- Shooting for the Record: Adolph Toepperwein, Tom Frye, and Sharpshooting's Forgotten Controversy by Tim Price
As the subtitle of Tim Price's work suggests, controversy is often a reality in sport. In Shooting for the Score, Price examines how the surpassing of a long-standing record in endurance [End Page 128] sharpshooting was not met with universal acceptance. Specifically, he employs the case study of Tom Frye's breaking of Adolph Toepperwein's record to explore the relationship of sporting records with social and technological change over time.
In 1907, Adolph (Al) Toepperwein set an endurance record in sharpshooting that seemed unbreakable. Over the course of seven days, he took aim and fired his rifle at 72,500 2¼-inch square wooden blocks. Each block was thrown to a height of twenty-five to thirty feet by an assistant located twenty-five to thirty feet distant from the shooter. Toepperwein missed only nine blocks. Surprisingly, his record was broken fifty-two years later, as sharpshooter Tom Frye fired at 100,010 thrown blocks over the course of thirteen consecutive days. Of these, Frye hit an impressive 100,004.
In his comparison of these two sharpshooting feats, Price indicates the significant influence of time and changing technology on sporting records. The passage of time, for example, had rendered the late nineteenth-century rules devised by former endurance sharpshooting record holder Doc Carver—rules to which Toepperwein adhered strictly—unknown by Frye and his associates. As a result, Frye's assistants tossed his targets from a location beside the shooter. Likewise, his targets were a bit larger than Toepperwein's. Price also points out that technological advances in firearms gave Frye an advantage when one considers the fatigue experienced by the sharpshooters. Toepperwein set his record while shooting using a Winchester Model 1906 with a weight of approximately six pounds. Frye's Remington Model Nylon 66, with its technologically advanced synthetic stock, was one pound lighter. Ultimately, as Price points out, even Frye himself came to doubt if his shooting exhibition was all that comparable to Toepperwein's. Yet Price also indicates that Toepperwein had set his accepted record with a rifle quite a bit lighter than those used by former record holders.
Price's examination of the influence of time and technology on sporting events is a valuable study of sharpshooting and of sporting records. This well-written, thoughtful, and expertly researched monograph provides excellent biographical coverage of two of sharpshooting's giants, skillfully traces the development of the sport from traveling Wild West shows to the corporate boardrooms, and provides ample insight into the role of sales-oriented corporate America in sports. In so doing, the book raises important issues regarding the complexity of sporting records relative to social context. Many of these ideas are applicable beyond the records and sport specifically discussed in the text. In that regard, Shooting for the Record is an important book that broadens understanding of sport development and relationship to a changing society over time.