|21st Century Townball||Fresno CA|
This game has evolved under the guidance of Daniel Jones of Fresno California. It is a blend of baseball predecessor games (notably, the Massachusetts Game) with aspects of early town ball and cricket.
(A background account is included in the Supplemental Text field, below.)
From the developer of the game, Daniel Jones:
"Some features of 21st Century Townball:
1. No foul balls (like TMG - the Massachusetts Game).
2. Stakes, but no base lines (like TMG).
3. Pegging the runners allowed (like TMG).
4. No set batting order (can change each round) (unique).
5. Stakes are 42, 68, 110, 110, 110 feet away, from first to fifth, respectively, in a (Fibonacci) spiral (Similar formation to TMG, but better geometry).
6. A “zone” behind the batter. If the pitch hits it, you are out (like cricket or stoolball).
7. If you hit the ball and don’t run, a strike is called against you (similar to cricket with limited overs).
8. A swing and a miss is only a strike if the catcher catches it (like TMG).
9. Three strikes and you are out. Third strike hit, batter obligated to run (unique, similar to TMG).
10. First team to eight runs, win by five, cap at thirteen, wins the game (similar to TMG).
11. 13 players per side (similar to TMG).
1860 baseball used (developed by Eric Miklich).
1930’s gloves only (or similar size)
bamboo bats recommended (because the ball is a little heavier)"
Aleut Baseball, called a "Sugpiat novelty," has been played on the Kenai Peninsula of Alaska. The Sugpiat are a Native population.
Although called baseball, its rules resemble the Russian game lapta, and players point out that the game differs from modern baseball in having only two safe-haven bases, retiring runners by throwing at them, and lacking a strike-out rule. The area was once a Russian colony, and hundreds of residents are reportedly of Russian descent. An airplane landing strip was the site of a game observed in 2007 and described in 2010. The game is associated locally with Easter Sunday, with some games played in the dawn light after Easter services.
Attributes of Aleut baseball include:
 there are no umpires
 two large safe zones for runners at the ends of the field
 two "home" areas for batting near the ends of the field
 sides take turns batting
 runners score one points when reaching an opposing base, and another for a safe return.
 multiple baserunners after any hit ball
 caught flies put the side out.
 soft tosses to batters
 baserunners can pick up balls thrown at them and try to plug members of the fielding side
 games can last several hours. Some games end when one side passes an agreed number of points (runs).
Note: Schoolchildren play a form of kickball resembling American baseball, using kicked rubber balls in place of batted tennis-style balls.
A hybrid cricket-baseball game reportedly introduced in Chicago in 1870. The game is described as generally having cricket rules, except with no LBW rule, and with the addition of a third base, so that the bases form a triangle with sides of 28-yards. We have no other accounts of this game.
"A NEW AMERICAN GAME
The Philadelphia Mercury contains the following: 'A new game of ball has recently been introduced in Chicago, under the name of American cricket. The field is laid out like a cricket-field, and the striker wields the willow instead of the ash. The bowler, who stands twenty-two yards from the striker, bowls as in cricket. The striker, in making a tally, runs to first base and then to third (dispensing with the second), these being in the form of a triangle and at a distance of twenty-eight yards apart. There are no fouls to cause delays. There are none of the stupid and senseless six-ball 'overs.' 'Out leg before wicket' is dispensed with, a rule which, while in force, gives great annoyance to the umpire and general dissatisfaction to the batsman. The prominent and attractive features of both the English game of cricket and the American pastime of base-ball are taken and rolled into one, thereby making a magnificent game.'"
From the 1860s to the 1880s, Navahos in NM played a gmae that evolved from one (possibly the Massachusetts game?) taught to them on a NM reservation mannned by the US Cavalry. This game is recalled as involving plugging, very feisty baserunning customs, no foul ground, four strikes, one-out-side-out innings, and multiple batters at the same time.
Elmore (1922) describes this as a game of attrition for ages 8-12 that involves throwing a ball against a wall. One player is named to catch it. If the player does, “stand” is shouted, and other players are to freeze in their places. If the player with the ball can plug someone, that player is out; if not, the thrower is out. This game has not batting or baserunning.
|Ball and Bases|
per Perrin (1902). A school-time running game of one-on-one contests between a pitcher and a batter, who propels the tossed ball with the hand and runs bases while the pitcher retrieves the ball. Caught flies and a failure to reach third base before the pitcher touches home with the ball in hand are outs. Batters receive one point for each base attained, and five for a home run. Three-out half innings are used.
Balagu ("foot-baseball") is identified as a form of kick-ball in Korea, a "staple in PE classes within elementary schools."
In May 2022, Protoball first heard of Banana Ball from Brett Hammond, who advised us of the following 2022 article in the Los Angeles Times. Additional input will be welcomed.
"For a collegiate summer league team — playing a rung below the minors — the Savannah Bananas draw big crowds when they barnstorm through the South and Midwest during the offseason. Fans come to see “Banana Ball,” a quirky version of baseball with a whole different set of rules. “We looked at every boring play,” franchise owner Jesse Cole says, “and we got rid of it.”
It's time for Banana Ball -
Fans in the game: Any foul ball caught by a spectator counts as an out.
No time to waste: Neither managers nor catchers can visit the mound and if a batter steps out of the box between pitches, it’s a called strike.
Run don’t walk: The moment the umpire calls “ball four,” the batter takes off sprinting and the defense snaps into action. Runners can keep going until the ball is thrown to every fielder, including outfielders. A walk can turn into a home run.
More running: Batters can steal first on any passed ball or wild pitch, regardless of the count.
No bunting. Really: If a batter bunts, he is thrown out of the game.
Match play: “Banana Ball” is like match play in golf. The team that scores the most runs during an inning gets a point for that inning. The win goes to the team with the most points at game’s end.
Skeleton crew: During extra innings, the defense gets only a pitcher, catcher and one fielder. If the batter puts the ball in play, he must try to round the bases and score before the ball is chased down and thrown home for an out.
Early to bed: “Banana Ball” has a strict time limit, with no new inning started after 1 hour 50 minutes."
More stuff to ponder:
|Base Dodge Ball|
Elmore (1922) describes this game as a form of Square Ball (Corner Ball) for 7th graders through high schoolers in which a player can prevent being called out by catching a ball thrown at him. An “indoor baseball” is used. The game involves no batting or baserunning.
America’s national pastime since about 1860. Writing about rounders in 1898, Gomme mused that “An elaborate form of this game has become the national game of the United States.” The term “baseball” actually arose in England as early as 1748, referring to a simple game like rounders, but usage in England died out, and was soon forgotten in most parts of the country. The term first appeared in the United States in 1791.
|Baseball on Ice|
The first known game of base ball played on ice skates occurred on in January 1861 near Rochester NY. Skating was very popular, and the hybrid game was played into the late 1800s.
A few special rules are known, a key one being that runners were not at risk when they overskated a base. Deliveries were pitches, not throws; a dead ball was used and the bound rule was in effect. A ten-player team deployed a left shortstop and a right shortstop.
Richard Hershberger posted the following on Facebook on 2/4/22:
"150 years ago in baseball: baseball on ice. This was a thing. Look at the list of the "Capitoline Ten" and you will see some top ball players. This is not true of the Brooklyn Skating Club's players, raising the question, is baseball or skating skill more important here? Good question. I don't know. I also don't know if there is money involved here, or if everyone is doing this for fun.
Adapting sports for ice skates was a thing more broadly. In Britain they sometimes played cricket on ice, which takes real devotion. They also adapted the fine old summer game of hockey to play on ice. This will spread to Canada, where it will be discreetly forgotten that they hadn't come up with the idea themselves.
Baseball on ice required some rules adaptations. Ten players is the most obvious, the extra fielder playing at right short. Chadwick had been advocating this for the regular game for years. Spoiler alert: It won't happen. But it was standard for the ice version. Over-skating the bases also was standard, and this variant did influence regular baseball. The rule allowing the batter-runner to overrun first base was borrowed from the ice game. This was a safety measure, advocating by George Wright who had pulled a hammy. But while safety was the motivation, ice baseball provided the solution to the problem. There will be discussions for another twenty years about extending the right to overrun to the other bases, but nothing will come of it. New York Sunday Mercury February 4, 1872:
Baseball for blind players. The balls emit beeps, and a base buzzes once a ball is hit. Runners are out if the ball is fielded before they reach base. Sighted players serve as pitcher and catcher for the batting team, but cannot field. There is a national association for the game, and annual World Series have been held since 1976.
per Fraser (1975) - A game played in Dundee, Scotland, in about 1900 and later understood as a “corruption of baseball.” Balls were hit with the hand instead of a bat, and the game evidently sometimes used plugging.
