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Unusual game of 'Auto Polo' comes to Statesboro
Bulloch History
roger allen
Roger Allen

Note: The following is one of a series of articles looking at events in the history of Bulloch County.

The Osage County News' online website, located at reveals a most dangerous, and for a short while, very popular sport: "Auto Polo." 

It stated, "The earlier version utilized a one-seat steam powered car called a “runabout,” with play taking place in an area roughly the size of a football field where participants hit a ball approximately as big as a basketball." 

And, "This new version was played using Model T cars stripped down to the frame to allow for higher speed and better maneuverability. Each car consisted of a team of driver and mallet man." 

So, "The mallet man often balanced himself on the edge of the vehicle to take a swing at the ball while the driver maneuvered the vehicle." The more daring "mallet man" would leap off the car after the ball with little care. 

It turns out as "Ford Motor Company was preparing to release the first mass-produced automobile, the Model T, at the end of 1908. Ralph ("Pappy" Hankinson) found employment at Jones Auto Exchange." 

"Jones did so well selling Ford vehicles (a) large warehouse (was built to) sell automobiles, refinish, and repair all facets of the automobile." In fact, "Jones' (game) of auto polo (demonstrated) the durability of the Model T."  

Auto polo (was) expensive (often) requiring cars to be entirely rebuilt (at Jones’ premier shop). In fact, "salesmen (who) participated as drivers for the auto polo cars (got) a year-round training before playing.” 

The Bulloch Times of Nov. 20, 1913 reported that a “game of Auto Polo is Thriller for Statesboro. Company of Professionals From New York Give Exhibition Here.” 

“The most thrilling sport that has ever been witnessed by a Statesboro crowd was the game of auto-polo presented at the Wright Athletic Field last Tuesday afternoon by a company of professionals from New York. 

“These gentlemen, 11 in number, arrived in the city about noon and attracted such interest that it was proposed to them that they tarry and give an exhibition, which they consented to do.

“On account of the short notice, very few people were present, but those who were there never witnessed a dull moment. The game is something on the order of football, except that it is played with automobiles.

“There were four machines in the contest, two men to each machine. One man drove and the other wielded the mallet. The ball used was about the size of a football.” 

The “point was for each opposing team to drive it into the other team’s corner. The ball was dropped in the center field and at a signal the opposing machines shot from their corners like lightning.” 

“The player who stood on the running board of his machine swiped the ball as he sped fast. If he made a good lick the ball was driven far on the way to the desired spot and the machine followed it at lightning speed.

“In the meantime, all the other machines were huddled around the player, his partner to assist, and the opposing players to obstruct.  It was a jumble and a scrimmage from beginning to end of the game.

“Fences were broken down, machines were turned over, tires flew off, and men fell out in rapid succession. The game finally ended after one of the machines had run over both balls and burst them.” 

This made “further playing impossible. In the meantime, though, there were plenty of shocks, and nobody was dissatisfied with the playing witnessed.” 

“It was not generally known by the spectators, but it is a fact that a member of this same company of players met death in Macon during the recent state fair when run over by one of the machines in one of these contests.” 

As stated earlier, “There were 11 men in the company here and they were on their way to Jacksonville, Fla., from where they will go to Cuba for the winter."

Roger Allen is a local lover of history who provides a brief look each week at the area's past. Email him at

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