Posted on: Wed, 08/31/2005 - 20:23 By: Tom Swiss

I just got back from doing something I haven't done in over twenty years: playing wallball.

Now, Googling for "wallball" reveals several different games by that name. (Including, oddly, some stupid computer screen-saver program to train PHBs in their jargon. WTF?) But the proper way, of course, is the way my brother Jim and I used to play in the alley.

The house where I grew up was located at the confluence of two alleys T-ing together, our house at the top of the T, making a nice wide playing area out of the junction where they opened into each other. The house across the alleys to the right (looking up the T toward our house) was home to a snowball business that operated out of a truck; it was, to us, the "snowball truck yard", I don't think I ever knew the names of the people who lived there. The truck was kept on a parking pad at end of the yard, which was separated from the higher ground of the rest of the property by an cinder block retaining wall about six feet high. In the summer, the truck was out selling ice with flavored syrup most of the time, leaving us the perfect playing field.

We played for hours. Day after day. I was older (well, still am, I suppose) but he was much more athletic, making for an even match.

The batter would throw the ball at the cement in front of the wall, it would bounce off, hit the wall, and fly back. If caught, it was an out; if the other player didn't catch it, the batter scored a single, double, etcetera, depending on how far it went. (There was, for some unknown reason, a small steel beam laying right along the bottom of the wall. If you hit it just right, bam! The ball could come off surprising high and fast, a probable home run.)

Of course, I'd also spend a lot of solo time out there practicing, just throwing and catching the ball.

The proper ball is a pinky. I hadn't seen one in years, until a basket of them on the counter at Mumbles and Squeaks caught my eye. I had to have one. But it sat on a shelf in my bedroom for months, until today.

This evening I took the ball over to the basketball/dodgeball courts at the middle school. About 20 feet of the perimeter is a wall instead of a fence, for just this sort of ball-bouncing action. Only got in about half an hour of solo play before it got too dark. I found it most fun to alternate hands - right hand throws, left hand catches, left hand throws, right hand catches. Good exercise, for hand speed and coordination, footwork, and a little cardio workout; but most importantly it was surprisingly relaxing. Maybe the irregular rhythm of throw - bounce - bounce - catch was soothing, maybe it was just a recollection back to the halcyon days of my youth. Except that my youth wasn't so halcyon.

Well, maybe those wallballing hours were the closest exception.

And maybe once we get my grandfather's house sold and all the financial stuff settled, I'll invite my brother over for the latest round of the Wallball Championship of the World. This time, loser buys the beer.