The History of Kick Ball

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You may have been driving by a park and noticed its fields full of adults chasing an old red playground ball about the field. Some would say they've lost their minds, but, if you ask the players, they'd tell you they're playing kickball, which has come back as a very popular recreational sport for adults since 2000. Kickball used to be played in gym classes only, but, before it became a beer league sport, it started as a teaching tool.

Invention

  • In 1917, Nicholas C. Seuss, the supervisor of park playgrounds in Cincinnati, Ohio, invented a game to teach younger boys and girls basic baseball skills. He called it "Kick Baseball," and schools and other cities picked up on it quickly. "The ideas of 'being forced,' 'playing for the home or nearest base,' and 'double play' are quickly learned," wrote H.S. De Groat in 1921.

Early Differences

  • In 2010, the game basically resembles softball or baseball, except that, instead of using a bat, players kick the pitched ball. In Kick Baseball, between 10 and 30 players took positions outside a "Neutral Zone," where no player could go until the ball was kicked. Players did not kick at pitched balls. Instead, they kicked it from the home area, a 3-foot circle around home base. A kicked ball must travel past the 5-foot line, and base runners could only move up one base on a kicked ball. There were no outs; after all the players on a team kicked the ball, teams switched sides.

Changes

  • As the game spread, it evolved. Pitchers became a part of kickball. In 1922, the book "School, Church, and Home Games" described a perfect pitch: "The ball is tossed with an underhanded toss, so that it passes over the base not higher than the level of the knee of the batter." In addition to the basemen and shortstop, there was a second shortstop to the pitcher's left. Except for the additional shortstop, kickball began to resemble baseball more and more. Each side received three outs for batting, and kickers received three strikes and four balls.

Adults Still Find it Fun

  • Kickball continued to gain popularity in schools, churches and community groups. Adults also played it among themselves. Reporter Ernie Pyle described soldiers players organizing sports leagues -that included kickball - in a dispatch from North Africa: "Three such games--kick baseball, speedball, and touch football--have been inaugurated." In the years after World War II, kickball was still mainly played in gym classes, but adults continued playing in small local tournaments and pickup games. This continued until the 1990s.

Today

  • In 1998, the World Adult Kickball Association (WAKA) formed in Washington, D.C. This was one of several adult recreational kickball leagues that have sprung up in cities across the United States, including San Francisco, St. Louis and New York. As of 2010, WAKA has more than 20,000 players across 1,000 teams divided into 100 divisions and other leagues are popping up all over the country.

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References

  • Photo Credit Blue ball on the playground image by Mikhail Nikolskiy from Fotolia.com
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