Steve Grantz writes a love letter to a Philly-based past time, the Pimple Ball

Editors Note: This love note strays a bit from the norm. It is not an ode to a place or an event, but rather to a Philly-specific  . The pimple ball was popular in two cities — Philadelphia and Boston. The writer grew up in S. Philly, went to Central High School and UPENN, and has since moved on to Baltimore. Rather than choosing a particular place, he wrote this love letter to his childhood game.    

Steve Grantz (Ex-pat files)
I Am: A Philly native living in Baltimore, which has similarities, but plenty of differences.
Current Home: Baltimore (Roland Park)
Years in Philly: Ages 0-21

(photo from Collectors Weekly)

My Love Note:

Dear pimple ball,

Even though I was young when I met you, I would like to think I was wise enough to know how special you were.

You did not have the fine golden hair of a tennis ball, or the smooth unblemished skin of a racquetball. You had rings around your surface, and those raised eponymous pimples that collected dirt over time and made you look worn and faded well before you lost your spring. And how fast that happened. It seemed like no time at all before all the bounce was gone, and you rebounded from walls and sawed off broomsticks with hardly any energy at all. But your white rubber was supple, and your feather weight let any child who held you feel confident, skilled, strong. While you had your spring, anyone could be Steve Carlton when throwing you, or Michael Jack Schmidt hitting you. It was glorious.

And you had those stars, those marvelous stars on your poles. I would stare at those stars. Spin you on one end and watch the arms whirl and blur then reappear again.

So I played with you, as did my friends, as our parents did before us. I felt the familiar ridges of your rings and the bumps of your pimples as I held you. I played with you until the moisture leeched out of your rubber skin, bringing cracks to your surface, and the familiar rattling sound of water inside you. And when all the bounce was gone, I did what my friends did, and what our parents did before us. Cut you in half and played with you some more.

Not that I treasured you and kept you under wraps. My friends and I did whip you around, and swing at you with sticks. When cut in half, we whizzed you side arm, and delighted at how far you could carry. Sometimes right to the rooftops. It happened so often there was an adjective for it: roofed. But a reunion was only a repair job away. It seemed not two weeks would go by before someone in the neighborhood would need a patch job, and the roofers were always good about tossing the roofed half balls back down to kids below.

I was still in grade school when I saw the article in the Daily News, announcing there would be no more pimple balls. The company that made them was going to stop production. I was glad I recognized how special you were when I had you.

I have missed you.

It turns out others have, too. Someone named Johnny Kodis has tracked down the molds from the Eagle Rubber company of Ohio, and is trying to arrange manufacturing again. I’m a lot older now, but I’d like to get together again. And I know some kids who might love you just as much as I do. They’ll feel like Roy Halladay throwing you, and Ryan Howard hitting you. And it will be glorious.



Posted on by Emma Fried-Cassorla in Uncategorized 43 Comments

43 Responses to Steve Grantz writes a love letter to a Philly-based past time, the Pimple Ball

  1. Steve G.

    That’s a Strawbridge & Clothier overcoat by the way. Another part of Philly’s past.

    • Frank Dardani

      Hi Steve
      I played with a pimple ball when I was a kid in the 50’s and early 60’ in Brooklyn’s Clinton Hill we used it primarily playing slap ball because you could make that ball do tricks it would curve it would drop it with Sail I have read some articles that say it was use primarily for a stick ball We used a Spalding ball for a stick ball I would like to hear what year you know when this ball was first sold

      • Jim Costello

        I also came from the Clinton Hill Brooklyn NY area, and I remember playing with the pimple ball for punch or slap ball. You could make it hook or curve. Again, for everything else we used the Splading. Once you left our area no one else knew what you were talking about.

        • Jesse James

          P.S. 20 park is where I use to play with a pimple. Hines candy store sold them for 15 cents. We played punch ball with it because it stayed in the park no matter how hard u punched it, never go over the fence. Couldn’t play stick ball with it because it would split when you hit it.

        • Jesse James

          P.S. 20 park is where I use to play with a pimple. Hines candy store sold them for 15 cents. We played punch ball with it because it stayed in the park no matter how hard u punched it, never go over the fence. Couldn’t play stick ball with it because it would split when you hit it. Clinton Hill Brooklyn

    • LMFAO

      What is the liquid inside a pimple ball?

  2. Akim Reinhardt

    When I was a kid in NYC, the Japanese kids had this white, dimpled rubber balls that they used to play baseball on blacktop surfaces. They were magical.

    If memory serves, they were very similar to what gets used now in batting cages.

  3. Art Grantz

    i am Steve’s dad and i did indeed use pimple balls before him, and with him and his brother John when they were young.
    Roofed is also a verb: He roofed it!

    • Frank Dardani

      Yes roofed it

  4. Pattie Perna Grantz Angstadt

    Terrific article, Steve. Brings back wonderful memories. It gave me goose bumps, or goose “pimples”, if you will.

