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Horseshoes Star a Dead Ringer for a Printer —Cagle

September 2010
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It seems we've only begun to scratch the surface of how enormously talented our fellow printing industry brethren are, particularly in sporting endeavors.

Last month we chronicled the Herculean feats of Pennsylvania bowler Tommy Gollick, the 32-year-old nonprofit printer who fired off 47 consecutive strikes—which led to three perfect 300 games. Well, it seems the printing industry can also count as its own the greatest horseshoe hurler in the history of the sport. Not just the best at the moment...the greatest, ever.

His name is Alan Francis, and the man truly gives meaning to the term "ringer." According to a recent feature in The New York Times, Francis has captured an astounding 16 National Horseshoe Pitchers Association world titles, including the last eight consecutively. Francis broke a sweat in the 2009 event before rattling off 25 ringers on his final 26 pitches to retain his crown, besting a field of 1,300 competitors. Just last month, he made it eight straight by taking another world crown in Cedar Rapids, IA.

"I've worked hard, honing that skill," Francis told The Times. "At the same time, it's a gift. I think I was given the ability to do it."

Beating Francis is an act of futility. He threw 917 ringers in 1,016 pitches over the course of the 19-game tournament, a 90-plus percent proficiency rating. Francis, 40, began competing at the age of 9, and has won 15 men's world titles since 1989, according to The Times. Tossing shoes runs in the family; his wife, Amy, is a three-time world runner-up, and their son is also following in their footsteps.

Even being the greatest horseshoe thrower in the world hasn't allowed Francis to quit his day job as a purchasing manager for general commercial printer The Hubbard Co., of Defiance, OH. He garnered $4,000 for winning the 2009 championship, according to The Times article, and pulls down upward of $4,000 in royalties from the sale of horseshoes that bear his name, manufactured by White Distributors.

The Times article, which appeared July 20, gave some much-deserved attention to the sport of horseshoe pitching, according to Francis. He has since heard from The CBS Evening News and The David Letterman Show.

"I have done two radio interviews: A live broadcast on a sports talk show in Cincinnati, as well as a taped interview with CBS Network Radio in New York," Francis told Printing Impressions. "In addition, I received many well wishes from all across the globe for (August's) World Championships. It was very much an honor to have a story written in The New York Times."

It's certainly not the first time that Francis has received such high recognition. You can find a trading card (shown above) of Alan Francis in the 2010 Allen & Ginter set released by sports card king Topps. His is card No. 48, and there is an autographed version, along with a black miniature parallel, a relics jersey card and a framed silk card, of which only 10 exist. The packs of cards can be found in retail stores and are readily available online at eBay.

"It's a real thrill to be featured in the same set with the likes of Albert Pujols and A-Rod," Francis related.

Truth be known, given his horseshoe dominance, Pujols and Alex Rodriguez should be honored to be included in the same set as Alan Francis.

NO LAUGHING MATTER: When NBA star LeBron James decided to switch teams, leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Miami Heat via free agency, it prompted Cleveland owner Dan Gilbert to launch into a legendary tirade, a jilt manifesto not seen or heard since Alanis Morissette's "You Oughta Know."

This is old news to you by now, of course. Gilbert was socked with a heavy fine by the NBA for his borderline scathing indictment of James via an open letter to the city of Cleveland and its basketball fans that was posted on the team's Website. In the letter, he called James' move to Miami a "cowardly betrayal." But Gilbert received even more heat (ha-ha) for, of all things, his use of the Comic Sans font in the letter.

A creation of Microsoft back in the 1990s, it was intended to be a fun font reminiscent of comic book lettering. The style soon fell out of favor and was transformed from camp status to scorned. There's actually a movement to 86 the font, led by the Website The site's author decries its usage with the proclamation, "These widespread abuses of printed type threaten to erode the very foundations upon which centuries of typographic history are built."

For those who don't appreciate the typography faux pas, the basic transgression on Gilbert's part was using such a cartoonish-looking font to convey a serious message, completely inappropriate for his intention. After all, you wouldn't create a birthday party invitation in a gothic-looking font, unless the guest of honor sports purple hair, dark eyeliner and black clothing. PI

—Erik Cagle



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