Tuesday, April 10, 2012
Children find ways to conquer this problem by inventing different forms of the game. In the city, kids played stoop ball. The “batter” would throw a tennis ball against the step of their stoop and the fielders, usually only an infielder (before the street) and an outfielder (in the street), would have to catch the ball as it bounced back off the step.
If the infielder fielded it cleanly it was an out. If the outfielder caught it on the fly it was an out. If the batter caught the point of the step just right, the ball had a chance to sail over the street for a home run.
Another form of city baseball was punch ball. In this game the batter punched a spaldeen, an orange rubber ball which was pretty much the insides of a tennis ball, with his fist. The ball could be punched pretty far by a good batter, but the game did not take up nearly the field size of a game of stickball. Stickball was played with a spaldeen and an old broom stick. We never did play stickball in my suburban Long Island neighborhood.
The game we did invent BWB (before whiffle ball) was one that was totally unique. I have never met anyone who played even a variation of “Garage-Wall Ball.’
We played in Danny Tully’s back yard. The Tully’s had a garage made of brick. In the backyard, a concrete walk ran five feet in front of the rear garage wall. The pitcher bounced a spaldeen onto the walk, off the garage wall and back towards the batter who was facing the wall, his back to the pitcher. The batter then hit the ball against the garage wall to ricochet back towards the field. If the ball went past the pitcher on the ground it was a hit. If it reached the swing set it was a triple; over the swing set was a homerun. There were no doubles; we only had first, third, and home bases. With the garage wall absorbing most of the batter’s power we were able to play on a field no more than sixty feet deep and still be able to take a full swing.
We played “Garage-Wall Ball” for maybe ½ a summer; then we discovered Whiffle Ball. Whiffle ball was the end of a great game. A great and unique invention was made extinct before the world ever discovered it. “Garage-Wall Ball” was an early victim of technology.