A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006. Now a Popeyes fast food restaurant on Google Maps.

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Entry from April 17, 2008
Spaldeen (Spalding High-Bounce Ball)

"Spaldeen” is the New York City name for the Spalding High-Bounce Ball, first manufactured in 1949. Spaldeens were used in many street games, such as stickball, punchball, stoop ball, and Chinese handball. The popularity of these street games declined in the 1970s and “spaldeen” is largely historical today.

The term “spaldeen” (usually not capitalized) is cited in print since at least 1964.

Wikipedia: Spaldeen
A spaldeen (product called Spalding High-Bounce Ball) is a small pink rubber ball, somewhat similar to a racquetball, supposedly made from the defective core of a tennis ball without the felt. It was the more expensive and more popular version of the pensie pinkie. These balls were commonly used in street games in the mid-20th century, such as Chinese handball (a variation on American handball), stoop ball, hit the penny (try to make a penny flip on the sidewalk), box ball, punchball, and stickball (a variation of baseball).

The term most likely arose from a New York or Brooklyn-accented pronunciation of Spalding, the sporting goods company that produced the balls. Across the Hudson River in Jersey City, New Jersey, the ball was referred to as a “high bouncer.” It may also have originated with a mis-reading of A. G. Spalding’s signature on the ball. The name has become so common that Spalding actually uses it in marketing, and it is now a registered trademark.

History and attraction
Spaldeens were available from 1949 to 1979 to city kids. In urban areas sparse in grass, spaldeens became integral to many street games due to their bounciness and light weight. For reasons unknown, Spalding took the ball off the market in 1979, but it returned in 1999 to much fanfare. They sell for 99 cents to $1.49.

Rubber Balls - Spaldeens
The spaldeen has been called by some the rosetta stone of urban childhood fun. Just look at the number of spaldeen-based games we list in the section guide--it’s a truly important element of street play.

But what is it? It’s a pink rubber ball, a tennis ball without the fuzz, that was ubiquitously available to children in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s. For unfathomable reasons, the Spalding sporting goods corporation took the spaldeen off the market in the late 70s. Luckily for civilization, they’ve brought back the spaldeen and you can buy one today!

Why “spaldeen?” The name is a corruption of the pronunciation of “Spalding,” probably colored by the New York City dialect. The moniker became so popular that even Spalding now markets it under that name. Anyone who actually calls a spaldeen a “Spalding Hi-Bounce Ball”... well, we just feel sad for these folks. 

Sports Illustrated
April 20, 1964
Confessions Of A Stoop Ball Champion
Gilbert Rogin
The stoops of my youth were long, sandstone flights, their balustrades ornamented with blind lions or terminal objects that looked like great pineapples or artichokes, and the rubber balls we threw against the steps into so many evenings were “spaldeens.” A spaldeen—a corruption of Spalding, the signature that is on the ball—is pink and about the size of a tennis ball, and is as prevalent today as it was 20 years ago. There is a box of spaldeens in my neighborhood candy store, but what else has survived? The candy store where long ago I bought my spaldeens was dark, crowded and haphazard and, like a strange hold or attic, or even a second-rate magician’s hat, promised minor treasures and mysteries. I believe “I. Israelite” was painted on the door. No doubt it is a bodega now. At present, my candy store is well-lit and orderly. You can buy a scale model of Wolf Man ("an all-plastic assembly kit") there and a comic book that depicts on its front cover a surgeon dropping a scalpel with one hand while clutching his head with the other. “What have I done...?” he is saying. “I’ve killed another one!” A beautiful, anguished nurse is passing the operating theater, a clipboard pressed tightly to her starched bosom. She is thinking, the ascending bubbles indicate: “Oh, my darling.... How can you be so blind? It’s not your fault.” No, it is the fault of the times. Where is I. Israelite, whose store of real possibilities was next to the laundry of Nguey T. Jew?

I don’t really know how to spell spaldeen, any more than I know how to spell “salugi” or “scelzi.”

29 April 1968, New York (NY) Times, “Children’s Street Play Changes City,” pg. 45:
Instead, the boys chipped in 25 cents and bought another pink Spalding hi-bouncer.
Punchball, generally played with the same pink ball so common today—it is still pronounced “spaldeen” in many sections of the city—had rules very similar to baseball.
(Photo caption: )
Stickball, once a game between teams of different streets, is declining. The “spaldeen” ball is still used, but its cost has risen to 25 cents.

13 August 1969, New York (NY) Times, “Stoop-Sitters Share Pleasures of Old World and the New” by Michael T. Kaufman, pg. 49:
In an asphalt meadow at Houston Street and the Avenue of the Americas, the Parks Department has placed wooden stoops. When a pink rubber ball called a spaldeen in New York and a gas ball in New Jersey is thrown at the angle between the riser and the flat it goes “thwack” instgead of “pop,” but there are no old ladies calling cops and no cars in the outfield.

27 April 1971, New York (NY) Times, “Zealous Sanitation Commissioner - Herbert Elish” by Michael T. Kaufman, pg. 34:
Anyone who can send a “spaldeen” two sewers—about 300 feet—is obviously a person of prowess who cannot be lightly dismissed.

29 August 1972, New York (NY) Times, “Spaldeen Olympiad Is Proclaimed—and Anyone Can Play” by Michael T. Kaufman, pg. 35:
The events include stickball, stoopball, Chinese handball, boxball and Johnny on a Pony. All but the last are played with a pink rubber ball, known as a Spaldeen.

