Hat ball (Family of Games)

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Hat ball 5

Games featuring baserunning and/or plugging (but no batting).

Games belonging to the Hat ball Family (24)

TermGame ErasLocationDescription

[A] A boys’ game reportedly played in Hawaii before the game of base ball was introduced in the 1860s. As described, its rules were consistent with those of wicket, but no running or scoring is mentioned.

[B] See also item 1855c.10:

"In 1855 the new game of wicket was introduced at Punahou [School] and for a few years was the leading athletic game on the campus. . . . [The] fiercely contested games drew many spectators from among the young ladies and aroused no common interest among the friends of the school."

"One game they all enjoyed was wicket, often watched by small Mary Burbank. Aipuni, the Hawaiians called it, or rounders, perhaps because the bat had a large rounder end. It was a forerunner of baseball, but the broad, heavy bat was held close to the ground."

[Through further digging, John Thorn suggests the migration of wicket to Hawaii through the Hawaii-born missionary Henry Obookiah. At age 17, Obookiah traveled to New Haven and was educated in the area. He may well have been exposed to wicket there.  He died in 1818, but not before helping organize a ministry [Episcopalian?] in Hawaii that began in 1820.

See also John Thorn's 2016 recap is the supplementary text to 1855c.10.


Call BallDerivative

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 [1883] notes that this game was played in Austria.


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.

Corner BallPredecessor

A plugging game that is closer to dodge ball than to safe-haven games. Some players, standing at designated corners or the perimeter of the playing area, pass the ball teammate to teammate in order to make it easier for one of them to plug anyone among group of players swarming around inside the field. If plugged, a player is out of the game.


Dodgeball is a basic youth game with no batting or safe-haven bases. Two teams form. A player can be put out by being hit with a throw rubber ball, unless he catches it, in which case the thrower is out.  The game ends when the last player on a team is put out.

A discussion of several dodgeball variants is found at http://www.funandgames.org/games/GameDodgeball.htm.  None mentions base-running or batting, but plugging is a central feature. 

Some trace the history of dodgeball to the ancient Egyptions, and the Romans played a version of the game. (citation?)

There is a National College Dodgeball Association at http://www.ncdadodgeball.com/index.html



Doutee StoolPredecessor

According to an 1860 text, players sit on stools placed in a circle, and one player tosses or strikes a ball into the air. If he retrieves the ball and hits another player before that player reaches the next stool, the two players switch roles.


A version of this game described in 1860 has players place their hats near a wall. One of them tosses a ball from 15 feet away, and if the ball lands in a player’s hat, he tries to quickly plug a fleeing compatriot or else he receives an “egg” [a small stone] in his hat. Three stones and you’re out of the game.

Hat BallPredecessor

A form of Roly Poly (or Roley Poley or Roll Ball) that substitutes hats for holes in the ground. Newell says this game was played among the Pennsylvania Dutch.Brewster says that Hat Ball variants are known in many countries, and include Petjeball [Dutch] and Kappenspiel [German].

Hole-BallDerivativeMidwest US

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.


According to Brewster, Kappenspiel is the German word for Hat Ball.


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.

King’s Play (Cluich an Righ)DerivativeScotland

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.

Monday, TuesdayPredecessor

per Games and Sports. Each player is assigned the name of a day of the week. A player throws a ball against a wall, calling out a day. The player assigned that day must catch the ball, or if missing it must throw as one of his fleeing compatriots, losing a point if he misses.


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.

Nine HolesPredecessor

Sometimes described as a board game or a form of quoits, Nine Holes is elsewhere (1853-1868) depicted as a running game -- in which players had to run among holes without being plugged by a ball -- that resembles Hat-ball and Egg-Hat.

Off The WallPost-1900
Brooklyn, The Bronx

Brooklyn, 1950s:  

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."



Off the StoopBrooklyn

This game is the same as Off The Wall, except ball is thrown off the front steps of the house.  If the ball goes over the head of the fielder and over the car parked on he near side of the street it is an out.  If the ball its the car, behind the fielder and stays on the same side of the street it is in play.

Skill points:  [a] throw the ball of the point of the stoop to get a hard line drive at the feet of the fielder.  [b] throw ball across your body to obstruct the view of the ball coming at the fielder.


According to Brewster, Petjeball was the early Dutch term for Hat Ball.


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.

Roley PoleyDerivativeBrooklyn

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.

Running BasePost-1900

"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."

Rushing Bases1800s

"RUSHING BASES. Draw two bases, with a wide space between them.  All the players then station themselves in one base, except one boy, to be ' and King Caesar,' by choice or otherwise, and he places himself midway between the bases.  The men then attempt to run from one base to the other, and the King strives the catch them; and whenever he takes one, he claps him on the head and cries thrice, 'Crown thee, King Caesar!' and he must thenceforth assist his Majesty in catching the rest of the men, each of whom must, as he is taken, join the royal party; the last man captured  being King for the next game. The crowning must be distinctly pronounced thrice, else the captive can be demanded buy his party."


"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.

Wibble-WobbleDerivativeMidwest US

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.


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