Big Time Stickball
Big Time Stickball (2018)


Stickball is primarily an urban game. It's still around today, but with the advent of computer games and other distractions, it doubtless exists in fewer locations. It’s played with a wooden broomstick –- minus the broom part –- usually taped at one end to provide grip. Sometimes the shaft of a shovel, hoe or similar hardware-store implement is used, which makes a thicker, heavier bat. The only other item needed to play is a ball. In my youth stickball was played with many types of balls –- tennis balls, “pinky” balls, “pimple” balls, “pimple-star” balls and sponge balls. Sponges lasted the longest. Then there was the field, which could be anywhere. Most of the time it was a place with a wall where no one lived. A schoolyard was usually the best location, but not always. A box was chalked onto the wall representing the strike zone. If a pitch hit inside the line or on it, a strike was called. Due to his vantage point the pitcher often called balls and strikes, and arguments were common. A fly ball or liner that went different distances yielded singles, doubles, triples and home runs. There were no bases to run. Baserunners were simply tracked inside everyone’s heads. Foul territory was decided beforehand. Any number of kids can play stickball, but it’s usually two or three per side. In the driveways of city blocks a white, hollow plastic ball with a hemisphere of slots was commonly used, to prevent broken windows. Neighbors still complained, though, when it rattled their windows during dinner hour. In this version balls and strikes weren’t called. You got one swing per at-bat (and could wait for "your" pitch), although it typically took two fouls to make an out. Two to four players would commonly face each other in “backyard” stickball. In Big Time Stickball, two players face each other in a streamlined version of the pastime. Nine innings are played just as in baseball, with the players alternating in the roles of pitcher and batter. First, the pitcher chooses one of five pitches to throw: fastball, curve, screwball, riser or sinker. Then the batter tries to anticipate what the pitch will be, and commits his swing to it. He can choose to swing normally or for the fences. A card is drawn from the game's 70 result cards, and the pitch and swing cross-checked to determine the result of the at-bat. If the batter correctly anticipates the pitch he has a great chance of a hit. Conversely, if the batter looks for a riser and the pitcher throws a sinker, his chances for a hit are slim and his strikeout chances are greater. An optional rule allows the batter to "take" pitches and try for a walk. House rules are easy to implement, enabling players to customize the game as they wish. Batter up!

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Andrew S. Fischer