Basement Ball

The time has come, the walrus said, to follow up on my promise of a coupla days ago to write about Basement Ball, a really pointless, stupid game that helped keep me sane while I was on restriction for a good chunk of my junior year at the Naval Academy. (Why describe it? Because I think it’s another good example of how young males entertained themselves in an era before the Internet, and when we didn’t have TV’s, and there weren’t many women around). (Take heed, bored young males sitting in front of your computers, porn surfing and gaining weight).

Down in the basement of fourth wing in Bancroft Hall there was a long, thin hallway with doors at both ends (for those who know the Naval Academy, this hallway has since been consumed by the ever-sprawling Midshipmen Store). This was the Basement Ball stadium. Like Base Ball, there was a team at bat and a team in the field. You only got two outs per inning, to keep things moving briskly.

In the field there were two position: pitcher and outfielder. The outfielder was armed with a lacrosse stick, and stood in front of one of the doors at the end of the hall. The pitcher pitched a ball made of rolled up socks wrapped in masking tape, his “mound” a spot in the middle of the hallway.

The batters batted from in front of the door at the other end of the hallway. The bat was a raquetball racket. If the pitch got past the batter and hit the wall, it was a strike. The hallway floor and walls had zones that correlated to single, double, triple, based on where the ball fell. A home run was scored if the ball hit the back wall, behind the outfielder. If the pitcher caught the ball in his hands, it was one out. If the outfielder caught the ball with his lacrosse stick, it was two outs, so an inning could be over with one at bat. However, the ball was large, so this didn’t happen often, in general the lacrosse stick was there just to knock the ball down before it hit the back wall. No one actually ran bases; ghost runners were used, but they advanced when forced by subsequent hits. As long as a team won, they kept the court, with subsequent teams arriving to play the winner. A series of games could go on for a long, long time if there were enough people around to play.

And that was it, pretty much. Not much on paper, but on nights when we had lots of homework to do, more often than not we could we adjourn to the basement for a game or ten of Basement Ball, because it was more fun than homework, by a long shot. And besides, we could always cram at the last minute before a test, but an evening of Basement Ball missed was an evening of fun never to be recaptured.

Sad, on one plane, but noble on another: the pure pursuit of entertainment where none was readily available.

Or maybe it was just procrastination, I can’t quite remember, it’s been a while, y’know?

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