Growing up poor on the mean streets of inner city Philadelphia, us kids had a lot of time to screw around outside. I never did a whole lot of video gaming (besides NHL 95 on the Sega Genesis!), and found the greatest amusement playing outside with a friend or two down the street. I’ve written about this before, a list of games that we played that look foreign to our suburban-raised counterparts, but today I’m choosing to write about the one game that was the ultimate pick-up boredom buster.
Man, was this ever a sweet game. It required exactly three things. People, a wall and a ball. That’s it. It even had it’s own theme song! (Wall ball, wall ball…you throw the ball against the wall. Shut up. We were like 8). Now many places across the country play some form of wall ball or another. And of course, every neighborhood, block and barrio claims THEIR way is the REAL wall ball. But I have to clarify.
This way, our way, was the real way.
The game, specifically known as Suicide, or Suey, was the preferred, nay, only way to play. It has everything. Skills such as throwing with precision, athleticism through running, and an excuse to hurt someone without getting into much trouble (unless you hit them in the eye or something).
First, you need a ball. Specifically, an old semi-flat tennis ball that you found in the street (known as a tennie). New tennis balls are allowed but frowned upon. Also occasionally acceptable is a raquetball. They bounce better, are harder to catch, and sting like a motherfucker when you get hit with one. Recommended for advanced players only.
Next, find yourself a wall. No windows, please, unless they’re barred/gated/fenced in, in which case TOTALLY go for the wall with windows! You get some gnarly bounces off them, and they make an awesome noise when you hit one. In a perfect world, your wall would be a school or playground building, with an open field or parking lot facing it. In reality, we used the back of an old banquet hall that faced a tiny two way street with cars on it. They just added to the excitement, therefore this situation is completely acceptable. Tennis balls will not break a car (as far as I know…). Trash cans, dogs and passersby are par for the course here.
Now get a friend. Or two dozen. You can really play with any number greater than one, although three or more usually works best.
They guy who brings/finds/steals the tennie usually gets the first throw. He throws the ball at the wall. The ball hits the wall (no bouncing first, it has to hit directly!). At this point, the crowd scrambles to catch it. If the ball bounces before it’s caught, the kid who catches it gets to throw from where they caught it, and the cycle continues. Now here’s the fun part(s). If you catch the ball in the air (no bounces), you get to throw the ball (preferably as hard as possible) at the kid who threw it. Also, if the ball touches you and you don’t catch it (missed catch, deflection, line drive, whatevers), someone can pick it up and whale on you.
Don’t fret over a bobble or caught ball, however. You can defend against this by running to the wall and tagging it as you yell “Suey.” Now this isn’t to say the kid who caught your bobble didn’t already start throwing it, and you can get nailed anyways, but at least you can save face a little bit (all important to an urban pre-teen).
Now say you get the ball like two blocks away. You throw it, you don’t make it all the way to the wall. Guess what. It’s a’runnin’ time. Basically, you can get pegged for doing anything OTHER than cleanly catching and throwing. Now for the particularly wimpy kids out there, if you’re waaay down the block, a generous friend can yell “Rally” and intercept the catch for you (however, if you miss the throw to him, you’d better hit that wall). Also, the mean spirited among us can block someone’s long distance throw (making sure you tag the wall after blocking the throw to avoid getting hit with ANOTHER ball).
So summary. Throw ball against wall. Screw up, get pegged with a ball.
Now usually this just goes on until everyone’s bored, but you can also make this into a true winner-take-all event. If you’re actually looking for a winner, count each peg someone receives as an Out. After three outs you can simply declare the person out of the game, or for more grueling adventures, have them face a Wall of Shame. This is where the violence of this game really shines. The guy facing the Wall of Shame has to stand against the game wall, spread eagle. Each other player now lines up and has the opportunity to throw the ball as hard as possible at the kid’s back (very painful for large groups including older kids!). Now maybe your buddy decides just to give you a little tap, that’s up to him. Most will not do this.
Generally, aiming for the head is not allowed. It will usually result in the offending thrower needing to tag the wall.
Catching a ball in the air with ONE hand requires the entire rest of the group to tag up. Roofing the ball, or being the kid who lets it roll in the storm drain requires a beatdown.
So that’s that. Our main game. Now don’t get me wrong, sometimes we switched it up playing Chink (named after a crack in the sidewalk or wall), Wallball Baseball (with predetermined areas for single, double, etc), Wireball or Basketball-Court-Baseball-With-a-Tennis-Ball-and-Electrical-Taped-Whiffle-Ball-Bat. We never played Beeries, but I know some kids that did, and we played kick-the-Snapple-Bottlecap-into-random-shit as well as semi-tackle football in the street (like Arena Football, but with cars instead of padded sidelines).
Now while these are the OFFICIAL unofficial rules, house rules always prevail. The game can, nay, must be adapted to your setting. Make things off limits, require extra shit….but remember, most importantly, there’s no crying in wall ball.