Kickball (Family of Games)

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Glossary of Games
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Predecessor Games
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Glossary of Games, Full List

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Baseball · Kickball · Scrub · Fungo · Hat ball · Hook-em-snivy

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Kickball 2

Safe-Haven games featuring running among bases, pitching, and two distinct teams (but no batting).

Games belonging to the Kickball Family (23)

TermGame ErasLocationDescription
Ball and BasesDerivative

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.

Balle au CampPredecessorFrance

Translated as “rounders” in an 1855 translation of a French poem. Maigaard identifies it as a longball-type game with four bases [set in a line] and in which the ball is thrown into the field by a member of the in team to initiate play.

South Korea

Balagu ("foot-baseball") is identified as a form of kick-ball in Korea, a "staple in PE classes within elementary schools."

BeezyDerivativeDundee, Scotland

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.

Boston BallDerivative

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.

Cat i’ The HolePredecessorScotland

per Brand and Jamieson. All but one player stands by a hole, holding a stick [called a “cat.”] The last player, holding a ball, gives a signal, and the others run to place their stick in the next adjacent hole before a ball enters it, or he will become the thrower.

Gomme specifies that when before thrower tosses the ball, he gives a sign and all the (boy) players must scramble to a neighbor's hole to obstruct the ball from entering it. Her c. 1894 description:

"A game well known in Fife (a county northeast of Edinburgh on the Firth of Forth), and perhaps in other countries.  If seven boys are to play, six holes are made a certain distances.  Each of the six stands at a hole, with a short stick in his hand; the seventh stands at a certain distance holding a ball.  When he gives the word, or makes the sign agreed upon, all the six change holes, each running to his neighbour's hole, and putting his stick in the hole which he has newly seized.  In making this change, the boy who has the ball, tries to put in into an empty hole.  If he succeeds in this, the boy who had not his stick (for the cat is the Cat) in the hole to which he had run is put out, and must take the ball.  There is often a very keen contest whether one will get his stick, and the other the ball, or Cat, first put into the hole.  When the Cat is in the hole, it is against the laws of the game to put the ball into it -- Jamieson

Kelly, in his Scottish Proverbs p. 325, says" 'Tine cat, tine game:' an allusion to a play called 'Cat i' the Hole', and the English 'Kit-cat.' Spoken when man at law have lost their principal evidence."  [Originally published in 1721.]

Cerkelspelen (Circle-Game?)PredecessorFlanders, Belgium

According to Maigaard, Cerkelspelen was “rounders without batting” as played in Flanders. The game evidently had five bases, with fielders near each one, but the infield area was occupied only by the in-team.


This game, encountered in Upper Egypt in the 1850s, is briefly described: it is “played likewise with a ball; one tosses it, and another strikes it with his hand, and runs to certain limits, if he can, without being hit by a ‘fag’ who picks up the ball and throws in.”

Diamond DiscusContemporary

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.

German Bat BallDerivative

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.

Hit the StickDerivativeBrooklyn

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.

House BallDerivative

Scotland - per MacLagan. The Scots name for the ordinary English game of Rounders. Pitched balls are struck by hand.


An 1834 book on a tour to Abyssinia mentions this game, taken to be “the same game we call bat ball” in England.

Kick the BallDerivativeBrooklyn

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.


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.


On kickball history: 

"Kickball, originally called "Kicking Baseball" was claimed to have been invented as early as 1910 by Dr. Emmett Dunn Angell in his noted book Play: Comprising Games for the Kindergarten, Playground, Schoolroom and College : How to Coach and Play Girls' Basket-ball, Etc (1910). His description and field illustration in this book is both the closest and earliest known precursor to the modern game of kickball. He also notes that "The game seems to afford equal enjoyment to the children and it gives a better understanding of the national game (Baseball), and at the same time affords them an exercise that is not too violent and is full of fun.".[1]

A later documented inventor claim, as early as 1917, was by Nicholas C Seuss, Supervisor of Cincinnati Park Playgrounds in CincinnatiOhio.[2] Seuss submitted his first documented overview of the game which included 12 rules and a field diagram in The Playground Book, published in 1917. Kickball is referred to as "Kick Base Ball" and "Kick Baseball" in this book."




