Ernie B——t was one of the first fellows that I got to know when I began working at the Chrysler truck plant in Fenton in 1968. His real last name was Bullock and maybe still is if he’s around. I was 18. He was 33. He’d be 88 today.
Ernie grew up in south St. Louis. I have always been fascinated with the city. All of my grandparents lived there or had at one time or another. Grandma Amy lived on Virginia near Marquette Park. Grandad and Grandmother Jackson lived on Potomac near Hampton and Chippewa. To a boy from the country, they lived in another world.
They had something in St. Louis that we didn’t have in Jefferson County. Pavement! I can still remember how great it was to ride a bicycle on pavement. Didn’t matter what pavement. Streets, sidewalks, parking lots. They were all fabulous compared to the gravel road that ran in front of my house. We had no pavement anywhere. None. Roller skating was impossible. Riding a one speed, balloon-tired bike on a gravel road wasn’t impossible but you weren’t going far. I was always comparing city life with rural.
On a Sunday, you might find Ernie at Sandrina’s on Arsenal. He once told me of an alley game called Bottle Caps. I’m not sure if he played it there. It had rules like baseball but was played with bottle caps and a broom stick. I’ve never tried it but it seems like it would be very tricky to hit the pitched bottle caps.
This post about Charlie Notter and his corkball games put me in mind again of Ernie and his bottle caps.
Much thanks to Charlie’s son, Ed, for sending this along.
Doug Houser February 26, 2023
Readers, Ed Notter at my request provided by email some of the rules that his group played by. I think they’re great so I’m posting them. From Ed:
Given that a couple of these are clearly sexist, please understand we were all lifelong multi-generational friends and teasing was a staple. That being said, if you think any of these rules would cause an issue, delete them.
Fly ball caught by any player has to be with one hand (the other presumably holding your beer). If caught using both hands it was deemed a hit.
Any batter “lining” a hit in the vicinity of a pitcher over the age of 60 or a female of any age will have full knowledge they will be “beaned” their next up at bat whether same inning, same game or the next week
Any throw or pitch knocking over an open beer results in the current batter being afforded an extra base.
Any hit or fouled hit knocking over an open beer is an automatic out.
Only the catcher is allowed to wear a glove.
Female batters are given no preferential treatment unless you’re dating or married to them.
A hit by a female batter automatically results in verbal harassment of the pitcher.
I loved the story of cork ball. I grew up in Affton on Elton street. Back in the day on our street, I’ve counted 55 kids. If there was a ball of any sort we’d play a game with it. My favorite game was “Fuzzball.” We would get a Zippo lighter and burn the fuzz off a tennis ball. This made the ball curve and made the pitch really fast. I was younger than most but the older guys would let me play. Same rules but we had a different twist. Usually we would listen to Cardinal broadcast while playin. The rule to our game was, whoever was batting on the transistor radio broadcast, you had to bat from the same side. So if it was Lou Brock, you had to bat from right of the plate. If it was Orlando Cepada, you had to bat from left side. So on and so forth. My favorite was Willie McCovey from the Pirates. He had a great big warm up swing that was intimidating to opposing pitchers. It was fun going through the motions. We spent hours and hours playing fuzz ball. Now a days, I dont think I could pitch as fast much less hit a speeding fastball. But I’d sure like to try!
Hey Steve, I’m sure I’m not the only one who really enjoyed hearing about the rules used in your neighborhood. I got a good laugh at how complicated they were. It makes one wonder how many thousands of different rules there were to these pickup games. Much thanks for posting these.
More history and information about the great game of corkball (as well as Indian ball, fuzzball, bottle caps, etc.) can be found on my Corkball site! Please check it out. https://corkball.wordpress.com/corkball/
Another childhood baseball adaption. In grade school at St. Luke’s in Richmond Heights, for recess we played what we called handball. A baseball type field with bases. The batter tossed the tennis ball up with one hand and then hit it with his fist on the other hand. Rules were the same as baseball except in addition to tagging or throwing the runner out you could hit him with a thrown ball as well. Only thing you didn’t see any of was sliding, we played on a concrete playground.
“Old Sutton School Diamond in Maplewood” where was it located? I am guessing we drove by where it was.
It was the old Jr. High, now demolished and is Ryan Hummert park where Maplewood holds the summer concerts.
That was such a great story!! We don’t have those kinds of stories anymore, but when you lived it and can tell it, it sure makes you feel good. Thanks so much for sharing this with us.
I’m really happy that you liked it, Nancy. It definitely is a story about a way of living that has all but disappeared. Thank you for your comments. It is always good to hear from you.