Continuing with children's sports we have several ball games listed and described. These come from The Book of Sports ©1834.
The use of the ball was well known to the children, who played many hundred years ago. It is a favorite game still, and offers a good opportunity for the exercise of the limbs and the muscles. The games with the bat and ball are numerous, but somewhat similar. I will mention some of those, which I believe to be the most popular with boys.
This game is known under a variety of names. It is sometimes called 'round ball,' but I believe that ' base,' or ' goal ball' are the names generally adopted in our country. The players divide into two equal parties, and chance decides which shall have first innings. Four stones or stakes are placed from twelve to twenty yards asunder, as o, b, c, b c d, in the margin; another is put at e. One e of the party, who is out, places himself a at e. He tosses the ball gently toward a, on the right of which one of the in-party places himself, and strikes the ball, if possible, with his bat. If he miss three times, or if the ball, when struck, be caught by any of the players of the opposite side, who are scattered about the field, he is out, and another takes his place. If none of these accidents take place, on striking the ball he drops the bat, and runs toward b, or, if he can, to c, d, or even to a again. If, however, the boy who stands at e, or any of the out-players who may happen to have the ball, strike him with it in his progress from a to b, b to c, c to d, or d to a, he is out. Supposing he can only get to b, one of his partners takes the bat, and strikes at the ball in turn. If the first player can only get to c, or d, the second runs to b, only, or c, as the case may be, and a third player begins; as they get home, that is, to a, they play at the ball by turns, until they all get out. Then, of course, the out-players take their places.
Fives may be played either single-handed or with partners. A good wall must be selected, with a round flat piece of ground in front of it. Three lines must be drawn so as to form, with the bottom of the wall, a square, to mark the bounds. A line must also be drawn on the wall, about three feet from the ground. The players toss up for innings. The winner begins by bounding his ball on the ground, and striking it against the wall, above the line, so that it may rebound vigorously. The other player then strikes it, in the same manner, either before it has touched the ground, or hopped from the ground more than once: the first player then prepares to receive and strike it at its rebound; and thus the game goes on, until one of the players fails to strike the ball in his turn, before it has hopped twice, or fails to strike it below the mark, or to drive it out of bounds. If the party who is in do neither of these, he loses his innings; if the other, then the in-player reckons one, on each occasion, towards the game, which is fifteen.
NINE-HOLES, OR HAT-BALL.
Near a wall where the ground is level, dig nine, or a lesser number of holes, according to the number of players, large enough for a ball to be bowled in without difficulty. Number them, and let each player be allotted a number, by chance or choice, as it may be agreed. A line is drawn about five yards from the holes, at which one of the players places himself, and bowls the ball into one of the holes. The player to whom the hole, into which the ball is bowled, belongs, picks it up as quickly as he can, and endeavors to hit one of the others with it. The latter all run off as soon as they perceive that the ball is not for themselves. If the thrower miss his aim, he loses a point, and is called 'a fifer,' and it is his turn to bowl. If, however, he hit another, he loses nothing; but the party hit, in case he succeeds in striking another with the ball, becomes 'a fifer,' and it is his turn to bowl. Five or six may be struck in succession, and the ball may be kept up, no matter how long, until a miss be made, when the party so missing loses a point and bowls. It is also allowed for one player to accept the ball from another, and run the risk of hitting a third. The second bowling is conducted precisely as the first; but he who bowls three times without passing the ball into the hole, loses a point, and if he have lost one before, becomes 'a tenner.' He must still go on, until he succeed in putting the ball into a hole; it is his own fault, if he bowl into that one, which belongs to himself. A party who misses his aim a second time becomes ' a ten ner;' he who loses a third time, 'a fifteener;' and when four points are lost the player stands out. The game goes on until all the players are out but one; who, of course, wins the game. One of the others then takes the ball in his left hand, places his face toward the wall, and throws the ball over the right shoulder as far as he can. The player who has won stands at the spot where the ball first touches the ground, or, if it be not immediately behind the party who has thrown it, a line is drawn from the place where the ball falls, to a spot directly behind the thrower. The winner then has the privilege of throwing the ball at the loser's back, three times, as soft as he pleases. The other losers throw in the same manner, one after another, and the winner has his three balls at each of their backs.