Maigaard (1941) notes they while most forms of rounders and longball are now lost, three - baseball, cricket, and bo-ball - remain vigorous. He places Bo-Ball in Finland. The only known source on this game, called Lahden Mailaveikot in Finnish, is a Finnish-language website, one that shows photographs of a vigorous game with aluminum bats, gloves, helmets, and much sliding and running but no solid hints for English-speakers about the nature of the game. Similarities to Pesapallo, including the gentle form of pitching, are apparent.
per Perrin (1902) – Apparently an indoor game derived from baseball. A member of the in-team throws the ball to an area guarded by the pitcher, and runs if and when the ball passes through. There is tagging but no plugging.
Bottle Caps is reportedly the name of a game similar to Corkball and Indian Ball in the St. Louis area. This game, called a "minor variant," employs bottle caps in place of corks or balls.
|Bowlywicket||Fall River, MA|
The game of bowlywicket, played at least as late as 1980, resembled a poor man's cricket, and used a broomhandle, three empty soda cans piled one-on-two, and a common "pinky" drugstore ball. Batters defend the teetering cans, and run to a second base to score runs.
It has been played in the city of Fall River MA, often by immigrants from France and Brazil, and may have evolved from a game played by workers from English cities in the late 1800s.
[A] per Bronner . Using three sidewalk squares, a “pitcher” throws the ball into the box closest to his opponent, who tries to slap the ball into the box closest to the pitcher. If he missed the box or the pitcher catches ball on the fly, it is an out. There is no baserunning. Also called “Boxball.”
[B] New York City streets are composed on concrete squares approximately [X?] feet square. Players would be separated by three squares. They would alternate pitcher/catcher and hitter depending on who was up. The pitcher had to have the ball bounce in the box closest to the batter. The pitcher would place the ball and fluke it in order to make it difficult to hit after the bounce. The batter was required to slap the ball so that it landed in the box closest tot he pitcher. If the pitcher caught the ball on a fly, it was an out. One bounce was a single, two a double, etc, The batter would try to hit the ball low and fast in order to get it past the pitcher.
A Swedish game, also played in Germany and Denmark. A batting and running game with four bases, this game involved fungo-style hitting to start a play. As in some forms of longball, a base can be occupied by more than one runner. A caught fly ball gives a point to the out team, but the runner is not thereby retired. Innings are timed. A home run is six points. A 90-degree fair territory is employed. This game may relate to Swedeball, a game reportedly played in the US upper midwest. It has been reported that that Brannboll is played in Minnesota, but no such references are known.
|British Baseball (Welsh Baseball)||Wales and England|
This adult game, sometimes referred to as Welsh Baseball (in Wales) and English Baseball (ii Liverpool England), has been played since the early 1900s, reportedly reaching a high point in the late 1930s. Something of a blend of modern baseball with some cricket features, it is known in Liverpool England and in Cardiff and Newport in Wales.
Owing to cricket, presumably, the game has no foul ground, comprises two (all-out-side-out) innings, teams of 11 players, and flat bats. 42-inch posts are used instead of bases. Underarm pitching is required. Runs are counted for each base attained by a batter (one run for a single, two for a double, etc.). Batters are required to keep a foot in contact with a peg in the batting area.
An annual "international game" has been played between a Liverpool team and one from Wales. In the 1920s crowds of over 10,000 were reported to attend the international context.
Martin Johnes writes that both the Liverpool game and the Welsh game likely evolved from rounders, with some local variation. In 1927 they agreed to common rules for their international game; Liverpool had restricted the placement of batters' feet and used one-handed batting, while Wales saw two-handed batting and less restricted batter placement.
Liverpool had been very active in rounders in the 19th century, they and the Welsh but switched to use the term "baseball" in 1892, possibly to distinguish the adult game from juvenile rounders play. A common set of rules was agreed to between the two governing groups in 1927.
Adult play in Liverpool is not thriving: from the website of the English Baseball Association, accessed 4/1/2016: "Sadly the game in Liverpool is in a very poor state and we have very few senior teams remaining.The junior game is where our game needs to grow and we still need to get a bit more interest as we try to generate interest with the youth in the Liverpool area.
"Through the help of schools, youth clubs, junior football teams or any other individuals willing to play the game we hope the game can survive for another 100 years."
Bunt is downsized baseball. One reported Massachusetts version was a one-on-one game in which any hit ball that reached the not-distant field perimeter was an out. The batter ran out hit balls, and the pitcher fielded them, but thereafter base advancement was done by ghost [imaginary] runners. Terrie Dopp Aamodt reports playing a similar game as an adolescent girl.
per Appel . Appel reports that the young Mike Kelly, growing up on Washington DC in the late 1860’s, first played Burn Ball, a form of base ball that included "plugging" or "burning" of baserunners by thrown balls.
A game in which a ball is tossed up among players and one player’s name is then called out. That player must obtain the ball and try to hit fleeing compatriots with it. Newell  notes that this game was played in Austria.
|Catch a Fly||Manhattan, New York|
A fungo game played in Manhattan in the 1950s. A fungo hitter is replaced by a fielder who catches a ball (or sometimes three balls) on the fly. Played when fewer than six kids were at the ballyard and a team game wasn’t possible.
per “Boys’ Own Book” (1881). A game similar to Nineholes, but without the holes. A ball is thrown up, and a player named. If that player cannot catch it before it bounces twice, he must plug another player or lose a point.
An October 2017 article on the Dominican game of vitilla notes, "In other baseball-loving countries ,vitilla exists in other forms. Chapita is a similar game from Venezuela, and major league players from there said they grew up playing it."
Coed softball is basically just softball using female as well as male players.
It is, however, evolving a bit independently. Local coed leagues have formed for after-work play in US cities. It seems to have become necessary to add some rules to ensure that women are not put at a disadvantage (and so continue to participate) among all those males with more ballplaying experience and more upper-body strength.
Examples include use of a smaller ball, requiring outfields to play deep enough to allow balls to drop in the outfield, requiring alternating genders in the batting order, etc.
[The game we played] "had only one batsman at a time, running to a point about 10 yards off to the right and back again after each hit . . . we called it Continuous Cricket. The blurring of the concepts of "bowled" and "run out" makes the game a bunch of fun to play."
Evidently primarily a St. Louis pastime, Corkball is presumably derived from baseball, involving down-sized bats and balls. The ball is pitched overhand from a distance of 55 feet. There is no running, but imaginary runners advance on hits by succeeding batters. Hit balls are defined as singles, and sometimes as longer hits, depending on where they land. Caught flies are outs. The game is said to have originated over a century ago among brewery workers using broomsticks and the bungs [corks] used to seal beer barrels. Team sizes vary from two to five players. Annual tournaments have been held at least through 2012. Dedicated corkball fields are reportedly found in St. Louis.
When played with tennis balls, the game is sometimes called Fuzz-Ball.
Some additional 2013 data from Corkball fan Jeff Kopp in St. Louis:
 The game was reportedly first played in about 1890.
 There are four active clubs in St.L, and pickup games appear on many Sundays at the Don Young Corkball Fields at Jefferson Barracks Park.
 Special balls and bats are supplied by the Markwort Sporting Goods Company.
 Isolated reports of corkball play are found in other US locations. Drummer Butch Trucks, a nephew of Tiger pitcher Virgil Trucks and founding member of the Allman Brothers Band, reportedly played corkball in Jacksonville FL and taught his band-mates the game. Another account places the game in an area from St. Louis "only" north to Springfield IL. A Chicago Corkball Club was reportedly active around 2010.
 Another form of the game, played with bottle caps in place of balls/corks, is called Bottle Caps.
|Curb Ball||New York|
"Curb ball - no baserunning - played with 1 -3 players per team on a side street directly under my (Bronx) bedroom window [which allowed me to participate whenever i wished because i could always hear the game organizing] - a 1 1/2 lane street separated the hitting curb from a 3 1/2 foot chain link fence beyond which was a 2 lane street beyond which was a small grassy rise - spaldeen was thrown against the curb - balls that missed the point of the curb and bounced off the building wall [~10 feet away] were foul balls but if caught on the fly were outs - balls that were thrown below the curb point were in play [but usually weakly hit]; balls hitting the point often went very far[or fast] - caught fly balls or caught grounders were outs, unfielded ground balls were singles - balls off the first fence were singles - balls over the first fence [where 2nd and 3rd players could be positioned] were doubles if not caught on the fly - balls on the rise were triples, balls over the walls were homers - major hazards were moving cars and mothers yelling out their windows for us to quiet down."
(Email from Raphael Kasper, February 3, 2020.)
Gregory Christiano describes curb ball as a game he played in the Bronx in the mid-1950s:
CURB BALL: Hit the 'spaldeen' against the sharp edge of the curb causing it to fly up as high as possible. The fielder must catch it on the fly to get an out...otherwise the number of bounces determines if it was a single, double, triple. Four bounces is a homer. There were no actual bases to run. The players would take turns when the inning was over. A regular nine-inning game was played.
A game played from 1916 to 1926, when it transformed into Softball. Diamond ball was also known as women's baseball. Particularly popular in Sarasota FL, this game was played in the 1920s on sandy beaches (sometimes at night under lights) , and uses a 14-inch ball like used in indoor baseball. Games were played in less than an hour, affording lunch-hour play.
