May 11, 2011

PINNER OR PIN-ER, Who's got a Tennis Ball?

Bill Matteson
Uptown Chicago History Correspondent

Pinner was a game we played whenever we had the time and a tennis ball. Usually in a school yard or if we could find a building that had a little ledge somewhere between knee and waist high. If we couldn't find any ledge, then a cement step would do. We would have two players on each side. Sometimes three. Baseball rules applied.

We would chalk off an area, from the building outwards to the street; the batter would throw the tennis ball at the ledge, trying to hit it on the edge of the ledge. The ball would fly out, towards the street, the fielder would catch it. One out, three outs and the opposing team was up to bat.

Now if the ball hit the sidewalk 12 feet away from the building, it was an automatic out. At about 18 feet away, if the fielder caught the ball on a fly it was an out. If the ball bounced in that 18 foot area it was a single. At 24 feet it was a double, at 30 a triple, and over 35 a homer. Only if the ball wasn't caught. Any ball caught on a fly was an out.S core was kept. Nine innings were played. There was always a team standing by to play the winners.

The days when no chalk was available we simply pointed out cracks in the sidewalk or street or drew lines in the gravel at the school yard.

Using the tennis ball, we played fast pitch; a broomstick with tape on the handle was used for the bat. I think our generation invented fast pitch. Today in fast pitch they use baseball gloves and regulation bats.

Hand Ball was a game we played on the sidewalk using two sidewalk squares. We stood outside the lines and using our hand like a paddle we hit the ball over the line into the other square and your opponent would return it in like manner. Ping pong rules applied


adgorn said...

Played many a pinner game during the '60's in the Brennemann School yard before school or during recess. We played off the tall wall at the east end that formed the back of Imperial Towers pool area. We also played off front steps of apartment buildings on Buena. The latter required a bit more precision because you had to bounce the ball just right so that it came back rather than careening forward. Hitting right on the edge of a step was the sweet spot. Besides tennis balls we used those red rubber hollow ones. When those black hard rubber Super Balls came out we tried those - we had to extend the game out further! Fun memories!

adgorn said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joanne said...

I saw your comment a few days ago, but then it disappeared. I thought you had deleted it, but it looks like it might have been a Blogger glitch. We don't use comment moderation, so the comments should post immediately.

bill Matteson said...

Only in Chicago
I don't think this game was played any where else,

Just like the 16" windy city soft ball

old guy said...

Lots of fun, we used to play pinner in the Stewart school boys yard between the the middle and side entrances and sometimes a game of pom pom would engulf the whole school yard.
We also played fast pitch and softball behind Brennemann and at Clarendon park.
When we played softball behind Brennemann the biggest thing was to try to hit the ball over the wall and into the Imperial Towers swimming pool. The only problem with that was you ran the risk of not getting your ball back.
Usually we could count on someone to toss it back or we would climb a fence to a garage roof and then over a wall to the pool area.

Anonymous said...

When I was a kid we played 7-Up against the wall and 1-2-3 O'Larry. My favorite ball was the pinkish hollow ball. It went the highest and second was the solid rubber ball that was red,yellow and blue. We had such fun playing ball and jumping double dutch. The kids today, unfortunately, are inside with computers. They are truly missing so much.
Cheryl Peck Deters

bill Matteson said...

to old guy Al
Thats exactly were I played most of the time up to 1950
when did you attend Stewart?

old guy said...

Hi Bill
I call myself old guy because my kids like to say "The old guy is talking about the old neighborhood again"
I went to Stewart including the cottages (Stewart branch) from 1956to 1965
Im 60 now so it would have been the
early sixties when I was about 10 or 12 yrs old when I started playing pinner at Stewart.
I spent the first 27 years of my life in uptown and moved out when I got married but I still have family that are fifth generation at the same address.
I really enjoy reading your articles about uptown. They bring back really great memories.
Thanks Al

artie said...

If someone was rich or lucky, we didn't use a tennis ball for pinner, we used a spaldeen, at least that was us on Broadway near Buena

happytheman said...

thanks for the stroll down memory lane. We played this off our front porch as kids in Long Beach, Ca. Our neighbors taught it to us and they were from Hungary, but via somewhere else i'm sure.

Unknown said...

Does anyone remember the name of the rubber ball?

adgorn said...

The wikipedia entry, with the "s":

JerryD said...

Ah, the memories of Uptown. I lived at Montrose and Magnolia in an L shaped building that has long been demolished, or eaten by mice and roaches, from 1943 until 1952, when we moved "uptown" to Wilson and Magnolia, over Hixson's liquor store, another long-ago demolished structure. Attended Stockton for 8 years, and planned to follow Phil Cavaretta to Lane Tech, until I discovered how much fun girls were and went to Senn for four years. That peaceful upbringing prepared me for a 25-year career in the Marine Corps, another 15 in industry jobs and a very enjoyable retirement for the past 17 years.