In some places this game is called 'Hat-ball,' on account of the players using their hats, instead of digging holes, and the ball is tossed into the hats, instead of being bowled into the holes.
This is somewhat similar to the preceding game. Instead of bowling the ball into holes, it is thrown in the air, and the name of the player, for whom it is intended, called out by the thrower. If it be caught, before it has twice touched the ground, by the player so called on, he loses no point, but throws it up again, and calls upon whom he pleases to catch it. If it be not caught in due time, he whose name is called must endeavor to strike one of the others with it; if he miss, he loses a point, and has his throw up.
In the game of rackets the ball is struck against a wall, and returned at the bound to the same wall, each player endeavoring so to strike it against the wall, with his bat, that his adversary may not be able to return it. He who does not return it, either loses a point, or has his ' hand out,' that is to say, forfeits the situation in which he would be able to add to his score of the game. This sport requires considerable skill and activity in the player who must be constantly on the move. Standing still is entirely out of the question; and two or three games at rackets are well calculated to improve the health and invigorate the limbs.
Cricket may be played by eleven persons on each side, though a less number is sufficient. Two umpires, or persons to decide, are sometimes appointed in order to settle all disputes that may arise : they are to take their stations at each wicket, and should be well acquainted with the laws of the game. Full-sized wickets are three stumps, sufficiently long to leave twenty-four inches out of the ground, with a bail, or cross stick, seven inches long, to fit the top. They should be placed directly opposite to each other, at the distance of twenty-two yards for men, but varying according to the size of the player.
Bowling is an important part of the game, and requires great steadiness. Bad bowling is often the cause of losing a game. A bowler should not be too systematic, but vary his balls faster or slower, according to the peculiarities of the striker. He should aim directly at the opposite wicket.
The striker should always be ready for running, but he should be cautious, not to leave the ground before the ball is out of the bowler's hand; for if he do, the bowler may put down his wicket, and he will, of course, be out. As soon as the ball is delivered, the striker may follow it, but should not run too far, so that, if no runs be obtained, he may return in time to save his wicket. The bat should be kept on the outside of the opposite partner, and care taken not to run against him.
The bowler should be careful to toss the ball in such a way, that the striker can play at it; for if he should toss it above the striker's head, or out of the bounds, the party which is in shall be allowed one notch, to be put down to the byes. The striker is out if the bail or cross stick be bowled off, or the stump be bowled out of the ground. Or, if in striking at the ball he hit down his wicket. Or, if he prevent the ball from being caught by the out-players. Or, if the ball be struck, and he wilfully strike it again. Or, if with any part of his person, he stop the ball, which might have hit his wicket. The following are among some of the remaining laws of cricket.
If the players have crossed each other, he that runs for the wicket which is put down, is out. When a ball is caught, no notch is reckoned. If the ball be struck, the striker may guard his wicket either with his bat or his body.
This is, I believe, the old and original method of playing cricket. It is often played in a simpler way. Two wickets are placed at some distance from each other. They consist each of two short stakes fixed in the ground, and a cross stick placed in notches, in the stakes, about the height of the ball from the ground. Two bowlers stand at each wicket and roll the ball along the ground with the view of knocking off the cross stick. The striker endeavors to prevent this by hitting the ball with his bat; but if he strike it so that it is caught by any of the other players, he is out.
A match is made between two sets of players of equal numbers; a large ball made of light materials, — a blown bladder, cased with leather, is the best, — is placed between them, and the object of each party is to kick the ball across the goal of the other, and to prevent it from passing their own. The party, across whose goal the ball is kicked, loses the game. -The game is commenced between the two goals, which are about a hundred yards asunder.
This game admits of very powerful exercise, and, when played with moderation, is healthful and lively. Country boys sometimes use a blown bladder, without the covering of leather, for a football; and they often put peas and horse-beans inside, which occasion a rattling as it is kicked about.