Shoe Biz Profile - February 1998


Originally Written by Jeanette Claas

Sam Carter would always team up with his dad at family reunion games as he wanted to win. To this day, that competiveness has never left him.

"I started pitching horseshoes as a teenage boy of 13 years growing up in southern Franklin County, approximately 15 miles south of St. Clair. My dad was a pretty good pitcher around 40%; I practiced a lot trying to get as good as him."

Turning these duos with Dad became a serious hobby. This was the beginning for Sam; he never knew how important to him the game would become.

Throughout high school and early manhood he would only pitch at picnics, reunions, etc. His interest was playing ball and he dedicated less time to horseshoes. It was possibly fate that brought him back to pitching horseshoes. At about age 30, Carter was injured, unable to play ball and decided to try pitching horseshoes again. He entered a horseshoe pitching league in 1965 at the White Swan Lounge in Sullivan. "I thought I could improve myself." Working hard I increased my average from 40% at the beginning of the year to 60% at the end of the first year of organized horseshoe pitching."

Sam Carter was born February 13, 1936 in Grubville, MO, the son of Clyde and Altha Carter. Sam has one sister, Joyce.

Carter grew up in the St. Clair-Lonedell area. Attending St. Clair High School, Sam displayed his athletic abilities on the baseball field and on the track. While he was captain of the track team, he broke the Franklin County record throwing the discus during his junior and senior year. His other hobbies and interests have included semi-pro baseball, and fast pitch softball. He was a pitcher on a slow-pitch softball team for 17 years retiring his ball paying career in 1990. Sam was also an avid bowler for 29 years.

At the age of 19 Sam married his high school sweetheart, Marlene, now married 42 years.

They have 2 children, Janice Dierker and Larry Carter, and now are enjoying five grandchildren.

Carter has worked as a carpenter in St. Louis all of his working career and is presently employed by the Dieselkamp Construction Company for the past 35 years. Sam is making a big decision in his life at the present time. Retirement is right around the corner for the soon to be 62 year old. But he hasn't quite decided to make this move as yet.

After improving to 60%, it took him 5 to 8 years to improve to 70%. "It is much harder to improve when you get to a certain level. I thought I was pretty good until I started pitching against Charles Lawrence and Oley Burnett from Union. They beat me quite often the first couple years. I soon found out that every town had a pitcher like me."

Carter began pitching in tournaments in Class B and kept practicing to improve his percentage. Around 1970 he averaged well enough to pitch in Class A. "I entered a tournament in Mokane, near Jefferson City. I was very nervous pitching my first A Class event against the good pitchers, but I averaged 67% and won the event!" This was the sign of a new beginning for horseshoe pitching for Sam. He would continue to pitch and compete in tournaments, winning some and losing others.

In 1975 Carter entered his first Missouri State Tournament held at the State Fair in Sedalia. There were a lot of good pitchers who he had never heard of. He won only a couple of games, while losing seven. Carter has participated in every State Tournament since 1977, never finishing higher than 5th place until 1983. That year the State Tournament was held Labor Day Weekend in Springfield. The A Class pitched two afternoons. Winning all his games the first day, he lost a game the second day to David Baker. Going into the final game he had lost only one game, Baker had lost two and Ron Frakes, the defending 1982 Champion hadn't lost any. "I managed to beat Frakes in a close game, so now we were tied with one loss each." They would pitch a 40 point game to determine the state champion. Frakes was nervous in his hometown of Springfield and missed his first four shoes, giving Sam a ten to nothing lead. About three/fourths of the way through the game, he almost caught Carter. "The score was 30-28 my favor, but I didn't miss any more ringers the rest of the game. The coveted state championship was finally mine."

Winning the State Tournament has been the highlight of Sam's pitching career, and winning another would even be better.

"Everyone wants to be the state champion. Another would be the World Team event. I never dreamed I would ever be able to do that. It took me a lot of practice."

Carter's list of wins goes on and on from that first state tournament. He was Missouri State Tournament runner-up in 1984, 1985, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1994 and 1995. He was Missouri State Doubles Champion in 1994, 1996 and 1997. According to his wife there are many boxes full of trophies in the basement of their house.

Carter met his longtime friend and horseshoe partner, Tim Henderson, sometime around 1981 while playing softball together. Sam sparked an interest in horseshoes with Tim and in the nineties they would later become partners in many doubles tournaments that were held in Illinois. They would win many of those events held in Mascutouah, Hecker, Breeze and Cahokia. Charlie Webb remarking that Sam Carter taught him many things, his idol in horseshoes.

Carter is currently number four in the men's division state tournament all-time leaders in wins-losses, number four in the men's division state tournament all-time leaders in ringer percent, and number five in men's division state tournament all-time leaders in games played and tournaments.

The key to Carter's pitching success has been "practice." During the summer season, Sam practices pitching horseshoes three days a week, pitching about 200 horseshoes in the backyard of his home. In the winter, he pitches once a week.

"If I don't pitch my precentage goes down, and I hate to lose. For me it works better to have practice sessions. I have to have my practice rounds."

For Sam, his practice sessions are a relaxing time. It clears his mind, something he enjoys. "Horseshoe pitching is a sport you can still compete at as you get older, a form of enjoyment and a feeling of accomplishment."

"Winning isn't everything, but when you put a lot of time into something you need to be competitive. You sure try to win. You try your best to win, but when it is over you go on to the next game."

Over the years, Carter has dedicated a lot of his time to this sport he enjoys. He has participated in horseshoe clinics at New Melle Horseshoe Club, helping many new beginners to get started on the right foot. Because of his hard work and his successful pitching career, it has earned him a spot in the Missouri Horseshoe Pitchers Assoc. Hall of Fame. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1996, a top honor for which he feels very greatful.

Sam, a deeply religeous man, is very active in the Prospect Baptist Church in Lonedell serving as a deacon and singing in the church choir. A person of inner strength that shows through when he plays his favorite sport.

"Horseshoe pitching is a gentleman's sport. The guys you pitch against are your good friends. After a game you go out together to eat and share a laugh. No one tries to take advantage of a point."

Sam lives his life with the same philosophy that he plays horseshoes; a gentlemen both on and off the court. One cannot help but to admire his ability, determination and the ease that he handles himself.

And while Carter will continue to practice and compete, he has a dream - to be an 80% pitcher. As he works toward that dream, for Carter the most important thing is for him to have fun pitching horseshoes.

Play it again, Sam!