A base-running game without balls or bats, this game was evidently invented by Russ Lopez in Nevada as a blend of baseball and frisbee. Two teams of six are suggested. It is to be played on a field that resembles a baseball diamond. A "flinger" tosses the disc into fair territory, and if uncaught by the fielding team, he/she advances base to base.
As of September 2013, this game had been invented, but not yet played.
A Scottish name for rounders as played by “Edinburgh street boys” in about 1880 and by schoolgirls in about 1900.
As of August 2020, Wikipedia has this general description of elle:
"Elle is a very popular Sri Lankan bat-and-ball game, often played in rural villages and urban areas. It involves a hitter, a pitcher and fielders. The hitter is given three chances to hit the ball pitched at him or her. Once the hitter hits the ball with the bat – often a sturdy bamboo stick – the hitter has to complete a round or run which includes four possible "stoppings" spaced 55 metres (180 ft) apart. A strikeout happens if the hitter's ball is caught by the fielding side or if the fielding side is able to hit the hitter with the ball while he or she is in the course of completing a run. The hitter can stop only at one of the three stoppings in the round thereby paving the way for another member of his team to come and become the hitter. The side that gets the highest number of (complete) runs wins the match."
The article cites a source with the claim that the game has a 2000-year history, but notes that this has not been documented, and suggests that it may date from the 1900s. It is reportedly played by males and females, and town vs town matches have been common.
12 to 16 players comprise a team. In today's game, tennis balls are commonly used. The batsman strikes a ball tossed softly by a teammate.
The essence of this boisterous game is perhaps conveyed in Youtube clips: in Summer 2020, a Youtube search for <elle match sri lanka> returned about 20 such displays. One unique feature is that a batter does not run bases;instead, a (usually barefoot?) teammate with a head start sprints around a circular path when a ball is struck. Caught flies are outs,and runners reportedly can be retired if hit between stopping points.
Ceylon was a British colony, and it is tempting to suppose that elle evolved from a rounders-like game, but Protoball has not seem such speculation.
Further information is welcomed. A large Facebook presence reflects the idea that elle should be embraced as Sri Lanka's national game.
Fielders catch fungo hits, with a caught fly worth 100 points, a one-bouncer 75 points, etc. A player who accrues 500 points becomes the hitter. In some versions, muffed catches deduct points, and the Hit-the-Bat option for returned throws is employed. Land’s review of schoolyard games includes two references to 500. It is also evidently called Twenty-One in some localities.
Writing in volume 5, no. 4 (April 2012) of Originals, Tom Altherr notes that a 1900 source on schoolyard games noted "The game of Flip Up or Sky-Ball is still played by smaller children, and sometimes by large ones (especially girls). It is often played by as many as a dozen players and is here as "Tip-Up," or "Tippy-Up." The 1900 source is D. C. Gibson, "Play Ball," Mind and Body: A Monthly Journal,Volume 7, no 73 (March 1900), page 7. No rules for this game are given, but Sky-ball is elsewhere descrived as a fungo game.
Gregory Christiano recalls this as a fungo game for times where there were too few players for stick-ball in The Bronx, New York in the mid-1950s. A fielder who caught the ball on the fly went “up” to bat.
Gary Land quotes New York City resident Michael Frank: “Hardball? Never. Other baseball-related games we played included Stickball in the street and “Flies-Up” in the playground. The latter game is not further described, but could be a species of Fungo.
|French Cricket||France, Australia|
"Plugging as in soaking the hitter - never read about that in Cricket except for 'French Cricket' (a picnic game played by kids in France & I played it too) where you stand with your feet together as if standing in attention, with the bat in front protecting it below the knees and surrounded by fielders/catchers surrounding you. The object is to hit the batter below the knee with the ball from any direction & the batter hits it away. If he looses his balance & one leg is lifted up or he gets hit on the leg, he is out. Fielders are about 10' away & the ball is thrown quickly at the legs."
Query: It would be interesting to know what the French name for this game is, and whether it relates to earlier folk games in France.
Protoball's Glossary of Games includes many nonrunning games in which the ball (or cat, or other object) is put in play by a batter who gently lofts a ball and bats, or "fungoes," it to other players. Some better-known examples are Brannboll (Sweden), Catch-a-Fly (Manhattan), Corkball (St. Louis), 500, Half-ball, Indian Ball (MO), Sky Ball (CT), and Tip-Cat.
Some early references:
Culin (1891): A batter fungoes balls to a set of fielders. A fielder who first catches a set number of balls on the fly becomes the batter.
Chadwick (1884) describes Fungo as requiring the hitter to deliver the ball on the fly to the fielders, or he loses his place. This practice probably has had numerous local variant names such as Knock Up and Catch and Knocking Flies.
It is common for those coaching baseball to give outfielders practice in judging and fielding fly balls by hitting balls toward them fungo-style.
Fuzz-Ball evidently takes many local variant forms, but all employ a tennis ball (often with its surface fuzz burned off and a slim bat. The number of strikes per out and outs per inning, among other parameters, vary from place to place. It is placed in the "fungo" category here, but in some areas real baserunning is seen, making it close to baseball. Teams are often small.
In St. Louis, some players use the term Corkball for Fuzz-ball.
|German Ball Game|
per Perrin (1902). This game involves pitching a ball to a batter who hits it into a field where an opposing team’s fielders are. He tries to reach a goal line at the end of the playing area [80 feet away] and to return to the batting zone without being plugged by the ball. There is no mention of the possibility of remaining safely at the goal area. Three outs constitute a half-inning, and a team that scores 25 “points” [runs] wins the contest. The game resembles the family of "battingball" games reported by Maigaard.
This game, described as an amalgam of Baseball and traditional German Schlagball, was introduced in 1986 by Roland Naul in the context of a revival of Turner games for German youth. In the mid-1990s, a one-handed wooden bat was developed especially for the game. As of October 2009, we are uncertain how the two sets of rules were blended to make this new game. The author mentions that the fielding team can score points as well as the batting team.
From 2012 searches, it is not clear that this game is still played.
|German Bat Ball|
A 1921 handbook and a 1922 handbook depicts German Bat Ball as a team game that uses a ball like a volleyball and that has neither a bat nor pitching. A “batter” puts the ball in play by serving or “posting” it [as in schoolyard punchball] and then running around a post (Clark) or to a distant safe-haven area (Elmore/O’Shea). A run is scored if the runner can return to the batting base without being plugged. It is unclear whether the runner can opt to stay at the distant base to avoid being put out. A caught fly is an out, and a three-out-side-out rule applies.
per Leavy. A biography of Sandy Koufax reports that he played “stickball, punchball, square ball, and Gi-Gi ball in his neighborhood. We don’t know what Gi-Gi Ball is.
per Wieand. This is a game with pitching and batting but no running. A caught fly ball results in an out, and the batter then goes to the outfield, or grutz, to begin his rotation back to the batting position. If a ball is not caught, the fielder tries to return it to home through an arch made by the batter.
Thomason (1975) recalls Half-Rubber as a 1930s school recess game involving a sponge-rubber ball sliced cleanly in half and a sawed-off broomstick as a bat. Thrown side-arm, the ball had good movement, and was difficult to field. There was no running, but outs and innings were recorded and (virtual) base advancement depending on the lengths that the ball was batted.
(A 1997 newspaper article recalls a similar game recalled as Half-Ball being played in the Philadelphia area.)
This game emerged in about 1910 in the SC/GA area of the south, and retained strong popularity into the 1970s.
Halfball was a game using half of a rubber ball and imaginary baserunning. It seems likely to resemble Half-Rubber, which was reportedly played in the US. South and the Philadelphia area.
It is also described as a street game on Wikipedia.
Baby Boomer Jack Hammer (actual name!) describes Half Ball as a subspecies of a street game (known there as stickball) as played in Cambridge MA in the late 1950s. The ball used in this game was a hollow pink spiky object known as a "pimple ball," which, when stressed by play, tended to split open along its seam. The players separated the two halves, and the resulting game was called half ball. A half ball had interesting aerodynamic behaviors.
The bat used in this game was a broom handle sawed off at about 30 inches. Man-hole covers in the street could serve as bases for actual baserunning. Jack adds: "Besides manhole covers, sometimes we marked outlines of bases with chalk (rarely available) or with pieces of slate roof tiles. Sometimes we used a board for home or second base. First base and third base could be a tree, a utility pole, or the tail light or head light of parked vehicles." (Email of 12/31/2019.)
Another subspecies of game , called "Judge," employed imaginary runners.
For these games, oncoming traffic was marked by a common shriek -- "Carrr!!!" -- that cleared the motorway of lads.
|Hildegarde||England and New York|
[A] Hildegarde is described in an 1881 publication as a new English game that was "a combination of the noble old English one of Cricket with the popular American one of Base-ball. It is especially adapted in its arrangements and implements to fit it for the use of ladies."
