the match with a flat performance. A giant like Steinfeldt is too talented to be given a second chance. This game also happened to be the tournament's longest, lasting 130 shoes. Carl (83.0 percent) bested Gary (82.3 percent), 50-45.

After 23 rounds of competition Walter Ray Williams and Ralph Simon stayed deadlocked with no defeats. Knisley, now 22-1, was upset by Titcomb, 51-38 in game 23. Still knotted, but now 21-2, were Zadroga, Seibold, E. Hohl, and Steinfeldt. Tournament high percentages were produced by Seibold (86.7 percent) over Potts, 51-18; Roberts (84.4 percent) administering lessons to Kugler, 52-21; Steve Hohl (80.8 percent) cuffing Webb, 50-21; May (77.4 percent) cracking Webb 50-23;

and Kugler (77.9 percent) rocking Darnold, 51-27. Leroy Rowe struggled with 52 percent the game prior, and 47.8 percent the match after, but managed to toss 80.8 percent while ambushing Roberts.

The brilliant scheduling of Donnie Roberts had curtailed the head knocking of the giants but now it was time for all of them to run the gauntlet. In game 24 Hughes proved 1979 was no fluke and upset Knisley again by a 50-37 score. Meanwhile Elmer Hohl (69.7 percent, his worst of the event) absorbed his third loss at the hands of Jack Fahey, 53-47. In game 25 Seibold (86.4 percent) slaughtered Knisley, 5019. In 122 shoes, Elmer Hohl (84.4 percent) nipped Steinfeldt (83.6 percent), 52-49 for Carl's third loss. Simon lost his first, bowing to Zadroga, 52-35. In game 26 Simon went down again, this time to Steinfeldt, 50-31. Zadroga was battered by Hohl, 55-27 for his third loss. Williams (90.8 percent) completely dominated Seibold, 50-10, atoning with a startling reversal of his 1979 humiliation.

In game 27, Steinfeldt (84.7 percent) pinned loss number four on Knisley (83.0 percent), 52-36. Williams trampled Zadroga, 51-21 for his fourth defeat. Seibold tacked loss number four on Hohl, 52-40. In game 28 Simon dethroned Seibold in a hard fought 51-43 tussle. Zadroga was busy eliminating Knisley, 52-44, while being eliminated himself. Williams (90.7 percent) crushed Steinfeldt, 52-14, dropping Carl from the chase. Hohl now also was finished, even though he won over Simmons, 50-40.

Now only Simon with two losses was alive, following the unbeaten Williams. Now for those who had their tournament high percentages: Lord (85.7 percent) mangled Webb, 51-13; Kuchcinski (85.1 percent) throttled O'Connor, 51-13; Smith (77.5 percent) breezed through Copeland, 51-19; Fred Church (72.0 percent), the only North Carolina man in history to make the Championship Class, subdued Kugler, 50-31 and Copeland (81.0 percent) pounced on Miller, 53-14. Williams had his closest match in a 51-41 win over Titcomb. Walter Ray only pitched 78.5 percent, ending a string of 19 consecutive matches over 80 percent.

The final three rounds would feature the top eight players in the afternoon. The Huntsville courts which were erected back to back would have the green fence coverings removed and seating moved to all four sides for a bird's-eye view of these rounds. In the concluding round of the morning, Schultz (83.3 percent) rumbled over Gonzales. Also in the 31st game, Day (87.0 percent) stormed over Tyson, 55-14 for his finest effort.

In game 29 Simon was blitzed by Knisley, 50-18 to fall from contention. Deadeye, by pitching 61 ringers in 68 shoes, trundled six time World Champion Elmer Hohl, 50-6. This was the worst licking in Elmer's magnificent career. While running the gauntlet to lock up the World Title, Walter Ray had 339 ringers in 378 shoes for a phenomenal 89.7 ringer percentage. Walter Ray, with a perfect 31-0 record, had more than atoned for his dismal 1979 title defense with an astoundingly easy conquest over the best the horseshoe world has to offer. Deadeye, a brilliant mathematician and not yet 21, broke into the All Time Top 100 in World Tournament victories. Joining him this year were Art Tyson and Jack Fahey. During the awards presentations at center court, 1976 World Champion Carl Steinfeldt summed it up well, "With five of us tied, this would have been a heck of a tournament if Deadeye would have stayed home."

