Stickball: Rules, Popularity, Equipment, and Origins

Stickball is a simple street game, much like baseball, often played in big cities in the Northeastern United States, particularly in New York City and Philadelphia. It’s a casual, spontaneous game, usually played with a broomstick and a rubber ball, like a spaldeen or a tennis ball. The game borrows rules from baseball but adapts them to fit street settings. For instance, players might use a manhole cover as a base or buildings to mark foul lines. Stickball has a long history, tracing back to the 1750s, and was especially popular among young people in the 20th century up until the 1980s.

Stickball Definition

Stickball is a street game resembling baseball, played with a broomstick and a rubber ball. In a broader context, it also refers to traditional Native American games similar to lacrosse, involving sticks and a ball, played by various tribes for cultural and social purposes.

Variations of Stickball

In Havana in 1999, kids were seen playing stickball. One version of the game is ‘fungo,’ where the batter throws the ball up and hits it as it falls or bounces. Another variant is ‘Vitilla’, mainly played in the Dominican Republic and in U.S. areas with large Dominican communities.

Stickball in Popular Culture

  • In the 1976 film “Rocky,” a group of young people play halfball (a stickball variant) on the streets of Philadelphia.
  • Indigenous North American stickball, resembling lacrosse, is a team sport played with two sticks, popular among tribes like Cherokee and Choctaw for resolving disputes peacefully.
  • In “Rocky II” (1979), the main character is seen playing stickball/halfball.
  • An episode of “The Simpsons” titled “Lisa’s First Word” features a scene set in a 1930s-style New York City neighborhood where kids decide to play a video game about stickball instead of the actual game.
  • In the TV series “White Collar” (Episode 2.02 – “Need To Know”), the character Neil Coffrey devises a plan to create a park in memory of a fictional boy, Timmy Nolan, who was fond of stickball.
  • The opening credits of the movie “Big,” starring Tom Hanks, also feature stickball.

How do you play stickball?

Stickball is played similarly to baseball but on the streets. Players use a broomstick as a bat and a rubber ball. The rules are adapted from baseball, with makeshift items like manhole covers as bases and buildings as foul lines. The game involves hitting the ball and running bases like in baseball.

Is stickball still played?

Stickball is still played, especially in urban areas in the Northeastern United States, like New York City and Philadelphia. While it’s less widespread than it was in the mid-20th century, communities and enthusiasts continue to keep the tradition alive.

What is a stickball stick called?

In traditional stickball, the stick is called a “stickball stick.” In the street version of stickball, it’s typically a broom handle. In Indigenous North American stickball, similar to lacrosse, sticks are often handcrafted and may have specific names depending on the tribe, like “kabocca” in Choctaw stickball.

What is stick and ball?

“Stick and ball” refers to a category of games where players use a stick to hit a ball. This includes sports like golf, hockey, lacrosse, and cricket. Stickball falls under this category as it involves using a stick (like a broom handle) to hit a ball, similar to baseball. Stick and ball games are characterized by the basic equipment of a stick and ball and vary widely in rules and gameplay.

Stickball Cherokee

In the Cherokee tradition, stickball is a rigorous, physically demanding sport similar to lacrosse. It’s played with two sticks, and players catch, carry, and throw a small ball, aiming to score on the opposing team’s goal. It holds cultural significance and was historically used for conflict resolution and community bonding.

Stickball Choctaw

Choctaw stickball, known as “Tvshka” or “Kapucha Toli,” is a traditional Native American game. Players use handcrafted sticks (kabocca) and a woven leather ball (towa). The objective is to hit a vertical pole or a horizontal fish to score points without using hands to touch the ball.

Stickball Rules

The rules of stickball vary depending on the version being played. In the street version, rules are adapted from baseball with local modifications. In Native American versions, the rules can differ significantly among tribes, often involving scoring by hitting a target with the ball using sticks.

Stickball Bat

The “bat” is typically a broomstick or a similar long, slender stick in street stickball. This simple equipment makes the game accessible and easy to play in urban settings.

Stickball Sticks

In Native American stickball, the sticks are usually handcrafted and specific to the tribe’s tradition. They often have a small netted area at one end to catch and throw the ball. The stick is a simple broom handle or similar item in street stickball.


In conclusion, stickball is a versatile and culturally rich game with variations spanning from urban street play to traditional Native American sports. In cities like New York and Philadelphia, stickball adapts baseball rules for urban environments. It uses simple equipment like a broomstick and a rubber ball, making it accessible and popular among local communities.

In contrast, Native American tribes, including the Cherokee and Choctaw, have unique stickball versions deeply rooted in their cultural heritage. These games, resembling lacrosse, are not just sports but also a means of community bonding, conflict resolution, and cultural expression. They use handcrafted sticks and have specific rules varying from tribe to tribe.

Whether played on the streets of a bustling city or in a tribal gathering, stickball demonstrates the adaptability of sports in different cultural contexts and the unifying power of a simple game involving a stick and a ball.

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