The game was played with 15-inch paddles and 2.5-inch rubber balls. Three poles, several yards apart, are both the bases and targets that can put batters and runners out. Teams of from two to fifteen are accommodated, and a "scrub" (non-team) form is an option when very few players are available. A pitcher throws pitches with one foot placed on a foot-base located amid the three bases and at a distance of ten feet.
[B] "The new game of Hildegarde will encounter vigorous criticism . . . [It is} a combination of football and cricket . . .a big, soft ball being struck with a wide bat as well as kicked . . . "
[C] "Wingfield’s  invention [of lawn tennis]included ‘five-ten’, a combination of tennis and fives, and ‘Hildegarde’, a hybrid of real tennis with rounders and cricket.
[D] "The new Game of Hildegarde, or Ladies' Cricket . . ."
[E] 1883 game account in New York City.
|Hit the Bat|
A fungo game in which a ball is hit to a group of fielders. If one of them can roll the ball back and hit the bat so that the ball hits the ground before the batter can catch the ricochet, the two exchange places.
Baserunning and pitching are not part of this fungo game.
[As recalled in Central New York in the 1950s]
|Hit the Stick||Brooklyn|
per Culin. A team game resembling Kick the Ball, but using a simple catapult to put into play a 3-inch stick instead of a ball. Fly outs retire the batsman. The bases are the four street-corners at an intersection.
H. J Philpott used the names "hole-ball and "wibble-wobble" as games that seem consistent with hat-ball. One player would place the ball in a hole or hat, and the other players would scatter before being hit with the ball by the player designated as "it." This game thus shares evasive running and plugging with base ball.
Scotland - per MacLagan. The Scots name for the ordinary English game of Rounders. Pitched balls are struck by hand.
Confected in 2009 at an unidentified school in Howland, Ohio, this game (“usually played from May to September”) melds baseball and rounders. Teams of six players populate an area with an infield in the form of an isosceles triangle [two sides are 83 feet long, and the base is 62 feet long, with home set at the angle at the right side of the base, and foul lines extending from home through the two running posts]. The counterparts to balls and strikes are influenced by whether a pitch lands in a net to the rear of the home square. Apparently, a batter cannot stay at a base, but must try to complete a round before the fielders can return the ball to the net. A local league is reported to play the game.
Per Brewster, 1953: A down-sized, non-running baseball variant. Two teams of five players form. A regular softball is pitched underhand to the batter. Outs are recorded for caught fly balls and ground balls cleanly fielded inside the baselines. Unlimited swings are permitted. Three-out-side-out innings and five-inning games are prescribed. The playing field is represented in a figure showing a fair ground of less than 45 degrees.
See also the text of "Teach Your Kids to Play Indian Ball!," below. The variant of the non-running game Indian Ball described in this 2013 article entails pitching by a member of the batting team, strikes called on all balls that are not hit fair (including pitches not swung at), outs on short fair hits, home runs for suitably long fair hits, employment of a baseball or tennis ball, and ghost runners. The author, at playcorkball.com, stresses that players can play this game without adult supervision.
An account of Indian Ball as played in St. Louis in 2008 is found at http://www.stlmag.com/St-Louis-Magazine/July-2008/What-the-Is-Indian-Ball/.
Evolving from an 1887 innovation in Chicago involving a broomstick as a bat and a boxing glove as the ball, indoor baseball is described in a 1929 survey as particularly popular in gymnasiums in the US mid-west in the early 20th century. The game of softball traces back to indoor play.
Origins -- On Thanksgiving Day at te Farragut Club in Chicgo in 1887, a participant recalled, "[T]he fellows were throwing an ordinary boxing glove around the room, which was struck at by one of the boys with a broom. George W. Hancock suddenly called out, 'Bpys, let's play baseball!'" Hancock was later known as the Father of Indoor Baseball.
|Ins and Withs||Philadelphia, PA|
A name for Scrub used in Philadelphia in the 1930s and possibly before/after that.
A communication received from Peadar O Tuatain describes what is known of the ancient game of Irish Rounders. Details of the old game are apparently lost to history, but some rules encoded in 1932 were used for a revival in 1956, and the revival version, which resembles baseball much more than it does English rounders, is still being played. It employs a hurling ball and a game comprises five three-out innings. The game is played without gloves and, perhaps unique among safe-haven games, batted balls caught in the air are not outs.
per Brewster. A team form of Hat Ball. A player throws a ball to the other group, and runs toward it. If the receiving group can plug the thrower, he is captured, and the game continues until one side is depleted.
"As a rule, boys played rougher games. One of them was the competitiveKichke-pale or Chizshkes, as it was known in the Polesie region. Kichke-pale was an East European Jewish version of cricket or baseball, and was similar to the English game called Peggy. The kichke was a small peg pointed at both ends, while the pale was the longer stick. The kichke was placed on an elevated spot, near a hole in the ground. The player would hit the pointed end of the peg with the larger stick that would send the peg flying into the air. He would then run and again try to hit the peg while it was airborne, to send it farther away from the plate. The more times one hit the peg, the more skilled the player. The other player would run to get the peg and throw it to the plate. The peg was not to be struck on its return to the plate. But if it were not successfully returned, the first player would then strike the peg wherever it happened to fall. This would continue until the second player got the peg back to the plate, after which he became the striker and the other player, the catcher. The game would go on until the second player scored a given number of hits of the peg, usually twenty or thirty. The loser would then have to give the winner what was called a yarsh, which meant that the winner would have the right to strike the peg even when it was being returned to the plate. The yarsh would end when the peg fell on the plate."
|Kick the Ball||Brooklyn|
per Culin (1891). A team game generally resembling Kickball, but using a small rubber ball. There is no plugging; runners are out if they are between bases when the fielding team returns the kicked ball to a teammate near home. No mention is made of fly outs. There is a three-out-side-out rule, and a game usually comprises four innings. Johnson (1910) lists Kick the Ball as a Baseball game.
|Kick the Can||Brooklyn|
per Culin. A game identical to Kick the Wicket [below] but using a can instead of a wicket.
|Kick the Wicket||Brooklyn|
per Culin. The wicket is a piece of wood or a short section of a hose. Players kick the wicket, and then run among [usually four] bases. An “it” player tries to catch the ball, or to retrieve and reposition it while baserunners are between bases. The game is not described as a team game.
A traditional school recess game in the U.S., Kickball has lately grown in popularity as a co-ed adult game. Kickball strongly resembles Baseball, but the large rubber ball is put in play by bowled delivery and struck by a kicker-runner, who then runs from base to base. Plugging below the neck retires a runner who not at a base. The rules of the World Adult Kickball Association, with 25,000 registered members, specifies 11 players per team, 60-foot basepaths, and a strike zone about 30 inches wide and one foot high.
|King’s Play (Cluich an Righ)||Scotland|
per MacLagan. A player stands at the center of 11 stations marked with a stone, and a player at each. At the central player’s signal, the other 11 must change positions, and he tries to strike one with the ball before they can complete their move. Each position can be occupied by but one player.
|Kitten Ball||Chicago, Minnesota|
An off-shoot of Indoor Baseball played early in the 20th Century. In 1920, 64 men's teams and 25 women's teams played regularly in the Twin Cities. Authorites changed the name of the game to diamond ball in 1922. In the 1930s, the game merged with sofball.
A fungo game in which a player who catches the ball on the fly qualifies to become the hitter. Regionally variant names include Knock-Up and Knock-Up and Catch.
“Among the several types of Dutch kopfspeel there is one like rounders.” No other lead to kopfspeel is provided, and we don't know if the game is still alive.
|Kuningsapallo||Finland||a traditional Finnish game, features of which were incorporated into Pasepallo.|
Maigaard (1941) notes they while most forms of rounders and longball were now lost, three - baseball, cricket, and bo-ball - remain vigorous. Bo-Ball is played in Finland. The only known source on this game, called Lahden Mailaveikot in Finnish, is a Finnish-language website, on that shows photographs of a vigorous game with aluminum bats, gloves, helmets, and much sliding and running but no other helpful hints for English-speakers. Similarities to Pesapallo are apparent.
HELP? Can you help us get a fix on the nature of contemporary Lahden Mailaveikot?
Lang Ball appears to have been credited to Charles Gregory Lang, director of the YMCA gym at St. Joseph, MO, late in the 19th Century.
Base ball rules generally govern baserunning, but an 1894 describes a quite different way to put the (soccer) ball in play. The ball "is batted will the soles of the feet, the batter at the time hanging from a bar . . . . When the ball is served by the pitcher, he [the kicker] shoots out his legs and kicks it with both feet." Plugging runners, 'tho used in some forms of kickball, is not mentioned in this account. According to an earlier 1892 description, games could be played by teams or the scrub version of rotation among fielding and striking roles.
Lang Ball was last cited in a 1930 publication. Some estimate that it led to the game of kickball.
Apparently a form of Stickball played in Chicago area streets as early as the 1940s that uses 16-inch circumference softballs (the standard softball is about 12 inches), a slow-pitch delivery, small teams, and an unspecified bat. The type of hit achieved depended on where the ball fell among lines marked on the street (implying that baserunning was not part of this game.
