Pinky Ball — The Classic Toy That Never Goes Out of Style
Since urban areas have been in existence, city kids have played with whatever was handy and creatively invented games with nothing more than found items and a little ingenuity. Among early street games is Kick The Can, played since the turn of the century and very popular during the Great Depression since all that was required to play was an empty can and the game could be played right in the street.
Another street game that developed years later was Stickball. All that was needed was a broom handle, a bouncy ball and fire hydrants that served as bases. This game was hugely popular in the streets of New York City beginning in 1949. It was in that year that leading tennis ball maker, the A. G. Spalding Company decided rather than discarding less-than-perfect tennis ball cores, to offer them to the five-and-dime stores in major cities like New York, Boston and Philadelphia. The surplus pink tennis ball cores were spongy, hollow rubber spheres that were rejected due to minor flaws prior to having the fuzzy outer layer added to turn them into tennis balls. The balls were stamped “Spalding Hi-Bounce Ball” and sold for about fifteen cents at corner candy stores.
There were advantages to playing with a rubber pinky ball versus a harder baseball. Since the ball games were played in city streets, windows were less likely to break with a rubber ball than a hard baseball. The pinky was inexpensive for city kids and soft enough to be caught without wearing a baseball glove.
The pink Spalding Hi-Bounce Balls quickly became known as “Spaldeens” to kids with thick New York City accents. These bouncy rubber balls were quickly utilized in all types of street games like Stickball, Stoopball, Punchball, Halfball and Hit The Penny. There are many adults today who still have fond memories of growing up in the city and playing with pinky balls in the street. There is even a revival of these games today, with rule books being released. Grandparents are eager to teach younger generations to play so they too can enjoy the old-fashioned fun of street ball. There’s nothing quite like sharing memories with your kids or grandkids and telling them—and showing them—what it was like when you were a kid.
The Pinky Ball is a classic old-time toy whose popularity never seems to wane. What began as a by-product of a manufacturing process has become a street game mainstay for many generations to come. Please share your own Pinky Ball memories by commenting below.