I just heard about skully for the first time about a week ago talking to a guy who grew up in Brooklyn. In Philly we called it deadbox. I imagine it’s pretty much the same game with boxes 1 to 12 and the deadbox, always decorated with a skull and crossbones. It’s way funny how all the games were similar like buck-buck instead of Johnie on the Pony or whatever…but damn it they were all fun. Kids today don’t know how to play and how good clean and sometimes physical fun. whatever….
Back in Philly we played stickball much the same wall, but we had an additional variation. We would find an old mop or broom handle. (sometimes it wasn’t that old). But we used the cheap rubber balls that had pimples (that’s what we called them) and we cut them in half. (old tennis balls were the best). Our game was called half ball. The same rules applied as stickball (distance determined postion on base, etc). We had no strike box, we would play against a wall or just on the street, much like streetball. We also had variations of the way the half ball was thrown. You could pitch the ball, mostly underhanded, like softball sometimes with an arch or fast and straight , so that the ball appeared to be whole as it approached the batter. Or it could be pitched sideways, so that the ball came at the batter like a flying saucer. A pitcher could actually make the ball rise or drop. The games usually ended whenever all the balls had been hit for homeruns and were on the rooftops. From time to time whenever a roof repair was being made in the neighborhood, the first thing we would ask the guy on the roof, was if there were any balls that he could throw down. My step-dad was usually the guy on the roof. So I always got first choice. As I got into my teens, and helped out I became the guy on the roof and would thrown the balls down to the younger neighborhood kids.
I’m a 25 year old from Jersey and when I was a kid, I remember my dad teaching me a couple of the games he used to play when he was growing up in NE Philly. He showed us one game called “Halfball” where you would cut a tennis ball or raquet ball in half and play stickball with it. Some of the pitches you could toss with the half ball were more interresting than almost anything you could do with a regular baseball. That’s a game that teaches you how to keep an eye on the ball and how to swing properly to make good contact. Another game was a little simpler. All it required was a (whole) tennis ball and some overhead wires (preferably 3 or 4 running parallel one on top of the other). It played as a type of baseball game. You would allocate bases for each wire (bottom wire was a single, the second wire was a double, etc.) and the “batter” would toss the ball in the air in an attempt to hit one of the wires with the ball. If the “outfielder(s)” caught the ball before it hit the ground, it counted as an out. If the ball hit a wire and then hit the ground without being caught, you were awarded “bases” relative to which wire was hit. You had to get out 3 times before the next person was up. It was a pretty cool game that didn’t take up a lot of room in the street and still had a baseball-type edge to it. I highly suggest giving it a try.
In South Philly our ball of choice was a “pimple ball”, white or rather greyish rubber with 1/8″ dimples with bands running latitudily and stars embossed on both poles. It was used in many games, stickball, wallball, wireball, boxball, miniature,ledgies, points, dinky and the ultimate and most sublime of the street games, Halfball. In further postings I will detail the sublimities of this most enjoyable game.