The author, while watching the proceedings, was enjoying the hospitality of a Georgia Pine, chewing the fat with the newly crowned champion. Suddenly my name was being called to receive the Arch Stokes Memorial Award. This award goes to the one person each year who has been voted the one to have contributed the most effort to the advancement of horseshoe pitching. I was being recognized for uncovering our lost past. The amazing thing about the Stokes Award is the recipient is not told prior to receiving it. Being the youngest recipient ever, at age 32, is an honor I'll always treasure, but I only regret that the wife was not named as a co-recipient. Symbolically, I represent the shining metal, while she represents the strong wooden base, without which the metal could not stand, let alone shine.

1980 World Tournament SUMMARY Huntsville, AL - July 24-August 3, 1980
1.WALTER RAY WILLIAMS, JR CA 55.60 31 0 1732 2020 85.74 1593
2.ELMER HOHL ON 53.00 26 5 1951 2450 79.63 1531
3.CARL STEINFELDT FL 53.90 26 5 1879 2396 78.42 1493
4.RALPH SIMON IA 54.40 26 5 1788 2300 77.74 1460
5.MARK SEIBOLD IN 60.00 26 5 1778 2320 76.64 1484
6.AL ZADROGA PA 54.70 26 5 1857 2466 75.30 1486
7.JIM KNISLEY OH 55.00 24 7 1840 2300 80.00 1459
8.AL LORD ME 47.40 21 10 1718 2352 73.04 1353
9.GARY ROBERTS OH 52.60 18 13 1782 2412 73.88 1351
10.DAVE HUGHES MN 49.00 17 14 1772 2392 74.08 1310
11.DON TITCOMB CA 50.20 17 14 1774 2408 73.67 1337
12.RONNIE SIMMONS CA 52.70 17 14 1671 2304 72.53 1319
13.WILBUR KABEL OH 47.60 17 14 1687 2328 72.47 1332
14.DAN KUCHCINSKI PA 52.40 17 14 1592 2258 70.50 1315
15.JOE SCHULTZ NY 50.60 17 14 1568 2280 68.77 1235
16.HAROLD DARNOLD IA 51.60 16 15 1595 2260 70.58 1307
17.JACK FAHEY KY 52.80 14 17 1448 2142 67.60 1080
18.ARTHUR TYSON NY 51.20 13 18 1698 2424 70.05 1245
19.MERLIN POTTS KS 49.20 12 19 1688 2440 69.18 1233
20.JESSE GONZALES CA 48.10 12 19 1503 2248 66.86 1124
21.PAUL DAY IN 47.40 11 20 1566 2310 67.79 1222
22.JACK O'CONNOR MN 50.80 11 20 1523 2250 67.69 1138
23.JOHN SMITH KS 49.90 11 20 1430 2174 65.78 1131
24.ROGER NORWOOD TN 49.40 11 20 1321 2072 63.75 1118
25.STEVE HOHL ON 47.70 9 22 1508 2194 68.73 1134
26.BOB MAY IN 47.40 9 22 1398 2100 66.57 1117
27.KEN KUGLER OH 48.80 9 22 1323 2068 63.97 1080
28.LEROY ROWE IN 49.60 8 23 1377 2130 64.65 1080
29.CHARLIE WEBB IL 48.20 8 23 1415 2190 64.61 1066
30.LEVI MILLER OH 47.90 7 24 1379 2146 64.26 1056
31.FRED CHURCH NC 48.00 5 26 1202 2010 59.80 906
32.ANSIL COPELAND OH 49.00 4 27 1283 2040 62.89 893