Considered to be the most enduring street game of the 20th century, stickball is often thought to have originated in the streets of New York City during the decade of the 1930’s. The popular pick-up game, with its roots in the Depression, initially required no real sports equipment. Generally, stickball was played with nothing more than an old broom handle, and some type of rubber ball that was roughly the size of a baseball.
For the most part, the rules for a stickball game would mimic the regulations of the time that governed major league baseball or softball. Along with the use of common objects as substitutes for a proper ball and bat, stickball players also made good use of any other items that were common to city life. For example, manhole covers would often be used as bases. In situations where local authorities frowned on the use of the manhole covers, or if the game of stickball was taking place in a vacant lot, an old sweatshirt or flour sack filled with straw or dirt would suffice.
Stickball was popular with neighborhood kids from many different ethnic backgrounds. A few variations in the rules of the game also would into play, depending on the space available for a stickball game. A fast pitch game required that a wall or fence is located behind the batter. The pitcher uses pitching techniques similar to those used in baseball. With a slow pitch game, the pitcher stand closer to the batter and the ball is allowed to bounce once before the batter swings. A third variation, referred to as fungo, is the most structured form of stickball. With this approach, the batter tosses the ball and hits it either on the way down or after allowing the ball to strike the pavement and bounce.
Rules regarding declaring a batter to be out also vary from location to location. In many instances, the pattern follows the usual three-strike rule. However, some styles of play call for only one or two strikes. A home run may be declared out if the ball lands on the roof of a neighboring home, or breaks a window.
Stickball continued to be popular after the Depression era, and still commands a great deal of attention with city kids in a number of metropolitan areas. The sport is even organized into leagues in some cases, with a number of cities hosting regular tournaments and competitions.