Only two sources mentions this game. Cassidy implies that there were only two bases, and that if a runner only got to the far base, that runner would need to return home as the pitcher and catcher played catch. The era of play is uncertain.
A 2004 website for a teen camp program also soptslights its "long-dutch baseball" tradition for both boys and girls. The camp is located at Onaway Island in Wisconsin.
|Matball (Big Base)|
This invented game, an invented form of Kick Ball, is an indoor game reportedly played in many US schools. It uses large mats instead of bases, and multiple runners can safely occupy a base. The standard format uses an all-out-side-out rule to define a half-inning, can involve large teams, can have areas (e.g., a scoreboard or a basketball hoop) for designated home runs, a fly rule, tagging, and scoring only when a runner passes home and successfully returns to first base. Some schools use the infield format of Massachusetts base ball - the striker hits from between the first and fourth base. Foul territory varies, but forward hits are required.
|Mickey||New York City, NY|
Described in 1977 as a children’s game played at PS 172 in New York City, Mickey resembles traditional Barn Ball. A pitcher bounces a spaldeen ball off a wall and a batter tries to hit it on the rebound. Rules for baserunning and scoring are not given.
per Brewster. Baseball for small groups. This game is very similar to Scrub, Work-up and Rounds, but sets the usual number of players at 12, and specifies a rotation of 1B-P-C-batter instead of 1B-C-P-batter. A variant name is Move-up Piggy.
per Brewster. A Czech variant of Call Ball is called Nations. Each player is assigned a country name, a ball is placed in a hole, and a country name is called out. The player with that name retrieves the ball as all others start running away. The ball-holder can then call “stop,” and the others must freeze in position while he attempts to plug one of them.
This game is mentioned, along with Swede Ball in a 1908 book on North Dakota folkways. Said to be taught to local children by Swedish newcomers and a Swedish teacher, the game is only depicted as being “played somewhat like ‘one old cat.’” It seems conceivable that this game is Brannboll. Maigaard (1941) notes a Norwegian form of Long Ball, noted as “probably recent,” that uniquely uses a field that resembles baseball’s use of a 90-degree fair territory delimitation.
Novaball was played as All-Star competition by the Arlington softball program in 2001 and 2002. Each inning, one team selected a special rule for that inning; examples are clockwise baserunning, the use of 6 bases in place of 4, force outs implemented by throwing the ball into a 5-gallon paint bucket, etc.
|Off The Point||New York City|
Off the point
A variety of games could be played by throwing a ball against a pointed surface such as a curb or step. A ball that missed the point would become a ground ball. A ball that hit the point could be a pop-up, line drive, etc. Some type of infield boundary was established. A ball that bounced inside the boundary is out, one that cleared the boundary and bounced is a hit, and each bounce added another base. Four bounces was a home run. If the ball was caught before it bounces, it was an out.
Curb ball is the most difficult variation because the curb is low and there is no backstop. Also, there is no obvious infield boundary.
An easier alternative is stoop ball because the step is slightly higher, there is usually some type of backstop, and the edge of the sidewalk is a convenient infield boundary.
Many New York apartment buildings incorporate a wonderful architectural detail: a concrete molding that trims the building at the base and is typically about 18 inches high. This provides a perfect point and backstop. The rules are the same as for stoop ball.
I was raised in off-the-point heaven, a building that was clearly designed with the game in mind because in addition to the molding, it had chamfered corners. Instead of coming to a point, each corner had a two-foot flat surface, which made it easy to create a diamond. Even better, there were fences across the street facing the corner. This made it possible to hit home runs over the fence. This configuration also made it possible to have a wider field that could handle more than one fielder and even to create bases so that we could play with runners rather than counting bounces.
The corner configuration also made it possible to hit straight away or to pull the ball by hitting the point at an angle. Hitting to the opposite field was tougher because it could result in hitting yourself with the ball. (You have to picture what this would entail.) The trick was to essentially run across the flat corner and throw the ball back across your body toward the point so that it took off behind you. When properly executed, it was a moment of rare grace and beauty—but usually it was an exercise in humiliation.
We were so serious about this game that we created permanent scoreboards. The asphalt softened enough on sunny days that we were able to carve a scoreboard into the street. We’d record the score in the boxes with chalk and wash it away after the game.
We also kept track of home runs. One year I was contending for the lead at the end of the school term with 25 or so dingers. But my parents had rented a summer place, and I couldn’t play for two months. While I was away, those who stayed behind were free to play all day. When I returned, my main competitor was approaching 300.
The people who lived in the building, especially in the ground floor apartments, did not appreciate our games. They convinced the building superintendent to spread rough concrete over our beautiful, sharp-edged point, but the tactic did not succeed. The rough and uneven surface only made the game more challenging and interesting because now we could create surprising angles by aiming for particular spots.
See also: stick ball, punch ball, box ball, slap ball.
|Off The Wall||Brooklyn, The Bronx|
The game was often played at a handball court or wall in a schoolyard.
The team that is up throws the ball off the wall. If it is caught it is an out. If it lands in foul territory it is an out. (Foul territory is determined by player consensus at the start of the game.)
For each bounce the ball takes it is a base gained. Four bounces is a home run. Invisible (imaginary) runners.
As a backyard game, the ball can bounce off the garage door, gutter, or slanted roof behind the fielder. If it hits the gutter and bounces it is an automatic triple. If it bounces of the roof and hits the ground it is an automatic home run.
If you throw the ball high off the first wall you can have the ball hit the roof and bounce all the way back off the first wall, making for a difficult catch.
The "lightening" option -- When the fielder catches the third out, he/she can throw the ball off the wall immediately, catching the new fielder out of fielding position. An easy way to get a home run. Lightening has to be called in the beginning of the game. You can also play that the thrower has to call lightening out loud before the throw.
As a game played in an alley (10 to 12 feet between houses): The player "at bat" throws the ball against one wall, to a minimum height of 10-15 feet, depending on how tall the players are. Skills: [a] throwing the ball off one wall so that it hits the other wall just above the fielder, making for a hard catch, [b] throw the ball so it hits the fielder and rolls away for a home run.
The Bronx, mid-1950s (also called White Wall):
"The west end of 184th street ended at Park Avenue because of the sunken railroad track. There was a fifteen-feet long four-foot high white concrete median erected there to guide cars away from the tracks. This barrier was used for a game called Off-The-Wall. Each corner at the end of 184th street had an open sewer, which we used for bases. There were three bases ... first, third and home only. A square box was painted in the middle of the wall. A 'batter' faced the wall ready to start play. He would slam the ball against the box and run toward the first sewer. The fielder would throw to the first baseman for the out...and the game was under way. That section of Park Avenue, which paralleled the tracks, was still cobblestone surface, so when the ball bounce on the ground it took all sorts of crazy hops and spins. It made for a real interesting game. Kids from other neighborhoods came there to use that wall.
One note to make is that passing traffic constantly interrupted street games. The children were forever alert and ready for the next truck, car or wagon coming up the street."
A game played at the intersection of West 184th Street and Park Avenue in New York City, as recalled by Gregory Christiano. A player would slam the ball into a painted square on a concrete median barrier, and it would rebound onto Park Avenue, then still paved with cobblestones. The player would then try to reach the first base (an open sewer) before a fielder could field it and throw to the baseman there. There were two sewer-bases and home in this game.
The game was played as late as the 1940 by the Mi-kmaq tribe in eastern Canada. "Old-fashion preserved an intriguing number of remnantsof ball-games of the pre-Knickerbocker era,including no foul ground, one out per inning, soaking (plugging), and soft, hnome-made balls." The rules were reported to be flexible.
|Om El Mahag||Libya|
In a 1939 account, Om El Mahag is described as elementary baseball, and said to be analogous to rounders and old-cat. It was reported that Om El Mahag was only played by the Berber tribes.
Descriptions of the game are not detailed enough at this point to determine how it related, or relates, to base ball, long ball, or other early safe-haven games.
A 1934 reference from Massachusetts: “One-three-one-one” was the old game the boys used to play when I went to school. Regular baseball - very similar to Stub One.”
Query: This is our only reference to one-three-one-one or Stub One. Can we find others? Is it reasonable to surmise that "1 3 1 1" reflected the number and deployment of fielders?
This game is described as a reduced form of softball with no running (ghost runners determine when runs score) and soft tossing by a team-mate as pitching. Fair ground is defines by an acute angle much smaller than 90 degrees, and a line is drawn about 20 yards from home. Three or four players make up a team. Balls hit past the line and not caught on the fly are counted as singles, unless they pass the deepest fielder. A bobbled grounder is counted as Reached on Error. The game is played as a beach game in the San Diego area. Pitches are gentle lobs. Peter Morris writes that this game is an offshoot of softball.
Described as akin to Pepper, this bat-control game involved hitting lobbed pitches toward a fence featuring extra-base zones. Cleanly-fielded balls, wide hits, and hits over the fence were outs. Baserunning is not part of this game.
