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.

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Entry from April 19, 2008
Punchball (Punch Ball)

Entry in progress—B.P.


(Dictionary of American Regional English)
punchball n esp NYC
A game similar to baseball played with a rubber ball that is hit with the fist.
1935 Ware Greenwich Village 144 NYC, The district abounded in block teams..who played the ubiquitous game of punchball.
1957 Sat. Eve. Post Letters Springfield MA (as of 1917-26), Punchball—A baseball type game, any number of players on a side! The batter would throw a soft rubber ball into the air himself and punch it with his fist...A variation..allowed the fielder to get a batter out by hitting him with the ball as he ran the bases.
1968-70 DARE (Qu. EE11, Bat-and-ball games for just a few players [when there aren’t enough for a regular game]} Inf NY250, Punchball; (Qu. EE33, Other outdoor games) Inf NY 119, Punchball—like baseball except players would punch the ball; played in the gutter or backyard.
1977 NY Times (NY) 6 July 29, And stick-ball and punchball haven’t changed.
1995 DARE File Brooklyn NY (as of 1950s), Punch ball was also scored like baseball except there was no pitcher. The person who was “up” tossed the (ever-present) spaldeen in the air and punched it. Ibid NYC (as of c1925), Punch ball..in which the rubber ball was bounced on the pavement, then struck with the fist; a baseball-like game..usually played at the intersection of two streets, with the corners forming the three bases and home plate; sometimes a pitcher was used, who tossed the ball underhand to the batter so that it reached him on one bounce.
2000 Ibid Brooklyn NYC (as of c1950), Punchball..a baseball-style team game played with a Spaldeen on an asphalt baseball court, wherein the batter threw the ball up in the air, like a tennis serve, and had to punch it. Ibid NYC, We had..punchball in Manhattan (Washington Heights) too.

(Oxford English Dictionary)
punchball, n.
U.S. regional (chiefly New York City). A children’s ball game resembling baseball, in which an inflated rubber ball is hit with the fist.
1908 N.Y. Times 16 Aug. 3/5 The boys, who let the girls do most of the singing, had their inning next, giving an exhibition of black and white, dodge ball, club pursuit race, punch ball, tag ball, and other similar games.
1935 C. F. WARE Greenwich Village 1920-30 v. 144 The district abounded in block teams..who played the ubiquitous game of punchball.
1991 S. J. GOULD Bully for Brontosaurus vi. 96, I survived because I wasn’t hopeless at punchball, and I won some respect for my knowledge of baseball stats.
2005 N.Y. Times 7 July B1/1 For New York traditionalists, there could be events like stickball, punchball, skully and ring-a-levio.

26 July 1900, New Haven (CT) Evening Register, “Delightful Outing of the Junior Y.M.C.A. Of Madison,” pg. 3:
Among the many pastimes offered for the boys were baseball, basket ball, punch ball, quoits, gymnastic motion games, athletic contests, aquatic sports, a quoit tournament and instruction in all branches of field and track events. 

Chronicling America
16 December 1902, New York (NY) Evening World, pg. 6 ad:
Punch Ball, an interesting game, played on regular Ping Pong table.
$2.50 and $3.50

1 April 1908, Washington (DC) Post, “Boy Pupils of Friend School in Gymnastic Exercises,” pg. 16, col. 3:
Punch ball, second, intermediate.

20 November 1909, Syracuse (NY) Post-Standard, pg. 11, col. 2:
ROME, Nov. 19.—The Junior A division of the Y.M.C.A. has organized a Punchball League of three teams, to be known as the Marathons, Olympics and Ionics.

15 June 1920, Fort Wayne (IN) News, pg. 18:
Volley ball, baseball, punch ball and all kinds of athletics are in order here and a part of each day’s program.

4 October 1920, Morning Oregonian (Portland, OR), pg. 8:
October 16.—Punch ball tournament.

(OCLC WorldCat record)
Title: Tricks and games for children.
Author(s): Dittrich, Rudolf, 1925-
Publication: New York, Sterling Pub. Co.
Year: 1964
Description: 128 p. : ill. ; 21 cm.
Language: English
Contents: Tricks and illusions: Spin the key—Saucer sorcery—Thumb fun—Broken finger—Twisting your wrist—Knot tat way—Disappearing knot—Rope that ties itself—Tricky catch—Clever toss—Money from thin air—Money in the bank—Vanishing coin—Spinning coins—Two-coin trick—Pivoting coin—Quick-change artist—Defying gravity—Water mystery—Skill not enough—Mind reading—Contorted contortions—Games and entertainment: Giant chopsticks—Fishing for a bottle—Deep sea disc fishing—Ring the bottle—Flying rings—Tip the bottle—Coin bowling—Coin tossing—Nudge the coin—Coin hockey—Bucket basketball—Basketball variations—Punchball and kickball—Ball on a pole—Volleyball catch—Paddleball—Disc toss—Jumping for food—running games—Bead in a box—Bureau of identification—Connecting numbers—Knock-’em off—Fun with a jump rope—Sack race—Stunts and practical jokes: Educated feet—Using your mouth—Juggling empty boxes—High stepping—Human pretzel—Hand music—Whistle while you work—Who has the whistle?—Tricky drinking—Drink if you can—Acrobatic ball—Orbiting cup—Ball bouncing—Mysterious pendulum—Hoop stunts—Skipping stones—Fun with stilts—Hand and foot—Touchy problem—Orange-peel teeth—Impossible feat—Instant portraits.

(OCLC WorldCat record)\
Title: Last licks :
a Spaldeen story /
Author(s): Best, Cari.
Palmisciano, Diane, ; (Illustrator)
Publication: New York : DK Pub.,
Edition: 1st ed.
Year: 1999
Description: 1 v. (unpaged) : col. ill. ; 27 cm.
Language: English
Standard No: ISBN: 0789425130; 9780789425133 LCCN: 97-43606
Abstract: Annie’s spectacular hit and the ball collector’s amazing catch of her Sky High Super Pinkie bring the two former foes together in an unexpected way.
SUBJECT(S)
Descriptor: Punchball—Fiction. 

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CitySports/Games • (0) Comments • Saturday, April 19, 2008 • Permalink