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By Dan Beard

How to Play Town Ball

ohb279.gif (2726 bytes)
Fig. 279.
Game of Town-Ball.

It is almost a waste of space to describe in detail any of the National popular games, such as baseball, as the rules which govern them for one year will not answer for the next. And, furthermore, there is possibly not a reader of this book that does not keep himself thoroughly posted upon such games. But there is the "father" of baseball, which is a first-rate game, and not played enough to be constantly changing its form and rules. In England, this game, or its immediate ancestor, is called Rounders, and possibly it may go by this name in some parts of the United States, but in the West it was formerly called

ohb276.gif (885 bytes)
Fig. 276.


The ball and bat used in Town-Ball are both different from those used in baseball. In place of bases there are corners, in place of a pitcher there is a giver, and the fielders are of any number, with no distinctive names.

The Ball

is sometimes a small rubber ball, such as can be found at most toy stores--not those of solid rubber, which are generally black in color and too heavy, but the hollow ones. The real town-ball, however, is a home made affair, consisting of a small ball of tightly wound yarn, usually unraveled by the boys from old yarn clothes, and wound up into a spherical form. This is covered with leather that is cut in the form of a three-leaved clover, or maybe you will understand better if it is likened to an orange-peel when you make three cuts in the orange-skin and then take the rind off without breaking it (Fig. 275). This leather covering is sewed on the ball with shoemaker's thread by means of an awl and a waxed-end, and should fit tightly and evenly without wrinkles. A well-made ball is a work of art that boys are proud of exhibiting and talking about.

ohb275.gif (1781 bytes)
Fig. 275.
Showing How it is Made.

The Bat

ohb277.gif (2979 bytes)
Fig. 277.

is either very short, resembling a dwarf base-ball bat (Fig. 277), and is called a "delill," or it is broad and flat after the fashon of a cricket-bat (Fig. 278).

Fig. 278.

The Corners

are usually three in number, with a home-base, making four, but this varies according to the whim of the players or the locality where the game is played. 0rdinarily with three corners the distance is about the same as between the bases in baseball. In place of home-base there is a rectangle marked on the ground where the striker and catcher stand.

The Giver

stands in the same position that the pitcher occupies in a game of baseball; but in place of pitching or making the underhand throw, he throws overhand and "gives" the ball to the catcher over the right shoulder of the batter

The Batter

stands at the front line of the home-base and holds his bat above his shoulder and strikes from that position, with both hands grasping the handle of the but, if he is using a flat bat. But if be is using a "delill" he holds it with one hand and allows the swiftly thrown ball to strike his club and glance off at an angle to a part of the grounds where no fielders are on the outlook for it. Every time the ball touches the bat it is considered a fair hit, and the batter must run for his first corner and reach it, if possible, before some fielder, the catcher, or giver secures the ball and "burns" or "stings" him, as they call it when they hit a player with the ball. No one stands on guard at the bases to catch the batter out, and the ball, in place of being thrown to the base, is thrown at the man running the corners. When one batter makes a hit or is put out the next batter takes his place, as in baseball.

The Catcher

stands behind the bat and without gloves, and with no protection for his face or body he catches the "hot" balls the giver sends to him. The balls are not heavy enough to be dangerous.

The Fielders

scatter themselves over the field, according to the directions of the captain, and try to catch or stop all balls from the bat, or those that are thrown at and miss the runners between corners.

When Out

When a man is out he is out until the next inning, and the game proceeds without him. If a striker sends a ball in the air and it is caught before it touches the ground by the giver, the catcher, or any one of the fielders, the batter is out. If the ball touches his bat it is counted a hit, and if it is caught by any one of the opposite side he is out.

If any one of the fielders, the catcher, or giver make a successful throw at a man running the corners and strikes him with the ball when he is not touching his corner, he is out.

If the batter misses a ball that he strikes at, and the catcher catches the ball before it strikes the ground, the batter is out.

When a man is put out, he is out for that inning, and cannot strike again until the next inning for his side. When all are out but one, that one has a very difficult task to make a score, unless he can make a home-run strike. There are no other batters to help him by sending a "sky-scraper" over the fielders' heads; but he must run his corners while the giver and catcher, standing in their regular position, pass the ball between them. 

This always produces a great deal of excitement and sport, as all the batter's side coach him, and if he succeeds in stealing a corner or successfully dodges the ball thrown at him, he is greeted by wild cheers from his own side.

Should he at last succeed in reaching home-base untouched, he has the privilege of "putting in" the best batter on his side, and there are then two men in and a better chance to score.

Any number of boys may play in one game, and since all the really necessary properties consist of a ball and a bat, both homemade, it makes a game much better suited to boys than base-ball, with all its array of expensive balls, bats, bases, home plate, armor, wire masks, sliding gauntlets, and gloves. As far as skill is concerned, no good town-ball player need hang his head in the presence of the best of base-ball players.

ohb279.gif (2726 bytes)
Fig. 279.
Game of Town-Ball.

Fig. 279 shows the proper method of laying out the field. In this case, wands, with colored flags on them, are stuck into the ground for corners. These are strong enough, for the runner only touches them with his hand and does not fall all over slide to them, as in baseball. The distances between bases are regulated according to circumstances and the dimensions of the play-ground.







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Last modified: October 15, 2016.