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.