HIBBING — Growing up in a family that loved to play horseshoes, Jerry LaBrosse naturally became adept at the game.
The youngest of five children born to Leo and Bernadel LaBrosse of Hibbing, his father and sons pitched horseshoes while he was growing up, with his mother also being an avid supporter of the sport through her sons. Growing up in the horseshoe-pitching family, he always showed a great love for the game and was always willing to promote the game.
LaBrosse was a Junior member of the National Horseshoe Pitchers Association (NHPA) and became an adult member in 1992. Since then, he has held many offices in the NHPA and the Minnesota Gopher State Horseshoe Pitchers Association (MGSHPA). It is for his work as a promoter of the sport of horseshoes that he was recently inducted into NHPA Hall of Fame as a Promoter/Organizer, which is described as a person who has administered, promoted, and/or organized horseshoe pitching activities for at least eight years for the benefit of the NHPA members at the national or regional level.
LaBrosse, 62, grew up on the North Side of Hibbing and graduated from Hibbing High School in 1974. He said he played a lot of horseshoes as a Junior, and remembers that his family would travel around the U.S. to attend World Tournaments. He said he pitched a lot of horseshoes at the Hibbing Horseshoe Club.
“There was a man at our club named Andy Paglarini and he was basically my mentor,” said LaBrosse. “I have many memories of that. Horseshoes was kind of bred into me because my dad and brothers both played the game. My brother Willie – who still lives in Hibbing – got real high up in the Junior level and was runner-up in the world one year in the Junior Division, but he never carried it on and played as an adult.
“It was just a family sport and taking us around the country to the World Tournaments kind of planted the seed. It has always been my passion. It was very humbling when I found I was going to be inducted. They take a picture at the ceremony of all the Hall of Fame members who are present and I was just sitting alongside all the greatest people in our sport, Walter Ray Williams, Alan Francis, all these guys that are just icons. It was a feeling I can’t describe and it’s hard to accept that you are with that group of people.”
After graduating from Hibbing High School, LaBrosse said he strayed away from the game for about 15 years. He moved down to the Twin Cities area, settling in Greenfield in 1985, and in 1989 he picked up the game again. Becoming involved in the administrative part of the game, he then served for many years in the MGSHPA.
LaBrosse’s NHPA offices/awards/accomplishments include:
*Elected vice president in 2006, and still currently serves;
*Served two years on the Rules Rewrite Committee, then chaired the Rules Committee;
*Used his home workshop, designed and headed the construction project and test of the NHPA’s new 60 courts that are now used for each World Tournament, creating what many call “perfect pitching conditions;
*Since 2009, he has arrived at the World Tournament site a week prior to the tournament to coordinate court set-up, in addition to fulfilling the two-week tournament duties of the officers in running the tournament;
*Instrumental in developing and implementing the new electronic scoring system used at the World Tournament, including “baby sitting” and transporting the equipment;
*Developed the Charter Communications position, responsible for distributing information from the national level to the charters;
*Stokes Memorial Award in 2010;
*World Tournament Experience Raffle creator (2011) and committee member, proceeds benefiting the NHPF and the NHPA’s electronic scoring equipment;
Unofficial spokesperson for media, regular forum contributor.
LaBrosse’s offices/awards/accomplishments with the MGSHPA include:
*MGSHPA President, 1999-2005;
*Minnesota Vice President, 1995-1999;
*Ringer Digest (newsletter) editor, 2005-2008;
*Minnesota Regional Director, 2005-2008;
*State Statistician, 2005-2006;
*State Historian, 2008-present, responsible for the care and creation of the MGSHPA Hall of Fame Trailer, containing the state’s history and Hall of Fame recognitions;
*State Appreciation Award, 2005;
*MGSHPA Hall of Fame, 2007, promoter;
*MGSHPA Presidential Award, 2006.
Rick Wright of Forest Lake, Minn., nominated LaBrosse for the induction and had this to say about him:
“Speaking as both a friend and his successor as MGHSPA President, Jerry LaBrosse has always shown a great love of the game and promoting it, even saying it’s in his blood. And I don’t question this. As state president, Jerry has always put Minnesota and whatever he had planned for our association at the top of his list. He brought Minnesota to the forefront of the horseshoe pitching world.
“Beyond his accomplishments, there are so many little things he has done that have made a great impact. He pours his heart and soul into his national duties, as well as state duties, and all the way down to a local tournament. He has never simply given up an office, but has remained a mentor for the new incumbent. His enthusiasm and knowledge is infectious and prompts others to step up to promote our sport too.
“Jerry is once quoted as saying, ‘My life has been enriched by this sport in so many ways – more than I could possibly explain.’
“The NHPA, MGSHPA and many other areas of horseshoe has been enriched by his involvement, more than I could possibly explain.”
LaBrosse has also been named to the Hibbing Horseshoe Club Hall of Fame last fall in 2017.
After some hip complications which forced him to take off from playing the sport for two years, he is now back to pitching horseshoes. He serves as a NHPA regional director currently.
“I will always have my roots in Hibbing and I attribute my beginning in horseshoes to Hibbing,” LaBrosse explained. “That’s where it all started and I guess I am just going to keep my passion going for the game.”