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Stickball is a street game related to baseball, usually formed as a pick-up game played in large cities in the Northeastern United States, especially New York City and Philadelphia. The equipment consists of a broom handle and a rubber ball, typically a spaldeen, pensy pinky, high bouncer or tennis ball. The rules come from baseball and are modified to fit the situation, for example, a manhole cover may be used as a base, or buildings for foul lines. The game is a variation of stick and ball games dating back to at least the 1750s. This game was widely popular among youths growing up from the 20th century until the 1980s.
There are three different styles of stickball with various methods of pitching.
The batter is out if the ball is caught on the fly; there are other ways to be out, depending on local 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, but in most leagues, such as the New York Emperors Stickball League, must run the bases just like in baseball.
When the game is played in more confined environments such as across a road (where the batter is positioned at a strike zone drawn on a building and the pitcher delivers from across the street), there is usually no running. Singles, doubles, triples, and home runs are determined by the level at which the ball hits the building across the street, with a ball hit onto a roof top being a home run. Ground balls caught after one bounce are generally ruled as an out, as well as pop ups caught in the air.
Stickball was also played in Hell's Kitchen in New York City and Newark, New Jersey at least as late as the 1960s, if not later.
Boston variations of stickball usually replace a broomstick with a cut hockey stick, allowing a little more 'pop' on the ball if hit correctly. Also, when playing slow pitch, 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 heavy-duty tape to hold it together, is also popular in the North Shore suburbs. "Monkey ball" is also usually allowed in slow pitch, allowing fielders to throw the ball at baserunners, eliminating the need to tag a base to get a runner out. "Pitchers poison" is a variant that allows fielders to throw the ball to the pitcher standing on the mound instead of throwing it to a first basemen.
Burby (also known as fast-pitch stickball) is a game believed to have its roots in Toronto in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Spun off from baseball and closely related to the American game of stickball, the name burby may be derived from the fact that it is a sport born out of the suburbs. Burby is typically played with a wooden bat and tennis balls.
In an unrelated game of the same name, which is thought to have originated in Brisbane's West End, players stand in a circle, holding sticks such as broom handles. They then pass the ball to each other by balancing and rolling it along the stick, doing tricks and passing the ball between players. The objective of the game is not to hit the ball but to keep the ball in play and flowing. 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 body 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 September 2000 and is now also played in the UK, Europe, India and Canada. Large crowds have been reported playing stickball in downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota, US, specifically in the Loring Park neighborhood.
D.M. Cataneo's book "Eggplant Alley", set in the Bronx in the sixties, has a recurring stickball theme.