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Making the rules
Back when we grew up in the mid-century (yes we are getting old), baseball was by far the dominant game even in the urban USA. As a result, many street games used baseball as a paradigm.

There were several different expressions on this theme, all using the baseball-inspired 3 outs/inning format.

  • Baseball rules with bases (punchball, slapball). Balls hit had to be run out. You were safe if you got to the base in time, out if thrown out or tagged. Foul balls or misses were outs (fouls or misses could be strikes - with two strikes to an out).
  • Baseball rules with no bases, the number of bounces determining the hit (stoop ball, box baseball, off the wall). Single for one bounce, double for two, triple for 3 bounces, 4 or more a home run. Foul or caught balls were out.
  • Baseball rules with no bases, distance of fair ball determines the type of hit (stickball). Any balls caught on a fly or on the ground were outs. A ball hit through the infield was a single, over a specific point a double, past another mark a triple, another a home run.

Additional rules of play could be negotiated prior to the game to account for extenuating circumstances. If the sides were too uneven, one team might spot the other several points, or be willing to accept 2 outs per inning instead of three. The number of innings (five, seven, or nine) was determined at the start, but could be altered during the game by agreement on both sides.

Thinking back, it's easy to go on, recounting the various nuances in rules and situation. The basic point was, "everything was negotiable." The only thing that was important was that you could quickly size up a situation, come to terms and get on with the game.

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