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
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.