Stickball is a street game related to baseball, usually formed as a pick-up game, in large cities in the Northeastern United States (especially New York City, Jersey City and Long Island. The equipment consists of a broom handle and a rubber ball, typically a spaldeen, pensie pinkie, high bouncer or tennis ball. The rules come from baseball and are modified to fit the situation, i.e. manhole covers for bases or buildings for foul lines. This game was widely popular among youths growing up from the 19th century until the 1980s in Boston, Philadelphia, New York City and Northern New Jersey. The game is a variation of stick and ball games dating back to at least the 1750s.
There are three different styles of stickball based on how the ball is pitched. In fast pitch, the batter has a wall or fence as a back stop. A rectangle is drawn on the artificial backstop in order to create a strike zone. The rectangle is chalked. If the batter does not swing and any part of the ball has chalk on it when it bounces back to the pitcher, the result is a called strike. If there is no chalk on the ball, the result is a ball. This type of play (seen in the picture to the right) is most commonly seen in schoolyards throughout, predominantly, Staten Island, Lynbrook, NY, Hewlett, NY, Rockville Centre, NY, lesser extent in Queens, NY, Brooklyn, NY and Jersey City, NJ. In slow pitch the pitcher stands 40 to 50 feet from the batter and the ball is hit after one bounce. In fungo, the batter tosses the ball into the air and hits it on the way down or after one or more bounces.
The batter may be out after one, two or three strikes, depending on regional rules. If the ball lands on a roof, porch or breaks a window far away it is usually ruled a home run. Hits are decided by how far the ball travels. In some versions of stickball there is no running, however in most leagues, including the New York Emperors Stickball League, the batter has to run the bases just like in baseball.
In Boston variations of stickball, a broomstick is usually replaced with a cut hockey stick, allowing a little more ‘pop’ on the ball if hit correctly. Also, when playing slowpitch, the ball is not necessarily bounced while pitched. A ‘loaded wiffle bat’, consisting of a Wiffle bat sawed-off and filled with wet newspaper or superballs then wrapped in electrical, duct, or hockey tape to hold it together, is also popular in the North Shore suburbs. ‘Monkey Ball’ is also usually allowed in slow pitch, regarding base runners. When ‘monkey ball’ is allowed, fielders can throw the ball at baserunners, eliminating the need to tag a base to get a runner out. An additional rule that can be played while running the bases is called “pitchers poison”. This allows for fielders to throw the ball to the pitcher standing on the mound instead of a first basemen.
In another completely unrelated game by the same name, players stand in a circle all holding sticks, usually broom handles. They then pass a giant tennis ball to each other by rolling it along the stick and launching it. The objective of the game is to keep the ball flowing. Each player is unique in their technique. Unlike the other games which are related to baseball, this game is more akin to hackey sack and contact juggling. ‘The game involves smoothly moving the ball from one person to another using the ball and the stick. It’s cooperative rather than competitive and is beautiful to watch, something like Tai-Chi.’.The major difference between Australian StickBall and most games is the lack of competitive nature and an increased co-operation. It first appeared in Australia in the late 1990s and is now also played in the UK, Europe and India.