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Horseshoe pitcher joins state's hall of fame.

Byline: Mark Baker The Register-Guard

She's a ringer for the hall of fame.

"This is just amazing," 85-year-old Patty Sapp said Wednesday, after being presented with a certificate by John Adams of Albany, second vice president of the Oregon Horseshoe Pitchers Association. "I just never in my whole life thought I'd get anything like this."

Earlier this month, Sapp became the 42nd person since 1973 inducted into the association's hall of fame.

Adams drove down from Albany to Sapp's home at the Daneland Mobile Home Park in west Eugene to hand-deliver the certificate after a committee decided that she deserved to be this year's sole inductee.

Sapp, who had not pitched a "shoe" in almost 20 years until she gave it a try again on Wednesday at one of the mobile home park's two horseshoe pits, was the state association's women's champion four straight years, from 1993 to 1996.

In 1994, she had a ringer percentage of 74.64, the highest percentage of any woman in state history since the association began keeping records in 1928.

That means that when she pitched a horseshoe in competition, from the women's distance of 30 feet (men throw from 40 feet), she ringed it around the stake, on average, three out of every four times.

How good was the left-handed Sapp at pitching horseshoes? Well, besides qualifying for the World Horseshoe Tournament in 1994 and 1996, she almost beat Walter Ray Williams Jr. in a match in Rogue River around that time.

Who's he?

Williams is not only a six-time world horseshoe pitching champion (top ringer percentage, 88.1 percent), he's also one of the greatest bowlers ever, having been the Professional Bowlers Association's "Player of the Year" seven times between 1986 and 2003.

"That's when I got him down to one 'shoe,' " Sapp recalled. "He turned around and told his wife, 'I'm dead meat.' "

Horseshoe players get three points for a "ringer" and one point for coming within 6 inches of the stake in games that are played to 40 points.

Williams, now 55, was able to best Sapp by one "ringer," after she led him by one, she recalled.

Sapp's sons, Gary and Jim Sapp, both of Eugene, were on hand Wednesday for their mother's big day.

"I know one thing," Gary Sapp said. "There's one guy in heaven who's smiling right now, and that's my dad."

Harold Sapp died at age 83 in Eugene in December 2013.

Patty Sapp, an avid bowler for years, told the story of how both she and her husband took up horseshoe pitching in the 1980s, when both were in their 50s.

"My husband and I were walking by the horseshoe pits (at Washington-Jefferson Park), and I thought, 'I could do that.' "

Yes, she could.

Sapp was good enough to qualify for the World Horseshoe Tournament not once, but twice, in 1994 in Syracuse, N.Y., and 1996 in Gillette, Wyo.

On Wednesday, Adams handed Sapp a list of state hall of fame members. "Your name will be added to the bottom of that," Adams said.

"Boy," Sapp said. "That's a pretty impressive list."

It includes two other Lane County members: Lowell Davis, of Creswell, who was inducted in 1977; and Jerry Gorton, who was inducted in 1999 and is still playing at the age of 80. Gorton stopped by Wednesday to offer his congratulations.

"She had the determination, that's for sure," Gorton said when asked what made Sapp so good.

"I almost had one perfect game once," Sapp recalled of a game she pitched in 1993, when 29 of her 30 tosses were ringers.

Her record was 105-12 that year, she said.

Sapp recently gave all of her trophies and plaques to Gorton, so he could strip her name off them and use them in current tournaments.

"And I got one (of them)," Adams said with a laugh.

Horseshoe pitching evolved from the sport of discus throwing in the ancient Greek Olympic games, according to the National Horseshoe Pitchers Association. But interest has declined in recent years, Adams said. It's not something that captures the fancy of many younger people, he said.

But Sapp says young people should give it a try.

"Well, heck yeah," she said. "It's fun."
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Title Annotation:Living Here; Patty Sapp, 85, a four-time Oregon women's champion, is recognized by the sport's association
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Sep 24, 2015
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