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

Pimple-Ball
(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.

Love,
Steve

Steve-Grantz-Pimple-Ball

Posted on by Emma Fried-Cassorla in Uncategorized 27 Comments

27 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.

     
  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!

     
  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

    Hi.
    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 philly.com 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

     
  12. MARC POLISH

    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.

       
  13. MARC POLISH

    A PICTURE IS WORTH A THOUSAND WORDS

    e-mail me at marcpolish@comcast.net

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

    Marc

     
  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

     
  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.

    Rich

     
  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.

     

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