Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Definitive 1000

We are going to be counting down the Definitive 1000 things. Why are they Definitive? Because The Friendly Friends have deemed them as such.

970 - Run The Bases
969 - Suicide

It's a Friendly Friends Two-fer Tuesday Wednesday!

All we needed to play two of the best games. Ever.

Sweaty, FFMatt and I all grew up in relative close proximity to one another. Which makes sense since Sweaty and FFMatt are related and Sweaty and I went to high school together.

This geographical closeness meant that we played the same games as kids, though I didn't meet Sweaty until I was 15 or so. And he lived in East Falls and Bumble-F, New Jersey and I lived in Wyndmoor.

FFMatt is sunning his 27 inch (yeah, that's right) pythons at the Jersey shore this week, so Sweaty and I have been left to tend the store. We spent a good amount of time discussing the pure awesomeness of these two games.

This guy only has 24 inch pythons. FFMatt has 27 inch pythons. True story.

And without further ado, here are the reminiscences of 2/3 of the Friendly Friends:

Sweaty: So. I think we both agree that Suicide and Run the Bases are two of the finest games ever invented by children who's parents could not afford to send them to hockey camp.

Jewbacca: Suicide and Run the Bases are two of the best non-sport sports that any one has ever played. And we got to go to Willow Grove Summer Day Camp. My parents couldn't afford it but my grandfather's cousin owned it so we got a discount.

Sweaty: I never went to any kind of camp, except football in high school. No, during my youth, day camp was called try not to get abducted by men driving El Caminos and offering jolly rancher sticks. But I digress. I agree with you. I always preferred Run the Bases a little more because I think it was more of a pure athletic skill game, where Suicide used more deception.

Jewbacca: You know my brother and I. You've seen and lived the battles. My parents decided that if they left us alone all summer one or both of us would end up dead and the house would have been destroyed. I loved both games, but you're right I have to give the edge to Run the Bases and not just because we always played at the Krzywicki's, which would allow the occasional glimpse of Jill.

Sweaty: Perhaps we should start off by giving a brief overview of each game and then we can see where certain rules may have differed with you playing these games in the warm safe softness of the grassy fields in Wyndmoor, were as I played them in the hard, survival instinct drenched inner city street of Philadelphia.

Jewbacca: Well, here is the way we played Run the Bases on the hardscrabble fields of Wyndmoor: There would be a whole mess of kids ranging in age from about 6 to 12. Two kids would be on the bases. Two of the other kids' baseball gloves would be the bases. The idea was to run back and forth from base to base without getting pegged by the tennis ball or tagged out by the basemen. That is the basic framework as we played in the 'Moor.

Sweaty: That is pretty much how we played too, except we used manhole covers which were he perfect distance apart.

Jewbacca: There weren't too many manhole covers in the field behind the Krzywicki's. There was also another rule where after the ball went back and forth 3 times from baseman to baseman, everyone on the basepath HAD to run to the next base.

Sweaty: Yeah, we also had that rule, but I can't remember how many throws you needed. I remember that I preferred being a runner. I was damn good.

Jewbacca: I was awesome at running too. That was about 20 years and 200 pounds ago though. Now I'd end up with "Penn 1" tattooed into my forehead. The best was using the younger kids as human shields.

Sweaty: Same for me, except I most likely would have ended up in intensive care with a tennis ball lodged somewhere and my left arm would be numb, I didn't do too much of that shield thing, since I was normally one of those little kids. My run the bases days ended when I was 9 and my parents moved us to South Jersey. Without any man hole covers, I did not know what to do, so god help me, I played basketball. So in my prime run the bases years 6-9, I was lean, mean, spry, quick, and obnoxious. I would taunt the throwers mercilessly. One was normally my older brother.

Jewbacca: You're still pretty obnoxious. Not as spry. See, I think our Run the Bases years and our Suicide years may be reversed. We played a ton of Suicide from when I was 6 and we moved form Philly to the 'burbs until I was 9 and we moved to a neighborhood with absolutely zero good Suicide walls. We played Run the Bases almost every summer night from when I was 9 until I was about 14.

Sweaty: I continued to play suicide in Jersey. Thomas Jefferson Elementary provided one of the finest suicide walls this side of the Rio Grande. As far as suicide best skill was catching the ball in the air, followed closely by screaming like a woman as I ran to the wall after dropping the ball.

Jewbacca: The first place we lived in Wyndmoor was in the bottom of a rented duplex that was roughly twenty feet from the house next door. The driveway for the house next door was our side yard. It made the absolute perfect Suicide court, what with two walls 20 feet apart. My greatest skill I think was my power of avoiding the ball so as to remain in the game as long as possible. Erdenheim Elementary also had great walls as did Enfield Middle where we played everyday during sixth grade, the last year we had recess of any kind. I'm proud to say that along with my friend Jim I was part of a duo known as "Slodge" which of course was "Slide" (Jim) and "Dodge" (Me). My strategy was to run up to the wall and stop before hitting it, turn and face the person trying to bean me, and dodge it at the last minute. If being part of "Slodge" is any indication, I didn't have many girlfriends in my younger days. So what were the basic rules of Suicide in Washington Twp?

Why Suicide? Maybe because the goal was to run as fast as you could, toward one of these, to smack it and yell "SAFE!!", before someone whaled you in the back with a tennis ball...

Sweaty: Nor did I, as my uncanny resemblance to Rick Moranis in Ghostbusters when I was in elementary would explain. Suicide in Washington TWP was pretty straight forward. One large wall, one tennis ball and a group of young men ranging from about 9-14 years of age. One person would throw the ball. If the ball was caught in the air, the thrower had to run and touch the wall before getting pegged by the person who caught it. If you dropped the ball while trying to catch it either on the fly or on a bounce then you had to touch up before someone picked up the ball and pegged you. If after dropping the ball, you kicked it away, then you were automatically out and wre penalized by standing at the wall while someone got to peg you.

A young Sweaty Irishman after a particularly rough day of Suicide

Jewbacca:We had basically the same rules. If you threw the ball and someone caught it in the air, you had to run and touch the wall and yell "SAFE" or "SUICIDE" before they pegged you. If you tried to catch the ball and it touched you and you didn't catch it, you had to leave it there and run and touch the wall before getting pegged. If you got three outs you had to walk back and forth along the wall (without stopping or changing speeds) and each player got a chance to peg you with the ball. At school they didn't like the three-outs-get-pegged rules so we changed it to if you got an out, you were out and we played until one kid was left. I think also that if you missed someone you were trying to peg you had to run and touch the wall.

Sweaty: We also had a penalty for someone who pegged another after that person had touched the wall. The peggee pegged the pegger from point blank range.

Jewbacca: I never really thought about how many of our games involved trying to whale on someone with a tennis ball.

Sweaty: I know. Most games when we were kids involved inflicting pain on others. Times have changed...They wouldn't even let kids play something called Suicide nowadays.

So there you have it, two childhood games from the post-Atari, Colleco-/Intellivision, pre-Nintendo era where we were allowed to play outside until the streetlights came on. And for all the pegging and whaling and nailing with tennis balls, I don't recall anyone ever getting hurt. Too badly.

I'd be willing to guess that kids today aren't playing these games until 9:15 on a summer night anymore.

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