Halfball Remains a Family Tradition in Philadelphia After 60 Years; Tournament Will Raise Money for Fox Chase Cancer Center
PHILADELPHIA (August 23, 2001) - For as long as the Philly cheesesteak has been a mainstay in Philadelphia culture, so has the popular pick-up game known as "halfball." Peek around many neighborhood corners and you'll see this favorite past time being played by kids in the alleys of Philadelphia. Perhaps its popularity blossomed in the decade after the Depression because the equipment needed to play halfball was... well... cheap and easy to come by. All a kid needed to play was the handle from his mom's broom and a "pimple" ball cut in half.
Today, 60 years later, halfball is still a family tradition played in Philadelphia. "Just like cheesesteak fans have their eating contests and baseball has the World Series, halfballers have their own battle... of the broomsticks," said George Krauter, of New Hope, Pa., a halfball enthusiast.
No one knows for sure from where halfball originated. Some say the game started on the streets of Boston in the 1930s and subsequently spread to Philadelphia, St. Louis, and parts of New York. Krauter is adamant that the game is homegrown in Philly. No matter the roots, the game's simplicity is sure to have contributed to its popularity.
Halfball is played in an alley, side street, or field. The area of play is divided into zones that indicate a single, double, triple or homerun. The batter is out when a pitch is missed and caught by the catcher. A ball hit behind the plate is a foul ball unless it is caught in mid-air for an out. The batter is also out if the ball is hit, but stopped by an opposing player between the batting area and the pitcher's mound. Balls hit past the pitcher into the marked zones (and not caught in mid-air) are singles, doubles, triples and homers depending on the zone reached. There are no real bases to run and no runners to tag out. Krauter grew up in Northeast Philadelphia. His love for this childhood game has inspired him and his class of '49 Frankford High School buddies, Bill Rodgers, Joe Schiano, and Len Hulme to organize a multigenerational tournament to find the city's best halfball team.
"Halfball can be played at any age. It's more about camaraderie and having fun than anything else," says Krauter. "The halfball tourney to benefit Fox Chase Cancer Center will combine family, friends and fun with fund raising. One hundred percent of revenue raised will go to Fox Chase. All food, materials and services have been donated.
"This is very exciting. The support we have received has been phenomenal, which means that this will be the first of what I hope will be a tradition of halfball tournaments for Fox Chase," Krauter added.
The September 15 (rain date September 16) halfball tournament will be played around the corner from Fox Chase Cancer Center at 100 Laurel Avenue in Cheltenham. All of the money raised will benefit the Buck's County Chapter of the Fox Chase Cancer Center Board of Associates, a volunteer organization that raises money for cancer research and prevention at Fox Chase. In an exhibition match-up, Dave Schultz, Rick MacLeish and Bob Kelly of the Philadelphia Flyers alumni will take on some members of the Frankford High School All-Stars Class of '49.
Twenty-four teams will compete in three divisions: family, corporate and celebrity. Admission donation for spectators is $3. Teams already signed up include Dick's Sporting Goods, Philadelphia police, Philadelphia firefighters, the Philadelphia Stock Exchange, Kimberly-Clark, Reinard Agency, Market Street Stationers, and Erdman Leather. Neighborhood and family teams from all areas of Philadelphia are also competing.
Entertainment will include 'Big Band Music' of KatManDu, the Quaker City Stringband, and the Pete Leonard Rockband. Other Activities such as a moonwalk and a water slide are set for kids, as well as a visit from the Shriner's clowns. Auction prizes include such autographed sports memorabilia as a Martina Navratilova tennis racket, Barry Bond's glove and a Troy Vincent shirt. Raffle prizes include a weekend for two at Caesars-Pocono (courtesy Bill and Joan White), a Bose Wave Radio and a fellowship package from WHYY.
"It promises to be a day of fun for everyone!" exclaimed Krauter.
To participate, be a field sponsor, or make a donation contact the tournament organizer George Krauter, at 215-862-6251 or firstname.lastname@example.org (fax 215-862-6381).
Fox Chase Cancer Center, one of the nation's first comprehensive cancer centers designated by the National Cancer Institute in 1974, conducts basic and clinical research; programs of prevention, detection and treatment of cancer; and community outreach. For more information about Fox Chase activities, visit the Center's web site at www.fccc.edu.
Fox Chase Cancer Center, part of Temple University Health System, is one of the leading cancer research and treatment centers in the United States. Founded in 1904 in Philadelphia as one of the nation’s first cancer hospitals, Fox Chase also was among the first institutions to receive the National Cancer Institute’s prestigious comprehensive cancer center designation in 1974. Fox Chase researchers have won the highest awards in their fields, including two Nobel Prizes. Fox Chase physicians are routinely recognized in national rankings, and the Center’s nursing program has achieved Magnet status for excellence three consecutive times. Fox Chase conducts a broad array of nationally competitive basic, translational, and clinical research and oversees programs in cancer prevention, detection, survivorship, and community outreach. For more information, call 1-888-FOX-CHASE (1-888-369-2427).