But the same was happening to most of the other players, and by the time the game was half over, we were all hot and disgusted and tired and ready to kill every donkey and mule in six states.
We got to the last of the ninth with the fire department leading 35-33. It appeared to be all over when our first two men were put out. But then we got our next two batters on, and I squibbed a little infield hit to the third baseman. Ordinarily I would've been out, but his donkey ran off just long enough for me to reach first base.
So there we were, with the bases loaded and two out. Our next batter hit a fly ball to centerfield. Now if the centerfielder had gotten off his mount it would have been an easy out, but he decided to showboat and make the catch mounted. Just before he got to the ball he touched his donkey with his spurs, and that donkey, which was about as disgusted as the rest of us, picked that instant to go rodeoing. The ball fell free and we went dashing around the bases. Our man on third scored, our man on second scored and my mule and I were really flying. We rounded second and then third and were only 90 feet from victory. It looked so sure that a couple of the police had jerked a big piece of red, white and blue bunting off the face of the grandstand and stretched it out in front of the plate for me to ride over as I scored the winning run.
But they hadn't counted on that devil mule. Halfway between third and home he came to a dead stop. I kicked him, I spurred him, I whacked him with my glove, but that mule obviously thought home plate was the bridge at Caney Creek, and he wasn't going to move.
Well, it was a madhouse. The stands were yelling, my team was jumping up and down, they were still trying to run the ball down in the outfield and I didn't know what to do to get that mule going. Finally I noticed a friend of mine. Crook Adams, leaning against the little fence that ran down the third-base line. I yelled at him to throw me his lighter, and he tossed the big Zippo I knew he always carried. Well, I caught it, lit it up, and then leaned down and applied a good flame to that mule's belly.
For a second nothing happened. That devil mule just kind of switched his ears back and forth and mouthed his bit and shook his head. But then, just as I thought he'd catch fire, he began to move—and he moved at such a speed that I was barely able to hang on. We went straight through that banner. Right behind it was the catcher on his donkey, the pitcher on his donkey and Mayor Gusman on his donkey. That big mule and I hit them full tilt, and donkeys and pitcher and catcher and mayor went flying in all directions.
And if that wasn't enough confusion, the boys in charge of the fireworks decided it was time to set off the display. That was the last straw for a bunch of irritated, overheated, disgusted mules and donkeys. In about 30 seconds the playing field looked like Custer's Last Stand, with players lying all over the place.
Well, we finally got things calmed down, and the mayor, as mad as he was, declared my run valid, and we won the game 36-35. I thought that was it, and I was feeling pretty good until the fire chief, still looking hurt about my having run out on him, came up and wrote me out a citation for violating the city fire code: attempting to set fire to a mule in the midst of a public gathering.
Ever since, I've always considered it was just that sort of shortsighted thinking that kept donkey baseball from taking its place among the other major sports of our time.