Question: What does one do with a perfectly round hollow piece of white plastic that’s about the size of a baseball to make it more interesting?
Answer: Punch a bunch of symmetrical holes in it, grab yourself a yellow plastic bat and commence to playing whiffle ball.
Tools of the trade
Actually there are two type of whiffle balls. The first one only has holes that are punched evenly apart across one end of the ball and are more oblong in nature. The second one has round holes punched throughout the entire circumference of the ball.
Next you need the yellow bat that I mentioned earlier. Ideally it should measure around thirty two inches long and have no splits or cracks in it.
The great thing about having a ball with holes in it is that in the hands of a skilled pitcher they could make that sucker dance based on the speed and grip they used when they delivered a pitch. Shit, I knew guys who could curve that damn thing around a building if they had to and bop you on your unsuspecting head or make the bastard drop as if it had fallen off a building.
As for me, I never mastered the trade to that degree. Most of the time I had no clue of where the ball was going once it left my hand.
Location, location, location
The great thing about playing whiffle ball was that you didn’t need all that much room. Even if that batter crushed a pitch the aerodynamics were such that the ball wouldn’t travel all that far. The games we played even eliminated the need for running the bases as we would do during normal games of baseball. The field, if you can call it that, was usually marked with boundaries that indicated that the batter had either hit a single, double, triple or a home run. Of course there were foul lines on both sides of the to field ensure that arguments between the players didn’t occur and to sped up the pace of play.
Oh yeah, no bunting, base on balls or stolen bases were allowed either.
One of the great things about whiffle ball was that you if you had very few friends or a bunch of them were grounded for some reason you only needed two players and a wall in order to start a game. Of course this entailed a lot of chasing for the guy on the field once the ball was hit but you made do with what you had. The way that we played was that grounders (ground balls) were an automatic out. Fly balls that were caught before they hit the ground in either fair or foul territory were also outs. Just like in real baseball three outs constituted a turn at bat. The wall came in handy since it served as a backstop and returned the ball to the pitcher if the batter refused to swing or actually swung and missed.
If I remember correctly, if you had enough buddies around teams usually topped out at five players a side. Even then that sorta sucked, you had to wait for four other people in front of yu before you got to bat again.
The other great thing about whiffle ball was that it was cheap. You didn’t need a baseball mitt or any other fancy things like spikes or cleats and helmets in order to play. I think you can still find sets of whiffle balls and bats for around $6.00 or so just about anywhere.
The one real bitch about whiffle ball was that there were no balls and strikes. The only time a strike could be called was when the batter swung at a pitch and either missed, foul tipped it or hit one out of bounds. This practice led to many a heated argument and some interesting dialogue between the pitcher and the batter over whether they should have swung at a ball that might have been in the eyes of the pitcher a “perfect pitch”.
Pitcher:”Jesus fuckin’ Christ man, when are you gonna swing, I put that thing right down the freakin’ middle!”
Batter: “Fuck you man, I’ll swing when I’m fuckin’ ready!”
Of course since there were no runners actually running the bases the scoring rules were imaginary and sometimes arbitrary.
A single got you one imaginary base, a double two and a triple three.
Let’s say that you have an imaginary runner on first. The next batter then hits a single. Now you have runners on first and second. If the next batter hit a double, you’d have runners on second and third. If it was a triple, the runners on first scores and you have a runner on third.
To put it simply, runners advance one base on a single, two bases on a double and score from anywhere on a triple. Home runs score everybody.
Imaginary runners weren’t allowed to advance on ground outs, caught fly balls or strike outs.
The only downside about whiffle balls were their tendency to crack after extended use. If you think it was hard trying to master throwing a ball with holes in it in the first place, try adding in a crack or two. Nobody knew where that sucker was going to wind up once it left your hand.
I had a shitload of fun playing whiffle ball when I was a kid. We’d usually play in the schoolyards around the neighborhood and there was a ton of other stuff like two on two or three on three half court basketball games going on around us.
Now that I think about it that $6.00 price tag I put on the ball and bat earlier is worth a fortune today in the form of memories from my childhood.
Oh yeah, in a sign of these over protective times I forgot to mention that in 2011 the powers that be in New York actually declared that whiffle ball was unsafe and posed a "significant risk of injury" and would no longer be allowed at summer camp programs.
To which I reply "You gotta be fucking kidding me."
How I cheated death as a child and made it this far must be some kinda miracle.