GOSHEN — Steve Fisher thought his horseshoe pitching career was over in November.
An accident with a wood splitter cut the top half of Fisher’s right thumb off. He had to have immediate surgery on the thumb and 29 stitches were sown into his thumb to prevent further loss. Fisher, a right-handed horseshoe pitcher, feared the worst.
Nine months later, Fisher was the Class A horseshoe pitching contest at the Elkhart County 4-H Fair. It was the first time Fisher had won the competition’s top class.
“I thought, ‘I’m done forever’ because I always held the (horseshoe) up (with his thumb). It’s how I controlled the horseshoe,” Fisher said. “I just couldn’t quit. People would say, ‘throw left-handed.’ No, I couldn’t do that.”
Fisher wore a glove on his right hand to cover up the thumb. There were also things put in the glove to fill out the space of the missing part of the thumb. Needless to say, it was a learning process for Fisher to throw horseshoes again.
“In January, I went to Florida. And in the very first week I threw, I couldn’t do anything. I was so upset,” Fisher said. “So I went and bought a couple of things to put on (the thumb) and I started throwing a few ringers. By then, I couldn’t give up.”
The tournament was played in a round-robin style, meaning the six competitors each played each other once. The decisive match of the contest was between Fisher and Dennis Hanyzewski of South Bend. Both men were 3-0 entering the head-to-head dual.
Hanyzewski went ahead 6-0 early before Fisher rallied to take a 9-6 lead. The lead was short-lived, though, as Hanyzewski rallied to go up 14-9.
The next sequence would decide the game. Hanyzewski missed on both of his shots, allowing Fisher to hit two ringers. Those six points game Fisher s 15-14 lead, one he’d never relinquish as he won 32-23.
Fisher hit 31 ringers, while Hanyzewski hit 30.
“It’s like pitching in a (baseball) game — it hangs on every pitch,” Fisher said. “I knew I had to have a good pitch every pitch. I couldn’t take any time off. If you relax one time, you could lose.”
It’s that type of pressure that Fisher thrives on.
“I love it. I’ve always loved pressure. I always want to be at the plate in the bottom of the seventh inning,” Fisher said. “I’ve always been that way.”
Athletics has always been in Fisher’s life. He lettered in four sports — basketball, baseball, cross country and track — while attending then-Millersburg High School. He played in fast-pitch softball and baseball leagues for years as well.
Fisher started pitching horseshoes 15 years ago after a neighbor begged him to join them. Five years later, Fisher started playing in leagues across the area. Eventually, Fisher became one of the best pitchers in the area.
“I couldn’t stand to lose, so I practiced just about every day,” Fisher said.
Fisher and his wife, Dianne, have a Goshen address but live in Jefferson Township. They live in Sarasota, Florida for three months a year.
Austin Hough can be reached at email@example.com or 574-533-2151, ext. 325. Follow Austin on Twitter @AustinHoughTGN