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Ray Tiili says local horseshoe enthusiasts should forever remain committed to the memory of George "Hots" Anderson -- for how much he meant to the growth of the sport in Duluth.

Ray Tiili says local horseshoe enthusiasts should forever remain committed to the memory of George "Hots" Anderson -- for how much he meant to the growth of the sport in Duluth.

"Hots was Mr. Horseshoes in Duluth, the guy who started our leagues and talked the city into allowing us to move indoors to Peterson Arena," said Tiili, who replaced Anderson as executive director of the Duluth Horseshoe League in 1994.

Anderson passed away about a year ago, at the age of 94, Tiili said.

Tiili and others are working to ensure that Anderson gets credit as the person who mostly brought competitive horseshoeing to the community.

After all, it was Anderson who provided the vision and energy to start the Duluth Open Horseshoe Tournament in 1963. Today, it's one of the premiere competitions in the Midwest, drawing some of the best players in the world to the two-day event.

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For example, three-time world champion Dale Lipovsky of Bloomington, Minn., usually competes in the Duluth Open (he skipped this year's event to attend a wedding), and former Minnesota state champions Jack O'Conner and Norm Morrison have also pitched in the event.

Two-time defending women's senior world champion Jan Turnquist of Duluth competed in last weekend's event. Tiili has replaced Anderson as executive director of the two-day tourney, which drew 92 men and women competitors.

"Hots would be proud," Tiili said, peering out at the arena full of world-class and recreational competitors. "Hots was able to get the top pitchers in the area to compete in our Open, where players know that they can pitch and not get rained out. People love our facility and our beautiful community."

Always the ambassador for the sport, Anderson convinced Tiili to take up the sport of horseshoes. They were bowling buddies, and Anderson was a good salesman who had a good product to sell. Everyone loved Hots, and he loved everyone and treated all people with respect.

"Hots' love for pitching was infectious," said Tiili, 77.

Horseshoes really established itself locally about the time Anderson was able to convince the city and the Duluth Amateur Hockey Association to open Peterson Arena for horseshoes for a 16-week season in the summer, Tiili said. Players almost immediately began to see their scores improve where pitching at Peterson "they no longer have to worry about the wind and rain," Tiili said.

"And the clay is in good shape and the lights are good," Tiili added.

Anderson and Tiili became sort of sidekicks as organizers and promoters of local horseshoes, said Ray Merila, one of the top players in the area.

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"Ray has made sure that our sport hasn't missed a beat since Hots stepped down, continuing on as the sparkplug of our organization," said Merila, 67. "Ray is the hardest working man I've ever known. And he loves his horseshoes."

Every successful organization needs an all-pro quarterback such as Anderson and Tiili, Merila said.

"Ray is the first one here and the last one out," Merila said. "It can sometimes be a thankless job, demanding many, many hours of a person's time and energy. And there's so much paperwork involved."

Tiili is also one of the best pitchers in the area. He led the Duluth A League with a 21-11 record starting play this week.

Tiili finished fifth in the national Class D tournament in 1978 in Des Moines, and in 1994 won the Minnesota Intermediate 40-foot Class in Hibbing. He's also won a few open tournaments.

Some of the other top men horseshoers in the area include Andy Dunaisky, Dan Tuominen, Tod Minko, Coopen Johnson, Bill Nelson, Greg Johnson, Ron Mathieu, Mel Ona, Gerry Gisvold, Glenn Tuominen, Ken Nyquist and Evert Stromgren.

Joining Tiili on the horseshoe board of directors are vice president Dunaisky, secretary Joe Berini and treasurer Jerry Semerau.

Tiili has hinted that he might retire as director of the horseshoe group, and might also step down as executive director of the Duluth Open, Merila said.

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"It would be difficult for us without Ray, without his vast knowledge," Merila said. "He gets up at four o'clock in the morning working at it. Even his wife gets involved, bringing us cakes that she has baked for our Monday and Thursday leagues.

"Everyone really appreciates how professionally run Ray's tournaments are. We don't know what we'd do without him."

Anderson taught his student well.

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