IRH - Stopper Ball

This section is to honor the works of Russ Lancaster who started the “I Remember Hamlet” web site years ago. Without his pioneering the web at that time we might not have gathered all these memories of our Hamlet, NC. We thank you Russ for what you started in 1996, may you Rest in Peace. Russ was kind enough to let me download his web site before he took it down. Thank you Russ.
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IRH - Stopper Ball

Post by David » Fri March 8, 2019, 8:08 pm

Stopper Ball
a boys game
by Russ Lancaster
In the 1950’s, baseball was America’s game, even in Hamlet. The Mutual Broadcasting Company provided games every day from late April until September on the radio. Dizzy Dean’s broadcast of the Game of the Week on television on Saturday afternoons was looked forward to each weekend.
Mickey Mantle was everyone’s hero. The American and National leagues had only 8 teams each and there was no such thing as a designated hitter.
Baseball cards were collected by all the boys and could be bought cheaply. Trading those cards was a pastime in itself. Those cards would be worth a fortune if I still had them today.
Sandlot games in Hamlet were seen on every playground and park. In 1954, organized baseball was initiated in Hamlet with the startup of Little League by Nelson White and Pony League by Jack Lancaster.
My friend, Billy Gill, and I even devised a way to play one on one with a game we called Stopper Ball. I think we may have even invented the game because I never heard of it before or since and never saw anyone else play it.
The game required only one player on a team. The equipment consisted of an adequate supply of bottle caps and a broomstick. The bottle caps (stoppers) were easy to come by. In the 50’s, all soft drinks were in returnable bottles. The bottles were capped with tin caps with corks inside to preserve the freshness of the contents.
A trip to the Midget, near Billy’s house on Raleigh Street, or to Pop Nettles service station on Hamlet Avenue would net us bags full of bottle caps. The bottle caps were kept in containers on the side of the chest type coolers where they fell when opened by the attached bottle openers. The owners would have to empty those containers ever so often and normally would be thrown out in the trash. We would get a couple of brown paper bags, make our trips to the Midget or Pop Nettles and ask for those containers full of caps. They gave them to us gladly without a clue as to why we wanted them.
Back to Billy’s house we would go and sort through our free treasure of caps choosing only those that were in near perfect condition. Those would be the ones used in our stopper ball games.
The game consisted of a pitcher and a batter only. Holding a bottle cap correctly we could fashion curve balls (curving right or left), fast balls, risers, sinkers and even knuckle balls. If the hollow side of the cap were twisted at a left angle upon release, the ball would curve to the right, a right angle would result in a curve to the left. A cap thrown vertically to the ground would result in a fast ball, one held between the thumb and first two fingers with the brand side straight at a batter would result in a knuckle ball. One thrown with the hollow end down would produce a riser, with the hollow end up a sinker could be thrown. We experimented a long time to figure all this out. The pitches were extremely difficult to hit with our narrow broomsticks (with the business end broken off).
An out was made by a strikeout, a catch of a hit bottle cap or by three consecutive foul balls.
Billy’s back yard was mostly of the old hard packed gray sand you see around Hamlet. We drew arced lines behind the pitcher at intervals to designate singles, doubles, triples and home runs. We didn’t need bases to run, a cap hit into one of the designated areas represented our runners.
Surprisingly, our games became low scoring defensive battles as we became more adept at our innovative pitching styles. We played nine inning games with real lineups copied from the newspapers.
Billy always chose the Yankees starting lineup, I chose the White Sox. We represented the best hitters and pitchers and tried our best to emulate each person in our lineups. We played regulation nine inning games and scores of 3-1 or somewhere near that figure were the norm.
Billy’s back yard soon became Hamlet’s only multi-colored yard. The dark gray sand was covered with the bottle caps from RC, Coke, Pepsi, Nehi, NuGrape, Dr. Pepper and Bireley’s soft drink bottles. His parents never said a word (at least not while I was around) about the strange looking yard.
We played many a game of stopper ball back there on the upper end of Raleigh Street. There were many other games we either copied or invented. But no game ever equaled the simple game of stopper ball we devised. We had hours of fun and exercise, needed no supervision and managed to stay out of trouble. We needed no money or electronic aids. We were kids doing what kids did in the fifties, finding ways to occupy our time, entertain ourselves and just have fun with no expense other than Mrs. Gill’s iced tea.
Those were days that live only in memory and a game that few, if any, other than Billy Gill and myself even know about.
But, I remember Billy Gill, the bottle caps, the game and all the fun we had those summer days. And most of all… I remember Hamlet.

freddie hassler
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Re: IRH - Stopper Ball

Post by freddie hassler » Fri April 5, 2019, 8:58 pm

I have played Stopper Ball not with a broom stick, but with a Brake Stick

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