Sports Person of the Week
Talmadge Takes His Talents to Deep River
George Talmadge joined the Royals as a sub and helped them take the crown in the Deep River Horseshoe League this summer. Talmadge, who lives in Clinton, is a retired mechanical engineer. (Photo courtesy of George Talmadge )
George Talmadge helped the Royals win the Deep River Horseshoe League (DRHL) championship as the team’s C Division player this summer. Incidentally, George, who lives in Clinton, ended up on the Royals only after signing up with the DRHL as a substitute. The Royals’ original C Player had a work conflict shortly after the abbreviated season began, and George turned out to be the missing piece that helped the team reach the pinnacle of the league.
As the No. 3 seed, the Royals claimed the DRHL title after earning a 3-2 victory over the No. 6 seed Cardinals in the quarterfinals, a 3-0 win against the No. 7 seed Mets in the semis, and a 4-0 win versus the 5th-seeded Rangers in the championship. George and his teammates had a close call in the quarters, but ultimately prevailed. George believes that his teammate and Division A player Mark Goodale, a fellow Clinton resident, had a lot to do with that outcome.
“When we were tied 2-2 in the quarterfinal against the Cardinals, one of their players, Tony Cutone, got really hot. He almost knocked us out,” says George. “That can happen playing against any team. We kind of knew that when you have Mark Goodale, he can be an intimidation factor. Every other player in the league knows that if he goes off, forget it. It’s all over.”
For most of the season, the Pirates appeared to be the class of the league, and George felt that they would be a difficult opponent in the playoffs. Surprisingly, George and his teammates didn’t even match up against the top-seeded Pirates in the final. Still, George was ready for them regardless.
“I expected the Pirates to be the final match. I thought we would have to go through them to win,” George says. “We were fortunate to get to the final. I’ve been in playoffs in other sports before. The fun is getting there. Then it’s no pressure. It’s work, but once you’re there, you just enjoy it. I felt no pressure.”
Normally, George would compete in the Killingworth Horseshoe League, but its season was canceled due to COVID-19. The DRHL managed to hold a shortened season thanks in no small part to the work of this year’s league president Frank Jolly. George had heard about the DRHL a few years ago, when a season in the Killingworth league was canceled in order to upgrade the grounds.
“I think it was like three or four years ago. Killingworth shut down for a year, because the facility was being rebuilt. I subbed in Deep River. So, I knew that alternative was there,” says George. “Then I saw Killingworth wasn’t going to play this year. I went to Deep River to see if there was an opening.”
George decided to start playing horseshoes at the behest of his neighbors. Like many people, George had experience tossing shoes at backyard barbecues, but the idea of competitive horseshoes didn’t occur to him until his neighbors offered.
“Two of my neighbors, a father and son, asked if I played. They played in the Killingworth league, and these leagues are always looking for fill-ins for vacations and such. They asked if I was interested,” George says. “I played at picnics. I liked the game, but I never thought about playing in a league. When I stopped bowling and playing softball, I needed something to satisfy my competitive nature. It’s not quite the same, but it’s something.”
These days, George finds horseshoes to be his best option compared to things like softball and bowling. However, he still sees plenty of similarities between throwing shoes and his other athletic endeavors.
“I played softball for years. I bowled for many years, too. I got too old for softball. I can still play. It just takes longer to recuperate now,” says George, a retired mechanical designer. “I picked up quite a bit this year. Much like bowling, there are a lot of mechanics involved. Timing, tempo, and all the subtle little intricacies in horseshoe pitching is similar in a way to bowling. It’s about the timing and release point.”
While George needed to learn a lot to improve his horseshoe game, he already had the kind of mental edge necessary to compete at a high level.
“I think in bowling, I learned to concentrate well. I can block people out,” George says. “I see some people who wait to throw if there’s somebody at the next pit throwing. I don’t even notice them. They’re not even there as far as I’m concerned. You really have to concentrate.”
League president Jolly was pleased to see George have such a great run with the Royals this year. He’s hoping that George returns to the DRHL next summer.
“George was a good player over there in Killingworth. He came to us and was interested in playing. There weren’t any openings at the time, so he was a sub,” says Jolly. “He’ll be a strong player if he plays with us next year. He said he enjoyed his time with us, which was nice to hear. He’s a good guy, very friendly.”
As of now, George has not committed to a return to the DRHL in 2021, although he does feel the allure of coming back. At the very least, George knows that playing against great competition will help him continue improving his shoe tossing.
“Right now, I like to keep my options open. I like playing in both leagues. I was surprised at how many really good players were at Deep River. Some of them play year-round. I was amazed. I like that type of competition,” George says. “I like both leagues. Deep River is more competitive and has more good players. Playing against better players helps me get better, and I learn a lot from watching them.”