Our neighborhood originated the game of "cork ball"


by Frank Lhotsky, FrankSr57@aol.com

     I lived in North-East Baltimore between Orleans and Jefferson Streets. The perimeter streets were Milton and Luzere Avenues. I like to think that our neighborhood originated the game of "cork ball".

     I've never seen the other neighborhood kids playing it, when traveling through on my bike rides.  The basic tools of this game, were a bat and a ball.  The bat was an old broomstick, without the straw, and cut to the proper length.  The ball consisted of a tightly rolled snow ball tray and secured with tightly wound tar tape.  When the snow ball trays were no longer available, they were replaced with three matchbook covers.  These were a viable item and often found on any street gutter.  

     The game could be played with as many of three on a side and often two could play each other.  The playing field was across the street rather than in it.  The rules were the same as baseball, without the running.  

     If the cork was hit, there were different locations on the house wall that designated the hit.  Anything on the ground was a single, if it wasn't caught.  From the first window to the second was a double, above the third window a triple and over the roof a homerun.  The runners had to be forced around the bases to score a run, and then only if it wasn't caught.  

     Some of us had a knack of catching the cork off the wall for an out or following it on the ground to get the out.  The areas of our stadia were near my house on Rose Street and across the street at Mike May's bar and the confectionery store.  The biggest arena was across Jefferson Street near Milton Avenue.  A large Protestant church was on this corner and its steps made a convient bench as you waited to hit.  

     This was a larger playing field and required at least three players. The distance for a home run was much further, and required a mighty clout to clear the rooftop.  A big day for us, was when someone managed to get up on the house roofs to retrieve all the corks and balls that were hit on to them.

     The game of curb ball was played in the same locations.  The ball could be a variety of kinds to choose from.  We used the sponge ball, tennis ball, and the most expensive, the Pennsylvania Pinkie and all could be purchased at the nearest store.  The ball was struck against the curb and it was up to the opponent to catch it for three outs.  A run was tallied if the ball wasn't caught or dropped.  It was an out if caught off the wall and the foul balls were outs if caught in the air.  

     If there were two on a side, one played "the middle", or center position and the other, 'a foul catcher".  He could help retrieve balls off the wall also.  The game of "run the bases" required at least three on a side.  The positions were the first baseman, a man in the center to throw to him and an outfielder or foul catcher.  After hitting the ball on the curbstone, and it was on the ground, one had to run to first base.  If he got on base, it was up to his teamates to score him.  It was an exciting game and many times the men at Mike May's tavern would come out the bar and watch.  

     There was a playing field hazard that we all learned to defeat, the tree and its leaves that draped over the playing field. If a ball was hit into it, the fielder would have to follow as it bounced from limb to limb on its way down.  The bases were permanently etched into the asphalt with a penknife.  The key hit was a ball, that if hit on a certain part of the curb, would send a line drive, down Jefferson Street for a home run.  Our playing field near the Milton Avenue church was bigger and required more players because of the size.

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