  5. Brian McGlinchey

    Steve you forgot the desirable task of putting make up on our lovely pimple ball and dolling her up..Holding a red felt tip magic marker and a blue ball point pen..Had to give her the patriotic glow..

  6. Heidi Smith + 6-2 @ ISTP

    I am married to Steve’s brother. I am a teacher. I was so inspired by the post that I used it as part of my lesson, just now, to prompt my students to write descriptively using literary devices and more adjectives. My class has to choose an object from their life that is symbolic and write about it in their journal. Steve-here are some live comments from my students:
    “Your writing inspired us to use Ms. Smith’s equation for descriptive writing.”
    “You have great vocabulary.”
    “We like how you thought deeply about your childhood.”
    “The text is amazing, I feel like the ball is alive.”
    “I feel like I had it when I was young too.”
    “Your passage made me wish I lived there.”
    “Thank you for sharing your passage with us.”

  7. Heidi Smith + 6-1 @ ISTP

    “Every time we read a sentence I could picture the pimple ball in my mind.”
    “You write with so much detail that I feel like I’m right there with you.”
    “Your story about the pimple ball shows a lot about your past.”
    “I’m sad that they stopped making them.”
    “You showed a lot of love for this pimple ball, it seemed like a third brother.”

  8. Tim Coghlan

    Johnny Kodis stated to me in a phone conversation that he never did have the original mold.He has taken peoples money but has no product to give them .I received a refund from him but it only took about six phone calls and him yelling the whole time.Retro is having the ball made check out their site.

  9. Pingback: Emma Fried-Cassorla, Philly Love Notes | 14th Street Oats

  10. Mark McGovern

    Yes,popular only in Philadelphia and on the streets of Boston! I can testify about Boston – we spent so many hours playing stickball with this guy, and his cousin, pink-ball. God, the the things that ball could do. Roofed it many times myself. I am 63 and I still look at a broom with envy because I could now cut off the broom as many times as I want!! You were king if you had a good stick. I always knew Boston and Phillly were alike. Mark (in NH now)

  11. Leo

    Have a pimple ball for sale on ebay


    We will have pimple balls in stock before the end of the month.

    Former owner of Levis Hot Dogs

    • Bob S.

      Hi Marc,
      Long time. I contacted you a while back about this. I also have met you in the past and did a mock up design of another venture you started with portable tissues. So you got these molds? At 54 sometimes pimple balls were my best playmates. I can’t tell you how many hours I spent throwing and hitting pimple balls. Back then they were 45 or 50 cents.



    e-mail me at

    Will send you a photo of the balls and the how to get them


  14. Heidi Smith

    It has been one year since I’ve visited the pimple ball post for one of my lessons about descriptive writing. Today, my 6th grade class visited it again for the same objective,and here are their comments:
    “I want the pimple ball”
    “It seems fun to play with”
    “This is inspiring my writing”
    “We will write like you”
    “Say hello to the pimple ball for us”
    “If someone paid you a cent each time you wrote an adjective, you’d be a millionaire”
    “We really like your vocabulary”
    “How long and how many drafts did you do”
    “Is the factory open again?”

    • Steve Grantz

      Ms. Smith’s 6th Grade Class –

      I am touched by all the kind and thoughtful comments.

      If you read some of the others’ comments it looks like one person’s attempt to remake the pimple ball fell through, but another effort at RetroPhilly may deliver.

      As for how many drafts this took, I have to admit I felt pretty passionate about this one and I ripped off the first draft (on a train to NYC that was passing through Philly) in about 30-40 minutes and really liked it.

      I sat on for a while and made some edits, but this revision is really close to the first one.

    • Emma Fried-Cassorla

      Love this

  15. Leo King

    Pimple Balls for sale, we promise fast shipping!!! To see all our pimple ball packages, visit us at: THEPIMPLEBALL.COM

    • Albert Amirault

      We played handball in the school in east Boston until the ball busted then we would use it for halfball with broom sticks. In the early 60’s they were 10 cents

  16. Leo King

    http://THEPIMPLEBALL.COM is the home of the pimple ball and is dedicated to bringing back this ball to new generation.

  17. Charlie

    You sock(ed)-it-out of the box. Automatic homerun. Thanks for expressing what many of us have felt. And don’t forget how many of them rolled down the street and straight into the sewer! My website I left here is a link to a nostalgia facebook group…Southwest Philly 1962. Stop by the corner and say hi…

  18. Eddie Natale

    1950`s Memories of half ball against the six story Fleisher`s Mill on 26th Street in South Philly,cut the pimple ball in half,Moms had brooms missing the handles/boy were they mad,It was great goneby era that our children will never know.

  19. Allan O

    I was just explaining to my twin grand sons how much fun we had at 5th and the Roosevelt Blvd. in Phila. in the 1950s playing half ball with a pimple ball. We used to go around the neighborhood and “borrow” brooms that had been left outside and then cut off the handles for stick ball. One of our neighbors always left her broom out, I think it was on purpose for us to have. After roofing several balls, we would then climb up a drain pipe and retrieve them from a second story roof or if we were lucky a pimple ball got lodged in a flat roof drain causing the owner to have a roofer go up and “fix things”. This was good business for the repair man so he always returned the pinky and pimple balls to us. Pimple & pinky balls were always available at the 5 & 10 store on the next block for a nickle.
    My 14 year old grandsons love playing stick ball after school with their friends.

