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Sports in Del Bonita

Heritage of the High Country
A History of Del Bonita and Surrounding Districts,
Pages 175 - 176

Early Baseball
by Ken Newton

The earliest baseball teams started home and return games about 1923.

Lorraine (Curly) Clifton recalls that the Del Bonita team travelled to Jefferson with teams and saddle horses. Later Will Ledgerwood and W. 0. Miller purchased Model T. Fords. Curly Clifton remembers that when they travelled with horses they could always get home the same day as they started out. But when the players rode in the back of Will Ledgerwood's truck which had no lights and no horn, they usually stayed for the dance and came home the next day after sunrise.

The Del Bonita team had an old black bat which had a hole drilled in it and filled with lead for extra weight. Rube Deglow could hit a home run with it every time.

1924 was the first year the Del Bonita baseball team had suits. The players put on dances all one winter to raise money. They ordered the suits from Eaton's and Mrs. Henry made and sewed the letters D. B. on them.

In the early days people made their own fun. The Saturday afternoon baseball games were a highlight of summer week-ends. Often there was a dance to wind up the evening.

Competition was always keen, and farm people followed their baseball team faithfully through win or loss wherever they went to play. Tempers sometimes flared. More than once blows were exchanged to the satisfaction of those in the fights, but of course did nothing to change the outcome of the game, or the ruling of the umpire.

The early baseball enthusiasm and teams preceded the formation of the Boundary Baseball League.

Baseball - The Boundary League by C. Graveland

The Boundary League actually started in 1925, but Del Bonita and surrounding areas had a ball team in 1923 and 1924. As there was no league they only managed to play a few exhibition games.

In 1925, a school teacher, Everett Hedley, was asked to go to various districts west of Del Bonita and get ball players interested and form a league. (Incidentally, he sent some of the information regarding dates for the first teams. He lives in Calgary now.)

They had a meeting at Whiskey Gap and formed the Boundary Baseball League, with seven teams. They were, Del Bonita, Rinard, Taylorville, Jefferson, Kimball, Aetna, and Woolford.

After one year Del Bonita and Rinard joined forces, and had one Del Bonita team. They had players from all over Del Bonita and surrounding districts. The league stayed the same with six teams until the early 30's. Aetna dropped out and joined the Cardston league. About 1933-34 Whiskey Gap got a team together, but due to a shortage of players had to give it up after a few years.

In the early days the ball diamonds were always quite a problem. First, the players had to find a level spot, then get permission from the farmer who owned the land. It had to be native grass. The grass was eaten off by horses or cows, so the infield had to be checked and cleaned before the games but the outfielders had to step carefully. It was hard to keep the slender poles and chicken wire backstops in good condition because the animals rubbed on them a lot. Every few years the diamonds had to be moved because the rocks showed up and the base paths became too deep.

In later years most of the farmers fenced the animals out during the summer. The grass was mowed and the diamonds dragged to make them smooth.

Getting to ball games for us younger people was difficult. Several farmers had trucks and went to every game, including those away from home. They took the players and anyone else who was at the main road on time. If you missed the last truck you were out of luck. Home games were better. You could walk or ride horseback to watch those games.

The league stayed the same until 1936. At that time there were a number of young men growing up who wanted to play ball. Rinard decided to break away and have a team of their own. They decided that the boundary line should be the old Lens School road, better known now as the "Roger Houghton or Henry road. " This didn't necessarily mean that players had to play in their own district. If they were needed on another team or got more playing time there, it was perfectly all right for them to play with other teams. There were players who played with three different teams, and there were no hard feelings.

From that time until 1941-42 there were seven teams in the Boundary League. They were as follows, Del Bonita, Rinard, Taylorville, Jefferson, Pershing, Kimball, and Woolford. There were games every Saturday afternoon and sometimes Wednesday afternoons as well. That was the only sport going on at that time, so there were always big crowds of noisy, cheering fans at all games. All ball teams then had refreshment booths, where pop and bars were sold, and a Saturday night dance was held following the games. Money from these sources, and donations from the comniunity were the only ways to raise money for balls, bats, and uniforms.

The war came, and some players joined the services. It became hard for all teams to find enough players, so after 1941 they decided to call it off until after the war.

1946

The war was over, and most of the servicemen had come home. During those four or five years, a lot of young boys had grown up. A league meeting was held, and all the teams wanted to play ball again except Pershing. Two new teams joined the league, Twin River and Spring Coulee. With eight teams now in the league, there were several Wednesday games held, as well as Saturday. There were a lot of young new ball players then. Some of the older players had left the district, or were too busy to play, or thought they were too old, and quit. However, the games were played as usual, with good games, big crowds, and the tournament at the end of the season. Money taken in from these tournaments was split among the teams. Joe Knight of Woolford donated a nice travelling trophy. Whichever team won the tournament had their name engraved on it.

One year after Del Bonita had won the league championships and tournaments for several years running, the coaches of the other teams got together and picked an all-star team - two players from each team to play against Del Bonita at the tournament, to make it interesting. It drew a large crowd. People came from Cardston and Magrath, as well as the Del Bonita district to watch. The All-Stars did win, but it was a 3-2 ball game and a crowd pleaser.

It should be mentioned that ever since ball started in this district, that any time anyone moved into the district, whether he or she was a new landowner, farm laborer, school teacher, Customs officer, elevator agent, or student minister, about the first thing they were asked was if they could play ball. If they could or did, there was usually a place for them on some team.

In about 1952-53 the teams were having a hard time fielding enough players, so Twin River, Del Bonita, and Rinard once again joined forces. Del Bonita had two teams, young men - twenty and under (juniors) and a men's team (seniors). Jefferson, Taylorville, and several other teams decided to do the same. But even then, there were only four teams and three or four games played that year. That lasted one year and was the end of the Boundary League after about thirty years of baseball.

Several years later a meeting was held, with a representative from each team attending. Each team had money, so it was decided to use the money to buy some nice pictures to donate to the Cardston and Magrath Hospitals. They are still hanging on the walls at this time. (1980)

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Mary Tollestrup