Corkball: The Mutant Baseball Sport That’s a St. Louis Custom

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The batter tightens his grip across the bat and stares down the pitcher with a flinty look.

The pitcher winds up and hurls the ball with all his would possibly.



Because the golf-ball-sized ball lands within the catcher’s mitt, the struck-out batter dejectedly walks away from the plate, leaving his broomstick-width bat behind.

Wait, what? Why are the ball and bat so slimmed down?

What might need initially appeared like a recreation of baseball isn’t America’s pastime in any respect. Somewhat, it’s a regional speciality that originated within the taverns, factories, and schoolyards of the early twentieth century.

Welcome to corkball: a mutant baseball recreation hailing from the streets of St. Louis, that you just simply would possibly wish to import to your individual neighborhood. 

The Origins of Corkball

Within the 1840s, Irish and German immigrants got here pouring into St. Louis. Most of the latter introduced beer recipes from Deutschland and opened breweries that mass-produced German lagers for the nation’s rising inhabitants. Whereas brewing firms like Anheuser-Busch had been innovating beer-making with pasteurization and refrigeration, the workers at these breweries had been making improvements to American baseball and created a model of the sport that allowed them to play with a restricted variety of gamers, in a restricted house, with out the standard regulation gear. 

Legend has it that corkball bought its begin in an east St. Louis tavern someday round 1900. Some bored, barely drunk dude popped the cork bung off a beer barrel and wrapped some tape round it. He then tossed it to a ingesting buddy who tried to hit it with a broomstick. 


Corkball was born. 

Essentially the most vital distinction between corkball and baseball was that corkball had no runners, so there have been no bases. As a result of there have been no bases or runners, males didn’t want a giant house or many gamers to play corkball. They might technically get a corkball recreation going with simply 4 whole — two to a crew. 

Corkball is clearly all about pitching and hitting. However the recreation’s uniquely small ball and bat make the latter frustratingly difficult. Whereas corkball may very well be performed with a brush and a home made ball made with a taped-up cork bung, just a few sporting items firms like Spalding and Louisville Slugger began manufacturing “regulation” corkball gear. A regulation corkball bat has a skinny 1.5″ barrel at its widest level, in regards to the width of a broomstick. A regulation corkball seems like a typical baseball however is smaller in dimension. It’s solely 6.5″ round and weighs a measly 1.5 ounces (a regulation baseball is 9” spherical and weighs 5 ounces). As a result of the corkball is so mild, throwing modified pitches, like curves and sliders, is far simpler to do than with an everyday baseball.

Within the a long time after its turn-of-the-century inception, corkball bought considerably extra subtle, however not a lot. Basic guidelines had been established, however every tavern, manufacturing facility, or schoolyard had its personal “house discipline” guidelines. The sport was so standard with St. Louis tavern-goers that many pubs constructed “corkball cages” within the alleys behind their institutions. Supposedly, you’ll be able to nonetheless see just a few deserted corkball cages right here and there across the metropolis.

The sport of corkball unfold a bit exterior the Gateway to the West due to WWII. GIs from St. Louis taught the sport to their fellow bored brethren-at-arms, and people males took the concept house with them after the struggle. Just a few southern states, like Georgia, actually took to corkball, however St. Louis remains to be the corkball capital of the world.  

Just a few variations of corkball have sprung up within the metropolis over the a long time. The primary is known as “Indian Ball.” It’s just like corkball in that there aren’t any baserunners, however in Indian Ball you utilize a regulation-sized baseball and bat. 

Then there’s “fuzzball.” Much like corkball in that there aren’t any baserunners and you utilize a broomstick-width bat, however as an alternative of a corkball, you utilize a tennis ball that’s had its fuzz burned off with a lighter.

There’s additionally a model of corkball the place you utilize bottle caps as an alternative of a corkball. These are for the masochists of St. Louis.

Whereas corkball is primarily an informal pick-up recreation, official corkball leagues have existed in St. Louis for the reason that early twentieth century and proceed to reside on as we speak. Whereas the competitors can get heated, it’s largely good-natured play. The ambiance is just like a softball beer league; it’s only a bunch of dudes getting collectively after an extended day of labor to blow off some steam and have some enjoyable.

The custom runs deep within the metropolis: 75-year-old males are nonetheless taking part in this bizarre recreation they began taking part in as boys. You’ll find corkball video games in St. Louis the place three generations of males in a household are taking part in the sport collectively. 