A drill to sharpen the batting eye and fielding reflexes in baseball. A few players stand side by side in a line and toss the ball to a batter who hits short grounders to them in turn. Forms of the game involve penalizing players for fielding errors and mis-hits. There is no running and no team play in this exercise.
A lifelong baseball man Reflected on the game of pepper. "Another problem [with today's practices] is the absence of pepper games. I had a discussion once with Ted Williams, ans we both agreed that playing pepper was important in the conditioning of every player. Every movement that you make in a pepper game, whether you're swinging a bat or fielding the ball or throwing the ball or whatever, you would use in a professional baseball game. . . . But pepper games are gone. . . . It would still be worth putting every player through a pepper session every day."
Pesapallo is “Finnish Baseball.” This invented game is based on American baseball, and on the traditional Finnish games kuningaspallo, pitkapallo, and poltopallo, and was introduced in 1922. Some call it Finland’s national game.
Pesapallo involves two 9-player teams, pitching via vertical toss from close to the batter, a zigzag basepath of progressive length [about 65 feet from home to first, about 150 feet from third to home], optional running with fewer than two strikes, a three-out-side-out rule, runners being either “put out” or “wounded” (thus not counted as an out, and allowed to bat again), no ground-rule home runs, and four-inning games.
Nations with sizable Finnish emigrants (Sweden, Canada, Australia, New Zealand) compete in the annual world cup of Pesapallo.
|Philadelphia Bat Ball|
Called an “advanced form” of German Bat Ball, this game involves three bases for runners instead of one, and runners can remain at a base if they believe they cannot safely advance further. Runners can tag up after caught flies. Otherwise, the rules of German Bat Ball apply.
Heslop (1893) defines this word: “a game resembling the game of Rounders, however, the ball is always struck with the hand.”
A game - evidently evolved uniquely by Bob Boynton -- with two players, a field marked with zones for singles, doubles, etc., and employing a ping-pong ball thrown from 33 feet to a batter standing at a home plate of 12 inches square. Bats were the size of broomsticks with toweling for padding. There was some fielding but all “baserunning” used only imaginary runners.
Gregory Christiano recalls this urban game as being a derivative of Stickball for two or more players. A square painted on a building was the strike zone. A batter used a broomstick to hit a pitched spaldeen ball across the street, where the height at which the ball hit a wall across the street determined the bases advanced orand runs scored. This game could be played with only two players. He played he game in The Bronx in the mid-1950s.
a traditional Finnish game, features of which were incorporated into Pesapallo.
Johnson (1910) lists Playground Ball among seven “Baseball" games. The rules of this game are not explained.
This game is modification of cricket evidently designed to expedite play, and is played at several English schools. Batters must run when they make contact with a bowled ball. Bowled balls can not hit the ground in front of the wicket, and a baseball bat is used instead of a flat cricket bat.
Maigaard (1941) lists this game as the Swiss variation of Long Ball.
"Puddox is a game that was introduced to Boston Grammar School by Robin Gracey in 1990/91. It is a combination of rounders and cricket. Two teams participate, made up of form members from each class and the teams are drawn randomly from a hat. Often first year teams (now year 7) would meet 15 year old lads but size meant little in Puddox, as Mr Gracey would attest, being quite short himself.
John Huggins recalls playing Puddox at Boston Grammar School in 1962. He believes it had migrated there from the Stamford School where it was popular.
The batting team sends out two players to stand at either end of the 'pitch' which is (as far as I remember) about the length of a cricket pitch. The bowler only bowls from one end, and a small baseball-style ball is used. Bowling uses the under-arm style. The batting team uses a small one-handed bat. Runs are made by running to the end of the pitch, just like cricket. I seem to remember a rule that you can only run if you'd made contact with the ball.
There is a time limit for each team (I think these games were played during lunch hours but that may be wrong!) and at the end of the game, scores are collated and the winning team is put through to the next round."
Aka Puddock, and arguably played from the 1920s on.
Youtube commentary from 1999-2022:
Hello Tim, For 111 (one hundred and eleven) years there has been an annual camp held for youngsters of 11-16 years of age... this has happened, with exception of the first 5 years(1908-1913), at Hermanus, about 130 km East of Cape Town, on the coast in South Africa. Having watched your posted video of Puddox played at Boston Grammar School, it struck me that many hundreds of youngsters and ex campers would be interested to find out more of the origins of Puddox. Now named the "Annual Hermanus Camp", after many years having been called the Kenilworth Scout Camp, the camp is usually held for about 10-12 days, commencing on 27th or so of December, our height of summer. If you are interested to find the odd photos they'd probably be findable on the web page of the Annual Hermanus Camp. Puddox , I believe, is only played in this camp in SA!There seem to be one or two minor differences in the rules of play for the Puddox at the AHC camp. Do make contact through the AHC facebook, or the web page, if you are interested. Best, Mark.
Blimey, I miss playing this game. I remember the tournaments very fondly."
Entered by Bruce Allardice, 6/6/2022. Supplemented by L McCray, 6/10/2022.
[A] This is a variation of baseball in which a rubber ball is punched, and not hit with a bat, to start a play. One set of modern rules is at http://www.spaldeen.com/punchball.html. Johnson (1910) lists Punch Ball under “Baseball games.”
[B] A big-city form of this game is recalled by Gregory Christiano as being played in The Bronx in the 1950s:
"Played with a 'spaldeen' and a fist in the middle of the street. Similar to a stickball game except that there was no pitching-in or use of a stick. The "batter" would throw the ball in the air and punch it toward the fielders, and running the bases (which were usually car door handles on parked cars), tires or sewers. It was scored like a regular baseball game."
[C] Brooklyn. "Regular baseball rules. Batter uses fist to hit. One swing. Miss ball and you are out. No bunting, no stealing. Sometimes when there were not enough players for full teams you had to shorten the field by bringing in the foul lines so that you virtually played on a square, with the foul lines each 90 degrees from first and third bases. You had to do this because with a fist a good player could place a line drive anywhere on the field. So there were 9 or 10 players on the field. No pitcher because the batter held the ball and there was no bunting. Catcher is the most important position as this is a hitter's game. Scores are 20-30 runs a team. Many plays at the plate. Most outs are made on the bases. Very action-packed game. (Communication from Neil Selden and Mark Schoenberg on Brooklyn games.)
[D] Bronx. "Punch ball in another section of the p.s. 81 schoolyard, located between 2 fences - baserunning involved - played with from 3 to infinity players per team - scraggly schoolyard trees formed first and third bases, a sand pit [located on the schoolyard for no good reason and never used for any purpose other than as second base] was second base, home plate was marked on the concrete - batter bounced spaldeen, hit it with a closed fist, and then ran the bases - most regular baseball rules applied. (E-Mail from Raphael Kasper, 2/3/2020.)
[E] A brief 4/30/1989 letter to the New York Times argued that stickball was a "sissyfied" sport in comparison to punchball. "We played with six or seven players, nickel a player. We had one-sewer homers and two-sewer homers. The game was so popular in Brooklyn that a daily newspaper, The Graphic, sponsored a punchball tournament, pitting one street against another." The players used a spaldeen, and chalked in foul lines and first and third bases."
per Brewster. When a player throws a ball high in the air, the others run away. When he catches it, he yells “caught,” the others freeze in position, and he tries to plug them.
per Culin. (Elsewhere Roly Poly, Roll Ball, Roley Holey.) Each player defends a hole (or hat). If another player rolls a “medium-sized” rubber ball into the hole, he tries to hit another player with it to prevent having a count made against him.
McCurdy (1911) lists this game, along with Old Cat and Fungo, as minor forms of bat-and-ball. One might speculate that it is a non-team game like Scrub and Move-Up, in which players rotate among positions on the field as outs are made.
|Round Cat||US South|
Round Cat is a game noted by Tom Altherr in September 2009. We find several brief mentions of this game being played from Washington DC southward, but no explanation of how it was played. One account identifies it as similar to Scrub as played in New England.
per Brewster. Baseball modified for small groups. Players count off, the first two or three becoming batters, the next the pitcher, the next the catcher, the next first base, etc. For most outs, the retired player goes to the last fielding position, and others move up one position, the pitcher becoming a batter. For fly outs, the batter and the successful fielder exchange places. The game is not notably different from Scrub and Workup.
Gene Carney describes this game as a one-out-all-out team game, but notes that “a fielder catching a ball on the fly joined the offense immediately.”
"In Brooklyn in the early 1960s, we played a game called "Running Bases". It was played similar to Peter [Mancuso]'s [account of] Base, except a rubber ball (Spaulding or Pennsy Pinky) was thrown between a person on each side who had to tag you with the ball. Rundowns, as in baseball, were the norm. No score was kept to my recollection."