Ah, the neighborhood, which we called the MagSunnyCines for the three streets we played on. Line ball in the alley, climbing on the garages, kick the can and hiding in the basements of apartment buildings mostly on Magnolia, pinner against the wall at Stockton and on the back of garages on Magnolia, riding bikes to the lake to fish off the rocks and the "horseshoe", going to the Deluxe, (the Mode on Sheridan south of Irving on Saturday matinees three cowboy pics and a Tarzan episode, fifty cents for everything), the Pantheon and Lakeside on Sheridan, the Riviera, the Arcadia before it burned down. The Bowlium, the pool halls above the bowling alley ay Wilson and Sheridan.

Running down the alley after dark to fetch groceries from Pat's on Sunnyside, playing softball for money at Clarendon Park, wow. Just reading the stuff posted really transported me back to the day. And amazingly, crime was almost unheard of wandering around on Wilson after dark, sidestepping drunks and probable perverts, never a bit of trouble for all those 13 years. Not long afterward, though...well those of you who lived it after the fifties tell a different story.

Thanks for the opportunity to go back in time. JerryD

Anonymous said...

Fabulous memories inspired by all! Especially the last comments from Jerry D.

I lived on Winchester two blocks south of Montrose. Went to Our Lady of Lourdes school 57-64 (then moved to MN). Recess in Chase Park. Clincher 16" softball at Welles Park. Learned to swim at the Ravenswood YMCA. Rode bike all over, out to the river, California Park, Montrose Beach.

Played pinner in the alley.You guys are correct on the balls. One day, before the Super Ball, I tried using an old found golf ball. Whoa! That thing flew!! Right into a neighbors window!!! Was I ever in trouble then....

Also play rubber baseball, usually in the industrial parking lots between the "L" and the parallel CNW (now METRA) tracks Draw a square on the brick wall to define the strike zone. One guy pitches, the other hits. If ball is hit where it lands determines single, double, HR, etc.

Now even the mayor Mr. Rahm lives there! It was a great place to grow up. Still miss it ...

John R.

Farkin Amasin said...

I played Pinner at school every day back in the early 70s. I went to Yates Elementary on Cortland and Richmond in Chicago. There was a great little recess in the building with a 45 degree ledge, about 2 feet off the ground. Perfect for launching the ball.


Hey adgorn,I play pinner on Buena and at brennmann school


Hey Jerry,I played at clarendon park in the summer then ice skating on the baseball fields in the winter......happy days

Tom P said...

Wow....did a search for "ball game called pinner" and got this site. Comments from Jerry D and John R turned me speechless. We moved from south side in 1952 and lived at Kenmore & Buena (across the small park from Our Lady grammer school and church) but apt. building no longer there . I went to Stockton from 52'-57' then Lane Tech 57'-61' Air Force 61'-65' Never returned to Chicago to live.

I learned to play pinner at Stockton during recess and loved it. Had the luxury of being able to roam all of uptown and the lakeshore when I was a kid. Parents don't allow that now. Been to all the places mentioned by those folks above. Worked at Wrigley field, cleaning up< in summer to get free bleacher pass for next game. I went to many many home games for about 4 years.

Those were the days. Thanks for the stroll down memory lane :-)

Tom P

Rick D. said...

I grew up on kenmore near buena in the 70s & 80s before the area went yuppy, we used to play pinner in st.mary's lot, those were some great years

Al Gordon said...

I remember playing pinners prior to 1952 (when I moved to Albany Park) in North Lawdale on the West side. In particular, my home was in a large apartment building on the southwest corner of Douglas Blvd and Homan Av. This building had a angled curb fronting it, which made the perfect pinner. The building is still there, but the pinner is gone

I also played "line ball" in Albany Park in the 50's. We played it against the school wall and used a "pinkie" or a tennis ball. There was no base running. People in San Diego play "Over the Line", which they claim was locally invented in the 50s, but my guess it is just a version of line ball. Anybody know any earlier examples of line ball in Chicago?

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it's a very good classic game. now i am entertained by different games of new age. Currently playing descargar gta 5 mobile for entertainment

Anonymous said...

Grew up off Sheridan and Loyola (Rogers Park) in the 50s and 60s-Kilmer Elementary and Sullivan High. Lots of good stoops and played many pinners games. Best with a hollow “pinkie.” Got chased away from many apartment buildings, guess they didn’t like the constant thunk of the ball against the steps. Moved away many years ago, always wondered if they’re still playin the game in Chicago.

Anonymous said...

The boys on 900 block of Sunnyside (Uptown/Stewart school) played pinner. I can’t believe it’s a recognized game and was played all over the city! I thought the boys made it up. Girls were not invited, but had their own games.


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