Ralph Simon (Iowa)
Ralph Simon (Iowa) Historic Era Player: Ralph began pitching as a kid with his two brothers in elementary school. At age 15 he pitched and won his first competition at the local county fair. For the next 41 years he only pitched when his brothers would come for a visit. He was 56 when he began to pitch on a regular basis, pitching in a bar league that a co-worker invited him to join. In 1976 at a local town's bi-centennial celebration tournament first heard of the NHPA and IHHPA (Iowa Charter) and all the tournaments held in Iowa and across the nation each year. His first pitching at the State Fair was in the open non-sanctioned tournaments held each day of the Iowa State Fair. He won them all, along with all the 50-shoe pitch events too. He joined the NHPA and began pitching tournaments nearly every weekend. He pitched his first World Tournament in 1978 and most notably defeated defending World Champion, Elmer Hoh. He won 24 and lost 11 and average 76.2%. He was the highest qualifier at the 1979 World Tournament pitching 560 points in his 200-shoe qualifying round. (The only Iowan to ever be highest qualifier at a World tournament). He was 25-6 that year and threw an 80.68% average and placed 3rd, despite the fact that his pitching shoes were stolen out of his horseshoe box, after the 8th game. He threw his first 90% game that year, 91.6% against fellow Iowan, Glen Henton, hitting 77 ringers of 84 shoes! In the 1980 World Tournament he began by winning his first 24 games, ended with 26-5, which left him in a 5-way tie for 2nd place, and he placed 4th by his 77.74% ringer average.
In 1981, the first year without having to qualify, he went 8-3 in the preliminaries, throwing 79.23%, easily advancing to the Championship round. He went 16-7 in the Championship round, throwing 81.24% and placing 4th. He again topped the 90% game mark, throwing 35 of 38 for 92.1% in a 52-3 game versus Glen Henton. In the 1982 World Tournament he went 6-1 in the preliminary round and qualified to pitch in the championship round, but he was having some balance problems and chose to return home and not pitch the championship round. That turned out to be his final World Tournament appearance. In Iowa State Championship pitching events he won 151 games and only lost 18 for a win average of 89.34%. He won the Iowa State Men's Championship 3 times in 1980, 1981 and 1982. He won the Iowa Doubles Championship with Wilbert Foelske, 5 times, 1979-1982.He won the Iowa Seniors Championship 3 times in 1980, 1981, and 1982. He won the Iowa Mixed Doubles with Marianne Colony, in 1980-1983. He won the 50 shoe pitch event at the Iowa State Fair 11 times from 1976-1982. The first time with 76%, once with 82%, once with 86%, 3 times with 88%, 2 times with 90%, and 3 times with 92%.
Iowa had five world class pitchers during the era when Ralph began his tournament pitching. Glen 'Red' Henton, Bill Vandegriff, Harold Darnold, and Art Hampton, all throwing over 70%. Ralph put himself at the top of this group based on his wins over each of them as shown below.In games with Glen Henton, Ralph won 22 and lost 14 for a 64.7%-win average. In games with Bill Vandegriff, Ralph won 28 and lost 9 for a 75.6%-win average. In games with Harold Darnold, Ralph won 23 games and lost 5, an 82.1%-win average. In games with Art Hampton, Ralph won 22 and lost 6 for a78.6% win average. All combined, Ralph had won 73% of the time against these great pitchers. In 1977 he was the Grand Champion of the week long Clay County Fair by winning every event he was able to enter, the only person to accomplish that feat in the history of the fair. He was a regular pitcher in the Preimesberger Arena Tournaments in Genola MN winning most of the tournaments he pitched there. He had racked up 172 wins and only 18 losses which is an 86% win average. He threw more 90% games in that facility than anywhere else. It was the 1980 World Invitational Tournament at the Pomona County Fair in Los Angeles, California, where Ralph pitched some of the best games of his career. It was a three day event in which he pitched 13 games. His average game length was 122 shoes. More than any other player.
Nine of those 13 games went over 100 shoes with the average length of those games being 144 shoes! He threw 1594 shoes at that event, more than any of the other pitchers. Walter Ray was 2nd with 12 games pitched and 1340 shoes. Al Zadroga had 14 games but only averaged 80 shoes per game. Ralph was the only player to average over 80% in all of his games the first two days of the tournament. He averaged 82.2% on the first day. On Day two Ralph averaged 86.3%, the highest average for the day. The final game of the tournament with Walter Ray was the longest game, it went on for 176 shoes. Ralph threw 156 ringers for 88.6%, Walter Ray threw 162 for 92%. In the final 102 shoes of that match, Ralph threw 97 ringers, (95.1%) including a string of 66 ringers out of 68 shoes pitched.
Due to the ever worsening effects of emphysema, Ralph had to give up the game he loved and played so well in the summer of 1984. Twelve years later he passed on July 4th 1996 at the age of 77.
Ralph was inducted into the Iowa Hawkeye Horseshoe Pitching Association's Hall of Fame in 1984 and into the National Horseshoe Pitching Association's hall of fame in 2017.