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Sunday, May 1, 2016

Cherokee woman's family hosted sports legends

Monday, April 11, 2011

Ruth, Gehrig, Louis, Dempsey visited Sioux City home

An article written by Barry Poe in the March 27 Sioux City Journal caught the attention of many baseball fans, especially long-time fans of the New York Yankees.

In the article, Poe writes about a short 16 mm film which was recently discovered in Illinois. The film contains footage of Hall of Famers Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig visiting with a family. The three and a half minutes of Ruth and Gehrig are part of eight reels discovered in an Illinois cellar.

R.C. Raycraft, whose family owns the 3rd Sunday Market, an antique show in Bloomington, Ill., bought the films for an undisclosed amount from an antique dealer who said he had acquired them as part of an estate sale.

"It was one of those things that fell into my lap," Raycraft said. "I'm a big history fan. Having an interest in baseball and the fact that I'm a filmmaker, it got my attention."

Joanne Loughlin Sanderson in her Cherokee home. Photo by Dan Whitney
The movie reels, which according to attached paperwork belonged to Dudley C. Scott, who owned two movie theaters in Le Mars, also includes aerial shots of farmland, downtown Le Mars, and videos of Nebraska football games.

Although there is no audio, Ruth is shown talking to the camera while Gehrig is holding a small boy and gives him a kiss on the cheek.

As it turns out, the home at 3723 Jackson Street in Sioux City belonged to the family of John J. "Jiggs" Donohue, president and owner of Rice Brothers, a livestock commission firm located in the stockyards.

Before they thrilled a record crowd at the Stock Yards Ball Park on Oct. 18, 1927, Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig enjoyed some backyard fun at the Donohues' home. From left, Jimmie Donohue, "The Babe" (on Jimmie's horse), Phil Donohue, and Lou Gehrig, holding Ken Donohue.
(Photo courtesy of Ken and Irma Donohue family)
Donohue, an outgoing man known for his many promotional events, brought Ruth and Gehrig's teams to the Stockyards Ball Park after the 1927 season. Such "barnstorming" tours were common in those days and gave the players, who didn't make the extravagant salaries they do today, a chance to put some extra change in their pockets, as well as to meet some of their fans, who in those days could only read about their heroes in the newspaper or listen to broadcasts of games on the radio.

The young boy Gehrig is holding in the film was one of Jiggs Donohoes's six children, 2-year-old Ken Donohue. At one point in the surprisingly clear footage, Ruth jumps on a pony and models young Jimmie Donohue's cowboy hat. Two more Donohue boys -- Phil and Jack -- are also shown posing with the baseball stars.

Christy Walsh of Christy Walsh Syndicate, a New York-based promotions company, is also shown in the film. Walsh, widely considered as the first major sports agent, became a friend of his fellow promoter "Jiggs" Donohoe, and maintained a friendship with him for many years, sharing a mutual interest in each other's families.

Not in the film were the two youngest Donohoe children - then 4-month-old twins Tom and Joanne, who "were asleep in their cribs" at the time, according to Joanne, contacted recently at her Cherokee home.

Joanne, of course, grew up to become Joanne Loughlin Sanderson, now a long-time Cherokee resident, wife of the late John D. Loughlin and mother of their seven children - Mary, Ann, John Jr., Jomi, Barbara, Betsy and Patsy. Some time after John Loughlin's death, Joanne unexpectedly came into contact with a former Sioux City high school classmate, Jack Sanderson, via the internet. The two exchanged e-mails for about a year and discovered they had a lot in common. Jack, who was living in Tucson, Arizona at the time, had also recently suffered the loss of his spouse.

After a year of communicating via e-mail, Jack flew back to Sioux City and he and Joanne saw each other in person for the first time in 58 years. They had dinner at The Green Gables in Sioux City, which was the "in" place to be when hey were teens, and when Joanne dropped him off at the airport in Omaha, Jack handed her a quarter with the same date as the one that he had given her at the end of their one and only "date" in their high school days. After that movie date, Sanderson had handed her a quarter as a 'thank you' because she hadn't been an expensive date, and the second quarter was a reminder of the first.

The couple were married at the old Maryhill Church in September, 2003.

Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig pose with, from left, Phil, Jimmie and Jack Donohue.
(Photo courtesy of Ken and Irma Donohoe family)
Back to October 18, 1927, the day of the big game between Ruth's "Bustin' Babes" and Gehrig's "Larrupin' Lous" at the Stockyards ballpark.

A packed house was on hand for the game. The Sioux City Journal reported that when the regular stands and bleachers were filled, fans jammed along the infield baselines and filled temporary bleachers set up in the outfield.

The Babe didn't disappoint, hitting a home run.

"It was a rifled hit, straight over the right field fence that sent two runners in ahead of the Clouting Caliph, who jogged around the bags happy with the thought that he had parked one for the crowd," the Journal reported the next day. "Gehrig didn't deliver a home run, but the "Larruping one" was a hit with all ages, especially the kids."

Excerpts from the Journal's story, which appeared in "The Way of Life II: Stories from the Yards," written by Sioux Cityan Marcia Poole, went on to report:

"The crowd's enthusiasm swelled into the sixth inning when Ruth's team was leading 4 to 2. Children pressed closer and closer to their heroes.

"Jiggs" Donohue as he appeared circa 1927. Photo contributed.
Police rushed helter-skelter in a futile attempt to keep the kids under control. By the eighth inning a deluge of humanity was on the field.

The teams tried to keep playing but what chance did any group of ball players have when 5,000 school kids got it into their heads that they wanted to swarm about Gehrig and Ruth? Not a chance. NOT A CHANCE."

Because of the continued friendship between Jiggs Donohoe and Christy Walsh, Babe Ruth, then retired from professional baseball, came back to the Sioux City Stockyards ballpark in 1940. At age 45, still a hitter, Ruth slammed "four towering drives" out of the ballpark, according to a Sioux City Journal story at the time.

Jiggs Donohoe passed away in the 1950s, but before he died, he brought more celebrities to Sioux City, including former Heavyweight Champions Jack Dempsey and Joe Louis. Louis played a round of golf while he was in town in 1948, and Tom Donohoe, then 19, caddied for "The Brown Bomber," who, he said, was a very good tipper. Margaret "Jo" Donohoe, Jiggs' "better half" lived into her 90s.

Jimmie Donohue, owner of the pony in the 1927 film, died in 1933 at the age of 16, from surgical complications related to appendicitis, and Jiggs and his wife Margaret received a consolatory telegram from Ruth and Gehrig, in which they fondly recalled Jimmie and their day at the Donohoes.

Excellent golfers, Phil and Jack Donohue combined to win six men's Sioux City city championships. Phil prevailed in 1940, '46 and '47 while Jack won three in a row from 1948-50. Both also competed at the annual Cherokee Sioux Valley Golf Match-Play Championship. Ken and Jack Donohue are now deceased while Phil Donohue, 93, lives in Sioux Falls, S.D. Joanne Loughlin Sanderson's twin brother Tom lives in Denver, Colo.

As for Joanne's seven children, Mary now lives in Des Moines; Ann in Missoula, Mon.; Barbara and Patsy in Minneapolis, Minn.; Betsy in Cedar Rapids; and Jomi (Anderson) and John (Jay) live here in Cherokee.

As for the film of the Donohoe family's 1927 encounter with baseball immortality, Joanne said the family was surprised when the story of Raycraft's discovery was first reported in the New York Times, because they have what they thought was the only copy of the film, safely tucked away. She thought that family members, or their representatives, are going to meet with Raycraft to try and determine which film is the original. Joanne also has a copy of the film on DVD.

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