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Varying accounts of this game are found. It is claimed that evidence places a form of the game to the time of Peter the Great, and that bats and leather balls date back to the 1300s. One 1989 news article reports that it is now strictly a children’s game. Still, some Russians say that “baseball is the younger brother of baseball.” In contemporary play, the fielding team’s “server” stands next to a batter and gently tosses a ball up to be hit. After the hit, runners try to run to a distant line [one 1952 account calls this the “city”] and back without being plugged. Caught fly balls are worth a point, but a successful run is two points. A time clock governs a game’s length.
A 1952 article does not mention a pitcher or points awarded for catches (but not runs?), but notes use of a round stick to hit with and also confirms the use of plugging. Neither account says that runners can stay safely at the "city" if they don't venture to run back home.
As of July 2020, we note four lapta finds on YouTube. They show some variance in playing rules. In some, batters strike the ball directly overhead, as seen in a tennis serve. The bats sown are narrow flat paddles. After each hit, multiple runners (other members of the batting side?) take diverse paths, evading plugging by fielders. Tennis balls are commonly used.
New York Times, September 16, 1952, as cited in Paul Dickson, The Dickson Dictionary (Third Edition, Norton, 2009), page 485.
Bill Keller, "In Baseball, the Russians Steal All the Bases," New York Times, July 20 1987.
Ira Berkow, "Russian Eye on Baseball," New York Times, August 14 1989.
Carl Schreck, "No Wrong Way to Swing Bat," The St. Petersburg Times, October 31 2003.
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