On March 15, 2021, SABR member Rich Moser of (Town?, CA) recalled a game organized by his junior high teacher in California in 1973. He remembers that it had these rules:
"1. only two (running) bases instead of three
2. no tagging a base to get a runner out, meaning the fielders had to tag the runners
3. no baseline rules, so a runner could run anywhere he wanted to avoid being tagged—except he had to stay on campus. He could elect to hide in the distant outfield or the shrubbery to distract the defense, so they might forget about other runners and let them score
4. multiple runners could occupy the same base at a time
5. there was no foul territory, so batters could elect to turn and hit the ball backwards or to wherever there weren’t any fielders."
Plugging runners was not allowed. Players used gloves and played with a soft ball.
|Sixteen-Inch Softball (No-Glove Softball)||Chicago area|
A 2009 article reports on a game played mostly in Chicago involving a ball of 16” circumference and using no gloves. No other variations are covered. The article is not clear on the local name for the game, but another account calls the large ball a “clincher,” and notes that games were sometimes played in the street. (Note: Line Ball, another Chicago game, also used a large ball.) It appears that the game generally follows the rules of softball.
Query: Can you supply further details about this game?
|Slap Ball -- Brooklyn||Brooklyn|
Slap Ball. This game taught the esoteric rules of of the game. It was strickt baseball.
Pitcher pitched on a bounce with flukes. Ump called balls and strikes -- the ball had to cross the plate in the strike zone. Bunting and stealing ans pickoffs were permitted. Hitter could hit the ball with an open hand only.
Note: You could not steal bases if you did not know how to slide. Sliding on concrete can be painful. But if you went to Coney Island and practiced for a good while on the sand , you could learn to slide well enough not to get hurt sliding on concrete. However, no pair of pants could last more than a game: serious punishment for ruining dungarees.
"Slapball. The game is similar to Stickball but there are fewer players, no teams, pitchers, or strike zones, and the ball is slapped instead of hit by a stick or bat. It is usually played when there are not enough players aaround fjor a game of Stickball.
Players: Three to five.
Supplies: Pinky Ball, four bases or chalk.
Object: To slap the ball hard and far enough to run around all the bases without being tagged or forces out at a base.
To play: All the players except the hitter are out in the field or covering the bases. The hitter throws the ball up, fungo-style, slaps the ball in mid-air with the palm of her hand, and runs around the bases."
If the batter completes the circuit, she is given a run and bats again. If put out, she takes the last field position and rotates until having another batting turn.
"Variation: Punchball. In this game, the hitter throws the ball fungo style and punches it instead of slapping it with her hand."
|Slavonic Long Ball||Poland|
Maigaard (1941) lists this game. It varies from other regional variations in placing the batting area mid-way between the home area and the first of two "resting areas" for runners. It is possible that this represents a form of Palant.
Query: can we determine the local name for this game?
"There were no bats, no nything except a lot of boys, as a ball with which they were trying to hit one another. But if one threw and missed, or his ball was caught, he was out. When all but one, or an agreed number, were out, the game was ended."
Thus, "sockball" seems to have been a game we might now call dodgeball.
An 1887 source reporting that Rounders was still being played in some Southern and Western states, also noted that the game was called Sockey in some states. Our only reference to Sockey is in an 1888 recollection of ballplaying at a PA school, and notes that this game was played against the wall of a stable.
As described in Bealle, Softball evolved from Indoor Baseball, which was first played in 1887. Softball rules are close to Baseball rules, but the infield dimensions were set to be smaller and the ball is pitched with an underhand motion. A full team has ten players. Many forms are played, depending on the age and agility of the players. The term Softball debuted in 1926.
The name for rounders in Crathie in Scotland around 1900, according to a 1975 source.
per Leavy. A biography of Sandy Koufax reports that he played “stickball, punchball, square ball, and Gi-Gi ball in his neighborhood. In one 1922 handbook, Square Ball appears to be a variant of Corner Ball in which the peripheral plugging team and the central target team are equal in number, and is which the ball, after hitting a player on the target team, can be retrieved, “Halt!” called, and the ball thrown at “frozen” members of the peripheral team.
A game usually played in urban streets. The ball is rubber -- a “spaldeen,” now virtually the same that used in racketball, and bats vary but include broom handles. Allowances are made for traffic of various sorts, and the bases are specified at the start of play. (Verification needed.)
[A] One variation of the game is found in a recollection of Bronx play by Gregory Christiano (see Supplemental Text, below). Gregory played in The Bronx in the mid-1950s.
[B] Brooklyn variants:
1- With (invisible, or "ghost" base runners). Pitching and balls and strikes. Strikes determined by a chalk drawn box on wall behind batter. Box is filled in with chalk so that all strikes make a mark on the ball. Ball has to be wiped off after strike.
A ball hit past the pitcher on a fly is a single, a hit midway to the outfield fence is a double, hitting the fence and bouncing is a triple, and over the fence is a home run. A ground ball that gets past the fielders and hits the fence is a single. If the grounder is caught cleanly it is an out. If missed it is and error and hitter is on first.
2 - With live baserunning. Same rules, runners run out the hits. If there is a catcher, there is stealing. Sometimes this game is played with the pitch coming on a bounce
When no facility was nearby, this game was often played on the street using sewer covers and cars as bases and landmarks for the number of bases awarded.
Traditional pitching and catching. Umpires call balls and strikes from behind the pitcher. There is stealing.
At Inlet Grounds, PS 206, East 23rd Street and Gravesend Neck Road.
The inlet is about 120 feet wide and five stories high. Two high walls with windows (with metal bars to prevent breaking windows: a well hit Spaldeen easily breaks a window.) Best played with three people on a team. Pitcher, catcher, and fielder. But there are 4-person games *(2 fielders) and one-on-one games. The fielders stand somewhere near the batter in order to catch the ball off the wall behind the pitcher. Caught off the wall, is out. A hit off the wall up to the second floor is a single. Higher up the wall, a double, then a triple. On the roof is a homer. BUT most of the balls hit on the roof come back. That is, the spin of the hitting a ball that soars within 120 feet has a backspin. If the ball is caught off the roof it is an out. This is a very dramatic play as it takes a few seconds for the ball to get on the roof, a few more seconds to the ball to roll back, then a few more seconds to see if the fielder will be able to make the play on a ball falling five stories and within a few inches of the wall, with backspin.
Usually pink Spaldeens were used. But tennis balls allowed the pitcher much more variation and sharper curves and screwballs -- more surface.
(Communication from Neil Seldman and Mark Schoenberg)
[C] At PS 81 in the Bronx
Stickball as played in the p.s.81 schoolyard [bronx] - no live baserunning - played with 1 or 2 players per team - pitcher threw a spaldeen or tennis ball from a line ~65-70 feet from the school wall on which was marked a chalk rectangle running from knee - shoulder kid height and about 2x as wide as a baseball home plate [hence considerably larger than a normal strike zone] - batter stood in front of wall - balls that were not hit were called balls or strikes depending on whether they struck the wall within or outside the rectangle - arguments occasionally occurred, usually when the pitcher had particularly good curve ball - batted balls were scored as outs if they were grounders or were caught on a fly - balls that hit a very high chain link fence ~125 feet away from the school wall on one bounce were singles, on the fly were doubles, over the fence but short of another fence a further ~100 feet away were triples, balls that hit the second fence on a fly or cleared it were home runs
(Communication from Raphael Kasper, February 4, 2020.)
[D] On Brooklyn "Cawts"
Stickball was played all over Brooklyn when I grew. The game and its rules were infinite depending location and availability of "cawts". The "coop" in the school yard could be one on one or 2 on two.
One swing and if not in play was an out. Anything caught on a fly off the wall behind pitcher was an out. Pitcher catching hit on bounce was a single. Designated spots, higher and higher on building wall were double, triple, or HR.
Also played with balls and strikes if there available wall to chalk on strike zone.
Played in the street, with narrow foul lines. Could be running bases or not. All kinds of ground rules. Cars shallower than first "sewer" (manhole cover could be out or foul, Off cars behind first sewer was fair ball. (Please mister, could you pawk foider up da street, yaw parkin' on da cawt.)
Always used broomstick bat and pink spaldeen ball.
(One FB response)
"Your rules are more complicated than the ones we used on Long Island."
Roth: Rules were not complicated as much as rules had to accomomdate where you played and how many people were available. Each location had its "ground rules."
-- Joshua Roth, 3/18/2022 FB posting.
"Stoopball originated in dense urban areas like New York, where children
often lacked the space to play baseball. Rules varied based on the
neighborhood, block, or building, but the idea was always the same: A
“batter” would fire a ball (in New York, the kids used pink balls they
called “Spaldeens”) against the steps of an apartment building, with the
number of bases contingent on distance the ricochet traveled."
The game is called "largely extinct" since World War II.
But Louie Lazar continues to say that there is a stoopball league in Wisconsin nowadays.
