Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Donkey Baseball: Sports Fad of the 1930s

Donkey Baseball game between Plain Dealing Lions Club and Sparcolene, May 11, 1934.
Bryce Turnley Collection: 1997.062.119
The 1930s were a dark time for our nation as we suffered through the depression. The great thing about humans is we always find a way to enjoy life, even in tough times. In 1934 an alternate method of playing baseball was founded by the self-proclaimed “father of donkey baseball,” Ray L. Doan of Muscatine, Ia. This form of baseball was so popular, and amusing John Waters directed a short written and narrated by Pete Smith in 1935. (If you're interested in watching this short simply Google “Donkey Baseball 1935.”)
The game was played on a standard softball field. Every player was on a donkey except for the pitcher, the catcher, and the batter. Once the batter hit the ball, he mounted a donkey and attempted to run the bases. The outfielders can dismount their donkey to grab the ball, but they must always hold the reins, and they must mount the donkey before throwing the ball. Should a player forget to hold the reins or to remount the donkey before throwing the ball, the opposing team would be given a base.

On May 10, 1934, the following article, “LIONS WILL HAVE GALA DAY FRIDAY AT PLAIN DEALING: Donkey Ball Game To Be on Varied Program of Day in Plain Dealing” appeared in The Bossier Banner.

“The Plain Dealing Lions Club will sponsor a ‘gala celebration,’ entitled, ‘Whoa Da, Mule!’ tomorrow (Friday), which should be of much interest to people throughout the parish, because of its varied entertainment features.”

“There will be baseball games, a parade, music, dancing and other amusements, all under the supervision of the Lions Club. The program is scheduled to get under way at two o’clock in the afternoon with a ‘Donkey Parade.’ Following this event, a donkey baseball game, played form the backs of these stubborn animals, will be staged by members of the Club.”

“Then, at 3.30 o’clock, the Plain Dealing baseball team will engage the fast-stepping Sparcoline [sic] club, of Shreveport, in a regulation nine-inning game.”

“During the parade and at the ball games music will be furnished by the Plain Dealing Boys Band, a musical organization in which the town takes much pride.”

“To close the day’s festivities a dance, beginning at nine o’clock, at the Bell Hotel, and lasting until the early hours of the morning, will be held. Music for this event will be furnished by a well known colored band, it has been announced.”

"Above are members of the team in the donkey baseball game played recently at Plain Dealing, virtually all of them being members of the Plain Dealing Lions Club. Left to right are Cecil Kelly, President of the Club; Dr. W. F. Bell, Lions Club "Tail-Twister;" Ben Keeth, local Southern Cities agent; F. G. Phillips, Plain Dealing school principal; O.C. Coleman, Town Marshal-Elect; W. T. "Preacher" Carruth, a prime mover in the interesting donkey day festivities; Mayor F. D. McKellar; J. M. Graham, one of the Club's most enthusiastic members; John J. Doles, local bank cashier; Dr. George Acton, local dentist; T. B. Barron, Southwestern Gas and Electric Company's local manager and Secretary of the Lions Club; Mack Philiips, publisher of this newspaper; Bill DeMoss, local merchant. The young lady shown in the center is Miss Almeta Coyle, popular Lioness and Lions Club 'sweetheart' who rode a donkey in the parade staged in connection with the ball game. Kneeling in front of the group are (left) Crawford Womack, captain of the Sparcolene baseball team of Shreveport who played here on that day; and Glenn Crawford (right) captain of the Lions Club baseball team."
 Bryce Turnley Collection: 1997.062.118 

If you follow the Bossier Parish Libraries History Center on Facebook you have probably seen the pictures that have been posted of donkey baseball being played in Plain Dealing. If not, you can follow us on Facebook at This is a great way to see pictures and read about local history, as well as keep up with our upcoming events.

To learn more about this and other local sports visit the Bossier Parish Libraries History Center at 2206 Beckett Street, Bossier City.

By: Amy Robertson

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