7th annual John Kane Penny Pitch is June 28 in Grass Valley

Since early times, youths have gathered to pitch pennies on the sidewalk, to see who can get theirs closest to the wall. “It was surely spring if they were lagging pennies, one of the great sidewalk sports,” legendary Chicago newspaperman Mike Rokyo wrote in a column 42 years ago.

“There have been tournaments held to determine the best marble player, handball player, golfer and bowler,” he continued. “How about a penny-pitching tournament?”

Well, that happened. San Francisco’s 37- year-old Penny Pitch, now at MoMo’s restaurant across from AT&T Park, has raised $1 million for St. Anthony’s Dining Room to help the poor and homeless.

Grass Valley also has its own annual penny pitch tourney, to go along with its pasty toss on St. Piran’s Day to honor its Cornish heritage.

Now in its seventh year, the KNCO- Kane’s Penny Pitch is on June 28 at Kane’s Family Restaurant in the historic downtown. This year’s charity event again benefits the Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Coalition.

The annual Penny Pitch sponsored by the local radio station has been renamed the “John Kane Penny Pitch” in honor of the popular restaurateur and event host who passed away last summer, says Joe Hevia, a veteran of KNCO-830AM, who started the family-focused fundraiser with Kane and others.

The Grass Valley Penny Pitch was founded by Kane, Hevia, Tom O’Toole and others—all native San Franciscans and regulars at the St. Anthony’s Penny Pitch when it was held at the Washington Square Bar & Grill, or “Washbag,” in North Beach before MoMo’s.

Frank Cooney of Tofanelli’s Gold Country Bistro, and a former writer with the San Francisco Examiner, also frequents the Kane’s Penny Pitch.

Locals and visitors gather on the patio and sidewalk in front of Kane’s. The restaurant offers draft beer, barbecued hamburgers, hot dogs and chicken sandwiches, along with live music and a raffle.

The number of sponsors at the “pitch” has grown to 17 from two, and the event raised a record $5,275 last year. Last year, Stucki Engravers & Distinctive Gifts in Grass Valley minted a coin to commemorate the event.

The Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Coalition offers crisis counseling to victims of domestic violence; provides shelter and safe-housing; food, clothing and transportation; and support groups. It also offers legal services and children’s services.

(photo: Rick Tracewell)

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