Tuesday evenings in warm weather, the Twin Cities Horseshoe Pitchers Club meet, seeking ringers and finding fellowship.
Four horseshoes, two people and two stakes are all that's needed to get up a game that's been around for centuries. In a pre-automobile age, there were plenty of horseshoes around for playing, and although the rise of technology has created more choices for leisure activities (Hello, video games!), the game of horseshoes is hanging in there, though some have fears for the future of the game.
"I'd like to say it's alive and well. But it's not," said Bob Laskowski, president of the Twin Cities Horseshoe Pitchers Club. "It's alive, but it's fading. It's an older sport and I think it had its heyday back in the 1960s. And now places are tearing out the courts and putting in batting cages and things such as that."
Laskowsi loves horseshoes. He's been playing for 30 years and it pains him to see the game in decline. As president of the club, he's anxious to share the fun of the game and hopes to attract new, young players to the club.
"It gets into your blood, it really does. And that's what you want to do. I suppose it's that way with a lot of sports. There's probably some ball players out there that can't shag a grounder anymore or round the bases too good anymore. So this would be a great sport for them because of the competition. We have a handicap system here so everyone is competitive, whether you've thrown a shoe or not. You can step right up and be competitive right off the bat."
There's more than competition to be found in this game. Connecting the horseshoe to the stake for a three-point ringer is great, but what really counts is the connections with other players, said Laskowski.
"We're a fun league. We have a great group of people. We have a lot of fun and we enjoy a lot of camaraderie between us."
That connection lasts even after player move on. Laskowski noted that even after pitchers retire and move to another state, they still keep in touch, the love of the game keeping those ties between the players strong, despite the distance.
WGLT depends on financial support from users to bring you stories and interviews like this one. As someone who values experienced, knowledgeable, and award-winning journalists covering meaningful stories in central Illinois, please consider making a contribution.