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 21, 2008
Stoopball (Stoop Ball)

Entry in progress—B.P.

Wikipedia: Stoop ball
Stoop ball (also spelled “stoopball") is a game that is played by throwing a ball against a stoop (stairs leading up to a building) on the pavement in front of a building. Historically, it has been popular in Brooklyn and other inner cities. It first became popular after World War I.

There can be as few as one player per side. Sometimes there are 3 players (one infielder, two outfielders) on each side.

The “batter” throws a pink rubber ball (either a “spaldeen” or “pensie pinkie") at the stoop. The ball flies back towards the fielders, who are also facing the stoop.

Outs can be strikeouts (if the ball misses the edge of step), but are more likely to be fielder outs (a caught fly ball or a grounder). Hits are determined by distance of ball flight, or whether it hit the ground without being caught.

Alternatively, the person throwing the ball catches it on the fly or on a bounce. Each time a ball hits the stoop and is caught is worth 10 points. A “pointer” is a ball that hits the edge of a step and comes back as a hard line drive that could “take your mouth out.” Catching a pointer on the fly is worth 100 points. Usually the winning score is 1,000 points, but it could be anything agreed upon. 

Merriam-Webster Dictionary
Main Entry: stoop·ball
Pronunciation: \ˈstüp-ˌbȯl\
Function: noun
Date: 1941
: a variation of baseball in which a player throws a ball against a stoop or building and runs to base while other players attempt to retrieve the rebound and put the runner out

Stoopball rules
1. One team is in the field while the other team is at bat. The batter faces the building and throws the ball at the steps as hard as he/she can. The ball must hit the steps and bounce back into the street.
2. The batter is out if someone in the field catches the ball on a fly.
3. Otherwise, it is a hit. The number of bases the ghost runners advance is determined by the number of times the ball bounces before it is caught.
(1 bounce = single, 2 bounces = double, 3 bounces = a triple, 4 or more bounces = a home run)
Another way to score is if you bobble the ball, it’s a single. If the ball gets by you untouched, it’s a double. Hits can be determined by the distance of the ball flight.
4. If the ball goes over your head, it is an automatic home run.
5. Make sure to keep track of your bounces and the locations of your ghost runners. Runs are scored the same as in baseball. There are three outs per team per inning. You can play a seven-inning or nine-inning game.

(Oxford English Dictionary)
stoop ball, a ball game resembling baseball, but in which the ball is thrown against a stoop or building rather than to a batter.
1941 B. SCHULBERG What makes Sammy Run? ix. 166 Kids yelling at each other in a stoop-ball game.
1947 Commentary May 463/2 As one of a large family of games such as stoopball..it demands an ability to maneuver freely.
1959 J. D. SALINGER in New Yorker 6 June 102/2 Stoopball, for the information of rural readers, is a ball game played with the support of a flight of brownstone steps or the front of a apartment building.
1978 G. A. SHEEHAN Running & Being vii. 90 We knew our block… Knew which steps to get pointers in stoop ball.

Chronicling America
17 April 1907, Washington (DC) Times, “Girl Athletes Close Their Indoor Season,” pg. 11, col. 4:
Summaries of the events follow:
Dodge ball…
Inter-class relay…
High jump…
Stoop ball.

12 May 1909, New York (NY) Times, pg. 1, col. 2:
Walter Purdy Was Bouncing “Stoop”
Ball and Backed in Front of the Car.

The boy, whose father, James Monmouth Purdy, is a process server at the Jefferson Market Court, got home from Public School 03, at Ninety-third Street and Amsterdam Avenue, early in the afternoon, and, with some ten or a dozen other boys in the block, began to play “stoop” ball in the street.

Walter stood in the gutter, just off Columbus Avenue, in front of 101 West Ninety-fourth Street, throwing the ball against the stoop steps, and catching it when it rebounded.

Chronicling America
12 May 1909, New-York (NY) Daily Tribune, pg. 14, col. 1:

The Purdy boy was playing a lone game of “stoopball,” which consists of throwing a rubber ball against the stoop and hitting it with his hand on the rebound.

7 May 1916, Philadelphia (PA) Inquirer, “Lawn Tennis Lessons for Beginners” by J. Parmly Paret, feature section, pg. 2:
Boys who have played other ball games—particularly baseball, “stoop-ball” and other games where a bounding ball is used—learn tennis much quicker, because the eye has been trained through these sports.

15 June 1924, New York (NY) Times, “Little People’s City: The World of Play at the Feet of the Grown-Up World of Work” by M. B. Levick, pg. SM8:
Mr. Storey has listed a wide variety of today’s diversions and near the head of his list, in frequency, appear stoop ball, hopscotch, basketball (often with a lamp post for goal), fencing with sticks, and tag.

20 July 1955, El Paso (TX) Herald-Post, “Kids of the 30s Seem to Have Had More Fun in Sports” by Charles Sutton, pg. 16, col. 1:
I played so many games as a kid in Brooklyn that it’s hard to make an accounting of them now, what with 20 full years to bridge.
Often, we were savagely smacking a little ball around in a variety of ways. We used the hollow rubber sphere, worth a nickel then, to play stickball, punchball, stoopball, stoop baseball and box ball, to name but about half of them.

Stoopball was a simple but fascinating game for us. As the name implies, it was played against a stoop—a cement stairway leading up to a house. From about 12 feet back, the ball was thrown against the stoop and caught on the rebound. If the ball bounced once before being caught, the player got 10 points for the throw. If it bounced more than once, he forfeited the ball until his next turn up. If he caught it on the fly, he got 100 points. The game was won when the first person reached 1000.

The new generation of youngsters in he East still plays stoopball, but the great competitive fire which brightened the game for us seems to have dimmed under the new order. They don’t play it as often these days, or with the same spirit. 

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.
STOOPBALL. Three players on each team play seven innings. Game is played by hurling Spaldeen against the point of a step or stoop. Fielders try to catch ball on the fly to retire batter. Hits are registered by the number of bounces ball takes before fielder grabs it. One bounce, a single; two bounces, a double, and so on.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CitySports/Games • (3) Comments • Monday, April 21, 2008 • Permalink