According to another source, "The game [of matball] is a derivative of kickball and in most situations follows similar basics.  According to history (site not provided), kickball Also known as kick baseball was invested [sic] in 1917 by Nicholas C. Seuss." Seuss is described as working for Cincinnati Park Playgrounds.


Langball1800sBrooklyn NY



[A]  "Langball for the Girls.

            "After the handball contests the girls turned their attention to the unique game of langball.  There are two teams.  The team that are out are stationed around the floor where bases are located.  The batter hangs by the hands from flying rings. A football is pitched in at a distance of about five paces.  The batter kicks it and then starts to run around the bases.  The girls bunt with their feet very scientifically.  Not all of them can bunt, but none want the bunt abolished.  Recently the Academics won by 9 to 0.  Miss Brooks of the victorious team made a home run, and Miss Houghton stole second in great shape.  Miss Flagler, the agile and efficient assistant to Dr. Pettit, made a three-base hit, but was put out on the way home by being hit by the ball — the way a put-out is effected.— Brooklyn Standard Union." 

[B]  "What is langball (also known as 'Lang Ball' and Hang base ball)? Langball is a now-defunct game invented by C. G. Lang, a YMCA director in St. Louis, MO, sometime around 1892.  It's something like baseball or kickball, except that the batter in langball dangles from a horizontal bar or flying rings, striking the pitched ball with the bottom of their feet." [The article goes on to describe the game pretty as the article found by George Thompson.]  

 [C]  Langball was invented by someone named Lang, and "is just the game for women, for, although it includes all the health giving features of baseball it does away with the roughness and danger."
Matball (Big Base)Derivative

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.


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.

Palm Ball (Slap Ball)Predecessor

A form of baseball in which the ball is slapped by the slapper-runner, rather than being batted with a club. (Needs verification.)


Heslop (1893) defines this word: “a game resembling the game of Rounders, however, the ball is always struck with the hand.”

Pize BallPredecessor

a game defined in the OED as “a game similar to Rounders in which a ball is hit with the flat of the hand.” The game is mainly associated with the English North Country, and is said to feature three or four ‘tuts,’ or stopping-places. The first cited use appeared in 1796. Gomme (page 45) adds that if the batter-runner is hit before reaching on of the “tuts” he is “said to be burnt, or out.


[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 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."



Also called Tut, this game was in 1777 called “a sort of stool ball much practiced about the Easter holidays,” according to the OED. OED identifies Tut-Ball with Stoolball and Rounders.

[A] Gomme also cites a view that “This game is very nearly identical with ‘rounders.’” Another writer is known to say that Tut-Ball is the same as Pize-Ball. 

Gomme, however reports that balls were hit back with the palm of the hand, not a bat, at least in its earlier form.

[B] Writing in 1905, Joseph Wright said:  

"Yorkshire: Now only played by boys, but half a century ago [1850's] by Adults on Ash Wednesday, believing that unless they did so they would fall sick in harvest time.  This is a very ancient game, and was elsewhere called stool-ball. [West Yorkshire]. Shropshire: Tut-ball; as played at a young ladies school at Shiffnal fifty years ago. (See also 1850c.34).  The players stood together in their 'den,'behind a line marked on the ground, all except one, who was 'out', and who stood at a distance and threw the ball to them.  One of the players in the den then hit back the ball with the palm of the hand, and immediately ran to one of three brick-bats, called 'tuts' . . . .  The player who was 'out' tried to catch the ball and to hit the runner with it while passing from one 'tut' to another.  If she succeeded in doing so she took her place in the den and the other went 'out' in her stead.  This game is nearly identical with rounders." 


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