BALDWIN CITY — If not for a heart attack 26 years ago, Ken Martin might not have received a prestigious honor from the Kansas Horseshoe Pitchers Association.
In 1985, the now 79-year-old rural Baldwin City resident suffered a heart attack. Now, Martin is one of 27 members in the association’s Hall of Fame.
“It was a big surprise,” Martin said of his induction during a tournament in Ottawa over Labor Day weekend. “I couldn’t believe that I had been accepted into the hall of fame. When they started talking about it, I just thought to myself that I had been nominated again, but they said, ‘No, you’re in.’ It was very surprising.”
Martin was first nominated nine years ago, but he was passed over on being accepted until the ceremony recently.
“As I got close to the chairman, there was a standing ovation,” Martin said. “I hadn’t had a standing ovation before. It was very special.”
Although he’s loved the game of horseshoes for most of his life — he and his brother played as children — Martin picked the game back up during rehabilitation after his heart attack. He drove a piece of water pipe into the ground and created his own horseshoe pit.
“I started playing again for exercise, fun and entertainment,” Martin said. “That was my main point when I restarted. I wanted an exercise program that I could do every day. I wanted something I could do at home and stay off of gravel. I needed to be on grass, not the gravel.”
A friend, Don McTaggert, suggested he join a few men at their weekly game. Soon, he learned about a league in Ottawa, which he also joined.
Martin also helped form a league in Lawrence and introduced handicap scoring to its league. In 1992, Martin and friend Sam Adame co-hosted the state tournament in Lawrence. It was the largest turnout of any state tournament at that time.
After Adame died, Martin became the tournament director. Soon after, in 1994, he began serving a 12-year term as president of the state association.
Martin enjoys sharing his knowledge of the game. He has taught sessions in Baldwin City, as well as at the Vinland Fair and South Middle School in Lawrence.
There’s no indication that Martin plans on hanging up his shoes anytime soon.
“I don’t plan to quit,” Martin said. “I will keep playing.”