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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."

 

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