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Tuesday, April 10, 2012



It is the start of baseball season and as usual my thoughts go back to my youth.  Baseball is a great game, but playing it takes lots of space.  It also takes lots of players.

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.


  1. A fun post to read. As you can probably guess from my name (Chubby Chatterbox) I wasn't stellar at sports, but I do love swimming.

  2. how true...and there are 20 boys in my yard everyday splitting even teams and making up new rules...which would never happen once the adult coaches are involved...then THEY make all the decisions for the kids..too bad really.

  3. What a delightful post! I had no idea of how many variations people can come up with.

  4. Ahh the inventive of American youth when a bat and a ball are involved!

  5. Fun post!
    I love how kids make up their own versions of team sports. When I was a kid, we lived on a cul-de-sac street in southern CA. Our cul-de sac wasn't all that large and so a game of baseball could not be played (without a parked car's window getting smashed) so instead we played Kick Ball. I loved kick ball!! I was good at it, too. I think they should have Kick Ball as a professional sport. It has all the good stuff that baseball has - running bases, a pitcher, players on first, second, third and in the outfield. Catch a fly ball and it's an out. Tag the runner with the ball and it's an out. Three out's and the other team is "UP" to kick. Why don't we have a professional Kick Ball League? I'd buy a ticket to be there. I'd watch it on ESPN. I'd even wear a team kick ball hat.

  6. We played street cricket - two garbage bins for wicketsa fence paling for a bat and a tennis ball. A hit over (any) fence was an automatic out - each batsmen faced 12 balls (2 overs) and whoever could score the most runs won the match. If a vehicle came down the street the 'keeper had to grab the batsman's wicket(bin) and the bowler the other bin at his/her end.

    I'm sure there were more rools but they were the basics - we were flexible with rools and made them up to suit the circumstances - like we had one kid in leg braces so he didn't have to run between wickets.

    As you can imagine, with the passage of time, the bins became very dented so my brother and I were always careful not to choose the bin from our home. LOL!


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