"Making the Pitch for Summer Games"

The Express Times, Easton PA, July 11, 2004

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Below is a re-print of an article which appeared in the July 11, 2004 Sunday edition of the Express Times, the local newspaper in Easton, Pennsylvania.  The Newspaper also publishes a Bethlehem PA and a Philipsburg, NJ edition.  The author, Courtney Lomax, interviewed the Quoit Master for parts of the article.   Although some of the resulting quotes are a little out of context, it is still a very informative article about traditional metal quoits, slate board quoits, and horseshoes.  I took the liberty of inserting some corrective text (in red) to the article to make it more correct and meaningful to read.  Thank you to Courtney and the Express Times for putting the spotlight on Quoits in the News yet one more time!   -Troy Frey (the Quoit Master)

 

Making the Pitch for Summer Games

Quoits, horseshoes bring people out together in the fresh air.

Sunday, July 11, 2004

By COURTNEY LOMAX

The Express-Times

Forget pitching baseballs this summer. Pitch quoits and horseshoes instead.

These ancient pitching sports are not just for league members. They also offer competitive recreation at summer picnics.

"Quoits is more complex than horseshoes because (much more) defensive play is involved," says Troy Frey, quoitpits.com creator, of Mount Joy, Pa., just outside Lancaster County (Delete "County"). The competitive nature of the sport makes it interesting to watch."

Quoits is a throwing game that dates back to the ancient Greek Olympic discus throw. The traditional quoits game, using metal ringers (rings), became popular among the English noblemen in the 1300s. The game was then brought to the American colonies in the 1600s where it has been played ever since, according to Frey's Web site.

Now, there are two different and regionally popular quoit games.

If playing quoits in Lancaster County, use traditional metal quoits, made of steel, brass or bronze, pitched at metal stakes driven into clay pits in the ground. Do not take out the rubber quoits or the slate board.

Slate board quoits, rubber quoits pitched at portable slate boards, is unique to the Lehigh Valley and the Slate Belt region.

"There are no rubber quoits in Lancaster County," Frey explains. Rubber quoits are "restricted" (limited) to "the area up there." (meaning "the Lehigh Valley region")

This version of quoits creates a longer season of play as the boards are usable indoors. Players can start to play slate board quoits at a younger age because they are not as heavy or dangerous as metal quoits.

Though the game is mainly popular in Pennsylvania, knowledge of both versions of quoits is spreading across the country.

"Out-of-town people wonder what the game is about," according to Sharon Shiner, retail store manager of Gebhardts in Allentown. The store sends the Slate Belt version of quoits as far as Florida.

"People who move out of the region still want to play (slate board) quoits," Shiner says.

John Hawk, creator of Quoits Direct in Easton, says one of the reasons the game has not spread to more areas in the nation is because of the shipping cost of slate quoit boards.

"The boards weigh 60 pounds," he says. Shipping prices range from $60 to $150 depending on the destination. Hawk is in the process of creating a new lightweight board that will be significantly less expensive to ship.

"The game is very addicting," he says. "I hope to spread popularity around the country because shipping will be less (with the new boards)."

Hawk has even shipped quoit boards and beach quoits (two red tipped wooden stakes and four red quoits) to Iraq and Afghanistan at the request of troops' mothers.

Frey's Web site aims to unite quoit players nationwide while expanding knowledge of quoits to those unfamiliar with the game.

The goal of the site is to become "the authoritative entity for quoits in North America," says Frey. "The Web site has drawn people who already pitch quoits and those who want to learn more."

Slate quoit boards cost about $200 for a set of two and quoit ringers cost about $70 for a set of four, according to Shiner. Typically boards are 2 feet by 2 feet. People also buy the "challenger set" 1.5 feet by 1.5 feet. The smaller board is for more competitive play or for use at picnics and the beach, Shiner explains.

Metal quoits can be purchased as either steel, brass or bronze and cost from $30 to $70 for a set of four. The metal stakes cost less than $10, Frey says. The season for metal quoits runs from May to October, the primary (tournament) playing time in the spring and fall.

"It is just too hot in the summer (to hold all-day tournaments)," Frey explains. (In the summer, pitching quoits is preferable in the cooler evening hours, and under lights.)

Hawk recommends beach quoits that can be played on the sand.

Another summer favorite and close relative to quoits is the game of horseshoe pitching. Horseshoe pitching is more widely known than quoits. The game moved west with American settlers and became popular in the early 1900s. Horseshoe pitching originated from quoits.

Horseshoes are larger and heavier than (rubber) quoits. They are 2 pounds 7 ounces and 7 1/2 inches in width and 7 1/2 inches in length. Metal quoits are (the heaviest, and are) 5 to 6 inches in diameter and 2 1/2 to 4 1/2 pounds. Slate board rubber quoits are about 1 pound each.

The Warren County Horseshoe Pitchers Club began in 1983 and currently has about 30 members who meet Tuesday evenings.

"We have a lot of fun here, whether we pitch well or not," says club member, Doc Wasser, of Washington.

The club sponsors three to four state tournaments a year. State tournaments can last for five or six hours. A match is finished when 40 shoes are pitched or 35 points are earned. At the start of the game, players determine whether they are playing number of shoes pitched or number of points earned.

Unlike quoits, horseshoe pitching is not (as much) a defensive sport. The player who pitches the most ringers (usually) wins the match.

President of the Warren County Club, Louis Mecsey, of Stewartsville, advises new players to "just start throwing the shoe."

This advice proves challenging for Panther Valley, N.J., resident, Herman Tetmair.

"Hogwash," he says of his playing at a recent match. "No matter what I try tonight, they (horseshoes) all go bad."

Bob Lobell, also of Panther Valley, has been pitching horseshoes for 30 years. He advises pitching with a "pendulum swing" and following through with "consistent release."

"It's hard to get the younger people interested in the league and the sport," Lobell admits "We used to do this (pitch) until 11 p.m. Now the old people are getting too old," he says.

Jason Mackie, 20, of Hackettstown has been playing with the club for about a month. He pitches against his father, Doug Mackie.

Doug Mackie enjoys the game but wishes "there was more of a handicap for not as experienced players," he says.

The winner of the family match gets bragging rights, a hearty handshake and possibly a five dollar bill, Doug Mackie jokes.

The Mackies follow the traditional rules of horseshoe pitching.

One point is earned for every shoe pitched that lands one horseshoe length from the peg. A player earns three points when the pitched horseshoe lands around the peg. Only one point is earned for each shoe that leans against the peg, according to Mackie.

Like slate board quoits, horseshoes can be pitched year round. The Warren County club plays indoors at the fairgrounds in the colder months.

Children, age 12 and older, can join the club if their parents are already members. If no parent is a member, a child must be at least age 15 to join.

It's easy to play horseshoes at home. Sets of four shoes and two stakes cost from $25 to $35 and are available at local stores.

 

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