Donkey Baseball

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Game Donkey Baseball
Game Family Baseball Baseball
Regions US
Eras 1800s, Post-1900
Invented Yes

In its 1934 manifestation, donkey baseball let the donkeys run, and the players ride.  "[A]ll participants, excepting the catcher, pitcher and the batsman are astride donkeys.  After hitting the ball it is necessary for the hitter to get on the back of a donkey and make his way to first base before the fielders, also on donkeys, retrieve the ball."

The earliest version of donkey base ball was named for "donkey races," which Peter Morris sees as "a silly type of contest."  The team that scored the fewest runs was the winner.  Maybe you had to be there to agree with the Brooklyn Eagle that the game was "very amusing , and perhaps the most novel match ever played."


(Initial source material lost.)

For a lively account of 1950s 'Donkey Ball' as recalled in in 2015, see the account in the Long Beach Island, NJ News, June 3, 2015, Beach Haven's Throwback Softball Game Has 'Terrific Turnout,' by Kelley Anne Essinger.  See Supplemental Text, below.  Submitted by Heidi Cassells, 10/24/2020.

See also, accessed 10/25/2020.  See also Thorning cite below.




"Several entrepreneurs set up businesses that toured the country in the 1930s, with a truckload of trained donkeys, staging games for a fee. Service clubs, churches and civic groups would hire the companies and offer the public a chance to see local notables attempt to play baseball mounted on the quadrupeds. The profits from the show would go to their charitable and civic projects.

"Typically, the game would be a contest between the members of a service club or a church group against a sports team or another civic group. Invariably, the players were well known in the community, and often some of its leaders. The public found great amusement in watching the players’ inept attempts to guide the donkeys. They were often tossed head over heels to the ground, or otherwise outsmarted by their stubborn mounts."

Steven Thorning, Donkey Baseball Was Popular it the mid-20th Century, November 26, 2010; accessed 10/24/2020 via a search for <thorning donkey baseball>.


The May 2019 Bossier (Louisiana?) site above adds that, based on a 1934 news article, fielders were allowed to dismount to retrieve hit balls, as long that they held on to the beast's reins. 

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"Beach Haven . . . became known for hosting donkey ball. Lois Pinnix, a former Beach Haven resident . . .remembers attending donkey ball games around the 1950s, which were usually held as fundraisers for the Beach Haven Volunteer Fire Co.  Her husband Charlie is the oldest living member of the fire company at 91 years old.  He served for about 60 years, and was often involved in the games.  

"They'd sit on a donkey and hit the ball, and they'd have to run siting on the donkey, and that's what made it funny, Pinnix recalled.  "Donkeys have a mind of their own; sometimes they won't move.  It was all for fun; it was nothing serious."