  20. Joyce

    Hi I feel that I am the only girl 70 years old who loved the

    • Joyce

      That sweet little ball. The first day of summer vacation I would run to the drugstore to buy my pimple ball. I would run outside early in the morning to play against the brick wall of my row home in philly. That was the official beginning of summer for me. The driveway behind my home was our neighborhood playground. What a warm feeling that little ball brings back to me. So nice to come across all of the memories of others. If I could buy one now, I would run out to buy one just to hold it in my hand. Thanks for the memories!

  21. Rich De Pasquale

    First played boxball in school yard (our lady of mt. carmel camden. One bounce, slapped thru the infield, no outfield. The defense was great. It really honed our skills making those plays. Very competitive. No Ipad need apply.


    • Roberto Aquino

      Yea that’s what we called it to at OLMC. Man them Nuns were tough.The bases were even painted.Walking that high wall was fun too.

  22. PDM

    Maybe we should all get together someday and have a game in a schoolyard.

  23. Rick Whittaker

    I played halfball for many years as a kid and adult. Loved and now miss the game.I was so delighted to run across your column. Did not know it was a Philly game too. Looking to get some pimple balls and playing my brother in law,he is from Philly.

  24. Michael Speak

    I have recently purchased a pack of 3 pimple balls from a place in Jersey called
    the “Pimple Ball factory”

  25. Paul Lombardo

    We played with a pimple ball in East Boston, down in Day Square, up the Heights, Eagle Hill, Jeffries Point and on Byron Corner, everywhere, punchball in the schoolyard but mostly halfball… it’s still played today and the Eastie Halfball league is thriving…always carry one with me…

  26. Barbara Yarzab

    We played in the 40s and 50s with a broom stick in a cleared area along the railroad tracks in Burlington, Connecticut not far from the Collins Company. More recently (20 years ago), London Harness in Boston was selling the sticks with the names of some Boston neighborhood steams on them. Alas, no pimpleballs. Now I can get one to go with my fancy stick. Hurrah!

  27. Frankie

    Lived in Southwest Philly retrieving the pimple from the row house’s was scary but fun a treasure trove could be had for the daring but only half of the ball’s were any good because of the heat and time they were left up there still I have yet to meet anyone up here in Boston that had experience’d the game along with hit em out slap ball punch or step ball.

  28. Robert MacDonald

    fast pitch stickball and how far that pimple ball would travel when you hit it just right. we used to play a game called soccer other probably called it punch ball, we played it like baseball and used a catcher that we called a Bar why a Bar i have no idea., the fielder would catch the ball and throw it to the Bar who would then catch it and yell out the base that the runners were going to, if they did not reach the base the before the bar caught and called the base they were out. Asses up and Poison ball were two games we played with the pimple ball both involved getting hit with the ball as hard as a 14 year old could throw it. Loved how the pimple ball would rise when you threw it hard.The Pimple ball was the best ball ever made. From Boston here.

  29. Pasta

    Thank you for all our post’s there fantastic .
    Its not possible too keep my trap closed about this topic .
    and with out texting adult words its 110% more difficult loL’s.

    Town : SWP

    Year’s : 1974 to Present

    Game Titles : This is the most interesting
    section of this topic some but not all of the particular games
    we used to play are mentioned in this post.

    Section of the Cities : From what it seems south Philly played stick ball
    with different rules based on the size of the area they played in
    or if there was a rear wall involved .

    For example the used a square outline box painted on the wall not a human as a catcher .
    a catcher could catch a foul and it counted as a out .

    Injuries : In SWPhilly if you got hit by a car for any reason
    ( That was you problem)
    you were taken away and the game was continued with the same bases and score .

    Hopefully someone will mention a few other of the games
    commonly associated with this famous spectacular ball .

    BY the way the new balls are great as a collector
    but the ones you want to try and find are soft
    not hard if your lucky enough to fine a original one
    that is soft it only bounces when extended pressure is applied.

    God Bless
    Thank’z Pasta

  30. Pasta

    Let’s try to make that a bit more clear’err

    For example South Philly in some cases may have used a square outline box painted on the wall not a human as a catcher .

    In SWP they used a catcher who could catch a
    foul and it counted as a out .

    In SP if they used a rear wall as a home run and the outfield caught the ball that bounced off the home run wall it counted as a out (get it ) lol’s

    In SWP it was more complicated a foul if caught was a out and three fouls’ out of bounds in any direction was a out .

    That’s Whats Up

  31. Marc Polish

    My wife and I used to own LEVIS HOT DOGS, Currently selling Halfie’s Amazing how big Halfball is in Boston too


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