Round Town, Virginia (1890s)

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from the History of Scott County, Virginia by Robert M. Addington. Kingsport, Tenn: Kingsport Press (1932), pp 164, 178-79

What fifty-year-old boy does not recall, with a thrill of joy, the games of “Dare Base”, “Stink Base”, “King Base”, “Round Town” and “Straight Town”, which he played while a pupil at the old-time school? These games have made school life more tolerable for many a boy.


Round Town was one of the most popular games of the old school. It was so called because the corners were arranged in circular form. There were four corners, including home base. The batsman who ran the four corners made a “round” or score. The ball was delivered to the batsman by a colleague, while an opponent was stationed behind to catch the missed balls. The batsman was allowed three strikes. Merely tipping the ball was a “snib,” or a “snig.” To catch the ball on the fly, or on the first bounce, put the striker “out”. Often he was “out” if he knocked the ball outside the “let lines”. He was out if he struck at the ball and missed it, and it was caught by the “man” behind before it touched the ground or on the first bounce. It was not against the rule to catch in a hat. A base runner could not advance on a “dead ball”. If, while the ball was in play, he stopped on a corner and later started to run, or if he crossed the ball, he was out. If he had not crossed the ball, he could return to the corner passed, provided he was not recrossed or the corners were not “full”. Usually seven rounds brought all of a side who were out back into the game again. Sometime a round made on one lick restored all the outs; sometimes it restored only one.

Paddles were used for bats. The first choice of players and the side first at the paddles were determined by “throwing up”. One way of doing this was for representatives of each side in the game alternately to throw and to catch a stick. On the stick being caught, it was grasped hand over hand. The one whose hand held the top of the stick as many as two times out of three had the choice, provided his hold was firm enough to enable him to throw the stick ten feet over his head. The other way of determining choice was by throwing up a paddle, one side of which had been made wet with spittle. This was done three times, also, unless it fell favorable to the same side twice in succession. The question was put, “Which do you take, wet or dry?”

Sometimes chance was not resorted to, it being agreed that one side have first choice of players and the other the paddles. At other times a small group of the best players would propose to play against the crowd.

The chief difference between Round Town and Straight Town was in the arrangement of the corners or bases. They made a circular track in the former and a straight track in the latter.