There’s a group of guys that gets together every Sunday afternoon and plays a fairly organized game of wiffleball at the little league fields next to our house. Regrettably, I am not one of those guys, but I support them nonetheless. They have what looks like a manual scoreboard, a video camera on a tripod, and at least 4 regulars per team. By the way, when I say I “support” them, I mean I am fiercely jealous of them.
Seeing these guys play reminded me of days of yore, when assembling friendly sporting events was the most significant source of stress in my life. I had it so good. I spent the majority of my time with friends playing baseball, basketball, street football, floor hockey, and something called ‘Aviva Ball’ which we ever-so-creatively named after the company that produced and stamped its name on the sponge-like ball used in competition. We also had something called the “Ball of Hope” but I can’t recall if we ever successfully integrated it into a game. Regardless of the contest, we always had to modify the rules in some way to accommodate our circumstances. Here are some examples:
Any form of baseball was always the most difficult sport to organize. To get a good game going, we needed more bodies than necessary for any other sport. One on one was ugly (though played often- what stamina we had as kids), and two on two was not much better. When we were fortunate enough to have the players necessary for a baseball game, there would still be the inevitable need for the ghostman. The ghostmen were an imaginary roster of invisible baserunners, always ready to pinch run for a real-life player whose services were needed in the batter’s box. Ghostmen were perfectly impartial and shockingly similar in speed to the actual players, as they reached each corresponding base at the exact instant their human counterpart reached their next station. Sending ghostmen to do the work of humans is by far one of the most innovative advancements in human history, and yet we stop using it around age 12.
Lost ball rule
Most games played by children are likely supplied with one official ‘game ball’. Spares were a rarity, so these game balls had to be protected with vigilance. Some of the fields and yards where we played had built-in obstacles or restrictions such as fences, dog-protected neighboring yards, inaccessible nearby roofs, or closed-for-the-season swimming pools. If a game ball were to enter any of these territories of no return, the game was over. Countermeasures had to be put in place to deter this type of transgression. If a hitter was to foul a ball up onto a roof or into a neighbor’s yard, that was an automatic out, and they were tasked with rescuing the ball from it’s purgatorial fate. In the most extreme cases, losing the ball was a forfeit of the entire game. A punishment fitting of such a heinous crime.
Shirts and Skins
Some of you reading this had no problem with ‘shirts and skins’. You people were the reason that people like me hated it. Proud of your body, eh? What’s that like? Must be nice to willingly shed your shirt to promote unity with your team. I’ll be the guy in the corner faking a sudden injury to avoid the game until teams are re-drafted and I make the ‘shirts’ squad.
Throwing the ball at people to make an out
Another ill-effect of a baseball game with undersized rosters, this rule was another brilliant contrivance of adolescent ballplayers. “Hey, since we don’t have a first baseman, if I drill you with the ball as you scamper to first base, you are out.” Great idea. I couldn’t wait to hit a ground ball to the pitcher so he could pelt me square in the back from short range with a hard plastic ball. My favorite! The best part was that after you got nailed the first time, there was a throbbing red target on your skin so the next time you were running for your life on the basepaths there was a brightly-colored target to aim at.All-Time QB
The curse of the odd number of available players. By far the most revolting of childhood game rules, the All-Time Quarterback was the most corrupt abomination of sportsmanship ever. On a small enough field, any size football game was possible. However, whether it was two on two or six on six, the problem arose when there was that one extra person. Someone would inevitably volunteer to play all-time quarterback, a position unique in that it was the only place in all of sports where you were guaranteed to be instrumental in every single play of the game. So much so that all time QBs were basically a pre-pubescent puppet master of sorts, the fate of the entire contest was subject to their whimsy. Without fail, every all time QB would be seduced in the huddle by one team more than the other, and the QB would play just a little bit better for that squad, compromising the integrity of the game. Maybe his best friend was on that team, maybe he had a crush on a teammate’s sister, perhaps he owed one guy a favor. Whatever the motivation, the payoff was obvious. All time QBs always sucked for one of the two teams. If only we could have called in a ghostman to do the job.