Corkball video games appear and feel like how I think about the very first video games of baseball appeared and felt like. It’s type of heartwarming to know {that a} bunch of grown males in St. Louis meet as much as play a recreation only for the sake of taking part in a recreation. Lengthy reside amateurism. 

Corkball Guidelines

Need to attempt your individual hand on the St. Louis custom of corkball? Right here’s easy methods to play. 


Taking part in Discipline

You’ll be able to play corkball just about anyplace: parks, parking heaps, baseball diamonds. 

Pitching rubber must be 55 ft from house plate. 

In contrast to in baseball, in corkball there isn’t a diamond-shaped discipline of play, the place foul strains run at angles to the left and proper of house plate. As an alternative, there’s solely a single foul line that runs behind and perpendicular to house plate. As a result of this foul line doesn’t connect with different strains, the width of a corkball discipline might be . . . indefinite. If you would like. Or you’ll be able to set boundaries to your discipline. It’s as much as you.

Corkball will also be performed in a corkball cage. A corkball cage normally measures 20 ft broad by 75 ft lengthy. 

Variety of Gamers

You want at the least 4 gamers for corkball: two individuals per crew. 

Every crew wants at the least a pitcher and catcher. 

You’ll be able to have extra gamers and put them within the discipline of play as fielders. Normally, groups max out at 5 gamers.

Taking part in the Sport

  • Sport size is 5 innings of three outs every for each groups.
  • A success that travels at the least 15 ft, on the bottom or within the air is a single.
  • 5 balls = a stroll.
  • Any mixture of 4 hits and walks = 1 run. 
  • An out can occur in one of many following methods:
    • The batter hits a foul ball.
    • The batter swings and misses AND the catcher catches the ball. If the catcher doesn’t catch the ball, it doesn’t depend as a strike or a ball. It’s a useless ball.
    • The batter hits the ball, and a fielder from the opposing crew catches the ball earlier than it hits the bottom.
    • The batter takes two known as strikes with out swinging, supplied the catcher catches each balls.
    • The batter bunts the ball. (Bunting?! There’s no bunting in corkball!)
    • The batter will get hit by the corkball whereas swinging.
  • The crew with probably the most runs on the finish of 5 innings wins.

That’s the gist of the sport. You’ll be able to add a variation in the way you rating the sport by including zones for house runs, triples, doubles, and singles.

The house run line must be 250 ft from house plate. Any hit ball that goes over the house run line within the air counts as a run.

Different strains might be marked at 150 and 200 ft from house plate. 

Any ball that lands earlier than the 150 line (however touring at the least 15 ft) is a single.

Any ball that lands between the 150 and 200 ft strains is a double.

Any ball that lands between the 200 and 250 ft strains is a triple. 

Since there aren’t any baserunners in corkball, when you’re going to make use of singles, doubles, and triples, you’ll need to preserve monitor of “ghost runners” on imaginary bases in your head. 

Let’s say the primary batter hits a single. There’s an imaginary runner on imaginary first base. 

The second batter hits a double. The ghost runner on first strikes two bases to 3rd, and there’s additionally a runner on second (that is the batter that hit the double).  

The third batter hits a triple. The ghost runner on third advances house, the ghost runner on second advances house as effectively, and also you’ve bought a single runner on third base. 

The fourth batter walks and strikes to first base. The ghost runner on third doesn’t advance. 

And that’s just about it. You’ll be able to adapt these pointers as you see match. As aforementioned, completely different groups have completely different homefield guidelines. Simply ensure that everyone seems to be on the identical web page earlier than you begin taking part in. 

If you happen to don’t have an official corkball or corkball bat, you’ll be able to simply play fuzzball. Use a tennis ball with the fuzz burned off for the ball and a broomstick for a bat. The identical guidelines above apply. 

So the subsequent time you’re feeling bored on a spring or summer season night, as an alternative of queuing up Netflix, name up some buddies, discover an empty park, and play the enjoyable, quirky recreation of corkball.

If you happen to’re trying to go deeper into the historical past and tradition of corkball, take a look at the appropriately named web site, Corkball.

The submit Corkball: The Mutant Baseball Sport That’s a St. Louis Custom appeared first on The Artwork of Manliness.
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