7 November 1972, New York (NY) Times, “The Spaldeen’s Real Name” by Victor Wauk, letters to the editor, pg. 34:
The recent articles by Michael T. Kaufman and Paul Montgomery on the “Spaldeen Olympiad” did not explain why the “pink rubber ball” is called a “Spaldeen.”

The pink ball, an unusually lively ball, is manufactured by the Spalding Company, and the wor “Spalding” is prominently imprinted on the ball. Mature players (i.e., aged ten to twenty) when purchasing such a ball have been asking the storekeeper (usually the friendly neighborhood candy store proprietor) for a “Spalding,” since 1910.

Many children (i.e., aged from four to seven) who cannot yet read ask the storekeeper for a “Spaldeen,” a natural mispronunciation of the word “Spalding.”

Thus, generations have gone by with children never being corrected, and the term “Spaldeen” became definitive for “Spalding.”

Trademark Blog
Spalding Sells Rights in Spaldeen Business
Posted by Marty on April 18, 2003 03:36 PM
Spalding has announced that it will sell its non-golf business to Russell Athletic.  This article says that the sale will include ownership of the SPALDING name for those sporting goods, making SPALDING one of the better known split-ownership marks.

The article does not mention the SPALDEEN mark.  If you grew up in New York City, then you owned a Spaldeen, period.  I will not go into a maudlin reverie about stickball now but I wouldn’t mind a quick game of chinese handball.  The name derived from the Noo Yawk attempt to pronouce Spalding.  At some point the company woke up to the prevalence of the alternate name and acquired a federal registration for SPALDEEN covering high bounce balls. 

New York (NY) Daily News
Old Brooklyn stickball memories
Tuesday, April 8th 2008, 4:00 AM
A Spaldeen was a small, pink, rubber ball made by the Spalding Co., the magical orb of a childhood most of us wouldn’t exchange for the ones enjoyed by Bill Gates’ kids.

With mop handles and Spaldeen in hand, we’d trot down 11th St. and two guys would declare themselves stickball team captains. One would yell, “Odds!” The second guy would yell, “One-strike-three-SHOOT!” And then they’d simultaneously flick out either one or two fingers. If it came up an odd number, that captain would pick the first teammate. Then the other captain picked his first choice, and so on, until we’d chosen sides.

Then the captains would shoot fingers again over who got to be up first.

One team would take the field in the middle of the gutter traffic, and the batters would prance to the manhole cover in the center of the street in front of Jimmy Winslow’s house, which served as home base.

And the games would begin.

Stickball season was officially started. We’d wallop that little, pink Spaldeen with a mop handle and run the chalked bases and shag flies into the middle of bus and truck traffic on Seventh Ave. from 10 a.m. until the sun went down, seven days a week when school ended, until the football season started in the fall.
If someone roofed the Spaldeen or grounded it into the sewer I was looking into last week, it was his duty to either retrieve it or provide “chips” on the ball, meaning buy a new one. If the ball went into the sewer, someone would run into his house, grab a wire hanger, twist the end into a loop, and we’d pull up the sewer grate, hold the batter by the ankles and suspend him into the deep sewer until he fished in the vile, bilge-rat-infested water for the precious Spaldeen.

Goods and Services IC 028. US 022. G & S: High-Bounce Balls and Tennis Balls. FIRST USE: 19790615. FIRST USE IN COMMERCE: 19790615
Mark Drawing Code (1) TYPED DRAWING
Serial Number 73254709
Filing Date March 20, 1980
Current Filing Basis 1A
Original Filing Basis 1A
Published for Opposition September 22, 1981
Registration Number 1182302
Registration Date December 15, 1981
Owner (REGISTRANT) Questor Corporation CORPORATION DELAWARE One John Goerlich Sq. Toledo OHIO 43691
Prior Registrations 0524419;1107418;AND OTHERS
Type of Mark TRADEMARK
Affidavit Text SECT 15. SECT 8 (6-YR). SECTION 8(10-YR) 20020227.
Renewal 1ST RENEWAL 20020227
Live/Dead Indicator LIVE

Goods and Services IC 028. US 022 023 038 050. G & S: TOY RUBBER BALLS. FIRST USE: 19980101. FIRST USE IN COMMERCE: 19980101
Design Search Code 21.03.01 - Balls including playground balls, beach balls, billiard balls, tennis balls, bingo balls and lottery balls; Beach balls; Billiard balls; Bingo balls; Lottery balls; Paddle balls; Playground balls; Table tennis balls; Tennis balls
Serial Number 76169548
Filing Date November 20, 2000
Current Filing Basis 1A
Original Filing Basis 1A
Published for Opposition March 12, 2002
Registration Number 2575647
Registration Date June 4, 2002
Prior Registrations 0525022;1214167;2305965
Disclaimer NO CLAIM IS MADE TO THE EXCLUSIVE RIGHT TO USE “HIGH-BOUNCE BALL” or the representation of the circular design of a ball APART FROM THE MARK AS SHOWN
Description of Mark The trademark in the accompanying drawing is lined to designate the color pink, which is claimed as a feature of the trademark. The stippling in the drawing is for shading purposes only.
Type of Mark TRADEMARK
Live/Dead Indicator LIVE

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CitySports/Games • (3) Comments • Thursday, April 17, 2008 • Permalink