Gregory Christiano recalls playing Stoopball in The Bronx in the 1950s:
'Played against the steps on a stoop. The sidewalk and street is the field. Providing there was no parked car obstructing play, the game could be played. Throw the ball (spaldeen) against the steps. Agree on amount of points. If the ball bounces back the player catches it on the fly, it's worth a certain amount of points. There is a chalk line the player cannot cross. it is called the "short line." If the ball bounces more than once, you're out. All players get to finish a turn. The term "last licks", comes into play here a lot ... it is the final attempt to get a better score
There were only a couple of exposed stoops on our block, so this game of stoopball wasn't played that often.'
|Strike Up and Lay Down|
A fungo-style game for two teams as shown in an 1863 handbook. A feeder throws the ball to a batter, who hits it as far as possible. A member of the out-team picks up that ball and bowls it toward the bat, which lies on the ground. If the ball hits or hops over the bat, the batsman is out. The batsman is also out with three missed swings.
This game is most often seen as a schoolyard game with from two to five players. A strike zone is drawn on a suitable wall, and a batter stands before it, attempting to hit a tennis ball, a rubber ball or another type of projectile. Baserunning is not usual. All other rules - for base advancement by imaginary runners, changing of batters, etc., seem flexible to circumstance. (Verification needed.)
As of Fall 2013, it is our preliminary impression that there are several local variants of strike-out, the name used in Central New York, and we group them together here under that name; they include PeeGee ball and Indian Ball.
Apparently a baseball-like game, perhaps played in Massachusetts in the early 20th Century. We have but one obscure reference to this game, in Cassidy.
This game is mentioned, along with Norwegian Ball in a 1908 book on North Dakota folkways. Said to be taught to local children by Swedish newcomers and a Swedish teacher, the game is only depicted as being “played somewhat like ‘one old cat.’” It seems conceivable that this game is related to Brannboll. Maigaard (1941) lists two Swedish variants for Long Ball.
|T-Ball For One Boy (and one other 'player')|
This game features batting, running, and sliding . . . and "fielding."
Arabian -- In an 1873 book on Arab children’s games Tabeh is described as “base ball and drop ball.” That’s all we know right now.
A "Backyard Tennisball League" is found on Youtube as of September 2018.
This league of teenagers plays a 14-game season with playoffs. Teams are up to 5 players, and the scoreboard reflects 4-inning games. The league is described as originated in 2011.
A list of 27 rules floats down the screen. It includes a "peg rule", which may or may not imply plugging runners to make outs. Stealing of 2B and 3B is allowed. Knees-to chin strike zone (no umpire depicted). Ground rules for "left field trees" and right field tree." Apparent limits on pitch speed. Grassy field. No mention of use of imaginary runners.
Clips suggest wide borrowing from baseball - 4 bases, a skin pitching area, ordinary bats (wooden only), ordinary tennis balls, an outfield fence, throws to first by fielders to retire batters. We see the hidden-ball trick and a runner-fielder collision at home plate.
The location of this league is not indicated.
|Three Man Ball -- Hit It Out|
A "National 3 Man Ball League and Baseball Tournament" was announced in March 2013, to take place n Miami in April 2013.
In this game, hitters swing at underhand deliveries (from a teammate) and try to hit the (undefined) ball into a fairly narrow pizza-slice-shaped fair territory such that it is not caught by the three fielders playing defense for the opposing club. Shorter "hits" are counted as singles, longer ones doubles and triples, and hits passing the 360-foot outer boundary are home runs.
The game uses imaginary base-runners who normally advance only one base at a time. An unusual feature of this game is that after three home runs are achieved, additional hits beyond the end-line are registered as outs. Games take 45 minutes, or an unclear number of innings.
This game bears a resemblance to other non-running fungo-type games listed on this website, including Indian Ball (Missouri), Line Ball (Chicago), Wiffleball, Pingball, Evansville Townball, and Grutz.
Only framentary information is as yet known about Tire-Ball. The game takes its name from the length of bicycle tube that served as the game's ball (later, a short section of garden hose filled that need more often. Other rules are unclear to us at this point.
Baseball is an American modification, and, of course, an improvement of the old English game of rounders; or, as it is called in West Riding, touch-ball. The children in these districts play it without a bat or club; they strike the ball with the open hand, and have posts or stones at the corners of the playground, which correspond to the ‘bases’ of the American game. If the ball was caught before it reached the ground, or the fielder could hit the striker with it before he reached the ‘touch,’ he was out., quoting the London Post 8/1/1874
New York Sunday Mercury
Writing of the late 1860’s boyhood of a World War I General, Johnston (1919) writes that “the French boys were accustomed to play a game called tournoi, or tournament, which was something similar to the game of Rounders.” That’s all we seem to know about Tournoi.
Heslop (1893) defines this word as “a boys’ game of ball, otherwise known as Rounders, and formerly called Pie-Ball locally.
This game is a fungo game that enhances fielding skill. A batter hits a ball, fungo style, to a number of fielders. A fielder receives 7 points for a caught fly, 5 points for a ball caught on one bounce, 3 points for catching a bouncing ball, and 1 point for retrieving a ball at rest. Points are similarly lost for muffed balls. Fielders who amass 21 points become the batter. Another form of this game is [[Five Hundred]], which proceeds similarly.
A sport that claims 1500 players among the women of Queensland, Australia, Vigoro is a souped-up version of (slightly down-sized) cricket. A key point is that if a ball Is hit forward of the crease, running is compulsory.
The game of vitilla ("vee-TEE-ya') is reportedly played widely in the Dominican Republic. "What Dominican doesn't play vitilla?," asked Yankee catcher Gary Sanchez. Several other Major Leagues attribute some of their skills to the game.
". . . the concept is the same [as baseball] -- to hit a moving object with a stick. But because the vitilla is smaller than a baseball and moves unpredictable when thrown, and because the bat is thinner, some . . . believe playing it so regularly helped their hand-eye coordination."
A Times article does not detail the game's rules, and it is not yet clear to Protoball whether batters actually run bases. A photograph suggests that balls and strikes are determined by whether a pitched cap hits a small (12 inch?) target set up behind the batter.
The article refers to a similar game, called chapita, played in Venezuela.
Gomme (1898) compares Waggles to a game of four-player Cricket using cats instead of balls.
|Welsh Baseball||Wales, UK|
Author Martin Johns describes Welsh baseball as having evolved from rounders, and having been re-named baseball in 1892. It has been largely confined to Cardiff and Newport, and further to the working-class sections of those towns. Sixty neighborhood clubs were playing in 1921, and five Cardiff schools formed a baseball league in 1922.
In 2015, the Welsh Baseball website at http://www.welshbaseball.co.uk/ lists eight clubs in a Premier League, several of them evidently providing summer sport for local soccer clubs.
This game uses a smaller ball than is found in US baseball, and features a flattened bat, underhand pitching, eleven-player teams, no foul ground, an all-out-side-out rule, and two-inning games.
Note: in 1927, the rules for Welch baseball and Liverpool baseball were evidently combined. See "British Baseball" at http://protoball.org/British_Baseball and at http://protoball.org/British_Baseball_(Welsh_Baseball).
A writer's recollection of past Boston sports, including base ball, includes the unexplained game of "Whoop."
H. J Philpott used the names "hole-ball and "wibble-wobble" as games that seem consistent with hat-ball. One player would place the ball in a hole or hat, and the other players would scatter before being hit with the ball by the player designated as "it." This game thus shares evasive running and plugging with base ball.
A Wiffle Ball is a hollow plastic ball with holes strategically placed in order to exaggerate sideways force, and thus enabling pitchers to produce severe curves and drops (and rises?). Competitive games of Wiffleball are known, some exhibiting team play. Few, we believe (as of September 2018), appear to involve active baserunning, and the Wiffle Ball company site's "suggested rules say that live running "has been eliminated."
Note: Wiffle Ball, Inc., which holds and protects key trade marks, has set out a set of rules at http://www.wiffle.com/pages/game_rules.asp?page=game_rules. However, many leagues, and tournaments, treasure their innovative rule options, including the doctoring of balls to make them curve more dramatically, and of bats that are dissimilar to those familiar thin yellow plastic cudgels you may think of. Multiple leagues and tournaments seem to claim that their championships produce the true national crown for wiffle ball.
The poem, Wiffle Ball, appears in he Supplemental Text below. It was furnished to Protoball by its author, Glenn Stout, on 8/17/2018.
A fine recollection of wiffle ball games is found in Glenn's "Wiffle Rules", at https://verbplow.blogspot.com/2018/08/wiffle-rules.html.
A September 2019 Boston Globe article by Billy Baker (cited below), features an account of the National Golden Stick Wiffle Ball championships (motto: "A backyard game taken way too far.")
In this game opponents position themselves on the opposite sides of as wire strung over the street. Singles, doubles, etc., are determined by whether the ball hits the wire and whether it is caught by the out team as it descends. There is no running or batting in this urban game.
Another label for the game Scrub/Move-Up: The available number of players is initially divided between several defensive positions and a smaller number of batters. A batter who is put out, becomes the fielder who is last in line to return to batting [right field, when there are enough fielders], and must work the way back position by position. A fielder to catches a fly ball exchanges places immediately with the batter. Because the small number of player precludes team play, “ghost runners” and special ground rules are sometimes required. Plugging is allowed when the ball is soft enough to permit that.