Written by Corso Atlanta resident, Dick Johnston
In the dismal days of the Hoover depression of the 1931 – 1941 period, the prospects of watching a lively game of DONKEY BASEBALL brought lasting smiles to the citizens of Woodstock, Georgia. So, when the notices appeared of the impending game of DONKEY BASEBALL to be played on a July evening of 1934, JOY ABOUNDED.
Wednesday nights were reserved for regular Prayer Meeting but, since any profits from the Donkey Ball Game were to be sent to the unsaved heathens, all was forgiven.
The trailer was sent to the Dean’s Alfalfa field adjacent to the baseball diamond. There the donkeys were fed, watered, and led to the recently smoothed-out baseball grounds. Grounds had been smoothed out by a Ford pickup truck dragging a cross tie across the entire dusty ball field. Marble dust was laid out to show base lines.
By late afternoon, a crowd began to gather so that by seven in the evening nearly 200 people had paid their 25 cents entrance fee for a place to sit on rock hillsides to watch the game.
Frankie Paden drove the J. H. Johnston pickup truck loaded with 20 dozen ice cold cokes, peanuts, and Cracker Jacks. He parked the truck in a safe place behind the backstop fence.
Riders had to be 18 years old or older. Of course, all men knew how to ride horses and mules and donkeys, and asses, and bulls and cows. They were sure they could ride the big donkeys and even small donkeys.
The field was not lit, so Albert Vansant and Charlie Hillhouse installed temporary electric lights.
The donkey riding players were men from the Baptist Church who were opposed by donkey riding men from the Methodist Episcopal Church.
Four Men, including their preacher, from the Presbyterian Church were the umpires.
Standard baseball rules were followed with certain special exceptions. All players had to ride a donkey except the pitcher, catcher and batter. Each defensive player had to dismount when a ball was hit in his direction. He dismounted; fielded the ball, remounted his donkey, threw the ball to the first baseman for an out. Should a hitter hit the ball, he also had to mount and ride a donkey toward first base. The runner was safe if the player did not have control of his donkey.
The donkeys were trained to sway and buck and kick and run to the outfield instead of first base. The donkeys hated the bases and were trained to run into foul territory.
The spectators whooped and hollered and yelled. They often helped a thrown rider to remount or even assist the injured player to get off the field and receive medical treatment from Dr. Tom Vansant.
The umpires knew the rules which were seldom observed and often changed during a play.
The final score of the five-inning game was Baptist 5 and Methodist 6. Injured Baptist riders were 7. Injured Methodist riders were 8. No umpires were injured.
Frankie sold all of his cokes for ten cents each making a clear profit of 5 cents for each coke sold.
The owners of the donkeys got one-half of the attendance collection plus free use of the alfalfa field.
Litton Dean only charged 50 cents for rent of his alfalfa field.
Donkey baseball returned to Woodstock about three times. The last Donkey Baseball game played in Woodstock was held two years after the end of WWII.
Wednesday night Prayer meetings resumed. Frowns replaced smiles.