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Spaldeen 101
a review of Dina Anastasio's The Pinky Ball Book by Hugh M. McNally
Cover image of The Pinky Ball Book

The Pinky Ball Book is published by Workman Publishing and you can buy it from
It's hard to fault a book that includes a spaldeen with it. Yes, a spaldeen--that's the canonically correct term for the pink rubber ball that is supplied with and described by this book. Obviously, the publisher wanted to avoid the sticky situation of the ball's true name, a corruption of the manufacturer's name, Spalding. No self-respecting New York kid would ever call it a pinky ball. While it's a little sad that the term isn't used in the title, we can all rejoice in the publication of a book in tribute to the pink bouncing wonder.

Despite the book's heavy dose of political correctness and Y2K-esque paranoia (basically, it advises kids not to do anything dangerous, like bounce the ball near a street), this is a great little tome. There's lots of games described for kids to learn. The brief history of the ball is informative and the spaldeen is correctly presented as the ultimate evolution of ball technology, which started with ancient Egyptian kids playing with mud they'd roll up into balls. To be fair, it also explains the term "spaldeen" in a brief sentence.

The Pinky Ball Book does an excellent job of distinguishing the "classic" city games (stickball, handball, stoopball, etc.) while recounting many others, far less common. Over 30 games are briefly described, some we admit we didn't know, but then we knew a few not mentioned. The treatment is brief, but the range is just about right. The book is the latest in Workman Publishing's "Classic Game Series" and another contribution in the company's efforts to preserve and reinvigorate children's traditions of play.

The book is written at a level comfortable for a 4 - 6th grader, but with what appears to be a target audience from 8 - 14. It assumes very little knowledge of basic throwing and catching skills and starts with material that would be helpful to the absolute beginner. There are a couple of technical pointers (like pitches) that the relatively accomplished player might appreciate, but we found too much time spent on the basics. However, given that the number of kids outside playing ball is much less than when we grew up, this willingness to start at the beginning is probably a wise approach.


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To its credit, the book describes another skill that should be as basic, but is so often lost in the "WWF trash talk" world that so influences today's impressionable youth: fair play. Kids are advised that they should agree on the rules of a game before beginning a game, and that they shouldn't cheat or brag. Certainly, this is more wholesome advice than Stone Cold Steve Austin has ever dispensed.

The Pinky Ball Book must be admired for its very purpose; to get today's kids outside, playing some great games. The book's convenient pocket size makes us think that it could get some use where it's most needed, "in the street." In summation, it gets a 4 1/2 - spaldeen rating () out of a perfect 5. The missing half is because the book is missing Halfball, a classic Philadelphia/Boston game. And, were it called The Spaldeen Book without admonishing "don't play in the street," it would be perfect. If no one played in the street, you wouldn't be reading this review on

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