Join 3,415 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Life before the Ashes
December 6, 2006 7:07 AM   Subscribe

Stoolball is the medieval ancestor of cricket and baseball. First mentioned in print in 1671, it was reputedly played by milkmaids, who used their bare hands as bats. The game is still played today in some parts of south-east England, but luckily with frying pan-shaped contraptions instead. An important rule is that not following the spirit of the game will get you sent off the pitch. Here are some pictures of games in progress, along with other medieval bat-and-ball games such as Nipsy and Knur & Spell. Or, if you don't like ball games, try another medieval sport, dwile flonking (play online in flash).
posted by randomination (21 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
First mentioned in print in 1671, it was reputedly played by milkmaids, who used their bare hands as bats.

How did that instantaneously turn into a pronographic fantasy in my mind?
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:13 AM on December 6, 2006


Pr0nographic, rather.
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:13 AM on December 6, 2006


So, a game England are guaranteed to win at, simply because no-one else plays it. Sounds good to me, just so long as no-one teaches it to the Aussies.

Good post. Thank you.
posted by thatwhichfalls at 7:15 AM on December 6, 2006


Sorry, that Flash link has stopped working for some reason.
posted by randomination at 7:21 AM on December 6, 2006


...it was reputedly played by milkmaids, who used their bare hands as bats.

How did that instantaneously turn into a pronographic fantasy in my mind?

I thought baseball. Sort of. Schwing and a Miss.
posted by hal9k at 7:23 AM on December 6, 2006 [1 favorite]


It's not a very enticing name really, is it?
posted by ninebelow at 7:24 AM on December 6, 2006


Stoolball. I predict this name alone will guarantee widespread glee, especially amongst third-graders.
posted by docpops at 7:30 AM on December 6, 2006


another medieval sport, dwile flonking (play online in flash)

Sir Gallahad always refused to download the flash 8 plugin and was thus never allowed to compete
posted by localhuman at 7:56 AM on December 6, 2006


I played stoolball a few minutes after I woke up this morning, albeit inadvertently, and had to clean for 25 minutes afterwards.
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:56 AM on December 6, 2006


Seriously, as if I needed more reason to disrespect the English.
posted by QuarterlyProphet at 8:05 AM on December 6, 2006


Thinking of milkmaids using their bare hands as bats sure makes me want to flonk my dwile.
posted by Floydd at 8:43 AM on December 6, 2006


makes me want to flonk my dwile

I believe they call it "runking" in Scandanavia.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 8:52 AM on December 6, 2006


So presumably the milkmaids had an unlimited selection of solid cows stools to use as the ball, but surely today's stoolball players aren't so lucky?

Would anybody like to volunteer to take up a collection from metafilter's stoolball supporters? If historical accuracy doesn't rule out the use of human stools, I'd be more than happy to donate.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 10:02 AM on December 6, 2006


This is awesome. Lesser known sports are great fun.

And, yes, it makes it even better that the name sounds like it might mean "poo-ball."
posted by Joey Michaels at 10:27 AM on December 6, 2006


I actually played this once at my school fair 15-odd years ago. A local womens' team was demonstrating the sport and invited some school kids and their parents to have a go at playing.

It is against the spirit of the game:
to seek to distract an opponent either verbally or by harassment with persistent clapping or unnecessary noise under the guise of enthusiasm and motivation of one's own side.


Wait, no heckling?! What the hell kind of sport is this, anyway?
posted by EndsOfInvention at 11:23 AM on December 6, 2006


Can I call it Dookyball, just for fun?

Pretty neat post, I'd never heard of it and I'm a big cricket fan (and a huge baseball fan!).
posted by fenriq at 11:48 AM on December 6, 2006


Stoolball. I predict this name alone will guarantee widespread glee, especially amongst third-graders.

Yes, but it will first have to eclipse cornhole.
posted by Tube at 12:53 PM on December 6, 2006


Let me guess — the annual awards for stoolball are the Dingleberries?
posted by rob511 at 2:22 PM on December 6, 2006


Holy crap. I did not expect to see stool ball on the blue.

I guess I am going to have to out myself as a big geek with this self-link now. For an SCA event, we had a large flat field that was going unused. I joked that we should play "Medieval Baseball" on the field, and everyone laughed. But then I started looking into it... and lo and behold, I found stool ball.

I read as much about medieval bat and ball games as I could (I strongly recommend Baseball Before We Knew It: A Search For The Roots Of The Game by David Block), and tried to come up with a version of the game that might plausibly have been played as a folk game pre-1600. I didn't look at modern stool ball rules at all when doing this. The results are on the page I linked to above. It is not the stool ball that is played now in England, though it shows some clear resemblances. Also, the terminology we use is more baseball-like because that's what the players here are used to.

It turned out to be a really fun game, much more successful than I expected. You don't need to be participating in the SCA or anything -- I had a great time just playing the game in an empty lot with some of my friends. It's flexible because you can play with as few as 2 or 3 people or with huge teams, and in small areas or on big fields. We have even played indoors in a large hall, with a very soft ball.

One of these days I am going to get some modern stool ball equipment and try playing the official modern game too, to see what it is like.
posted by litlnemo at 4:33 PM on December 6, 2006


"First mentioned in print in 1671, it was reputedly played by milkmaids, who used their bare hands as bats."

I should add that stool ball was mentioned in print well before 1671. I don't have the book in front of me, but I know it was mentioned in text from the 14th century. Some sources claim it was mentioned in the Domesday Book but I think that's disputed.

An aspect of the game that some might find interesting -- to quote my own article: "there are indications that it was a sort of springtime ritual, played at Eastertime. Some of the poetic mentions of the game imply an undertone of sexuality; 'playing at stool ball' was used at least once as an euphemism."

Note also this 17th century poem by Robert Herrick:

At stool-ball, Lucia, let us play
For sugar-cakes and wine :
Or for a tansy let us pay,
The loss, or thine, or mine.

If thou, my dear, a winner be
At trundling of the ball,
The wager thou shalt have, and me,
And my misfortunes all.

But if, my sweetest, I shall get,
Then I desire but this :
That likewise I may pay the bet
And for all a kiss.

posted by litlnemo at 4:43 PM on December 6, 2006


It is sort of sad that everyone turned this post into a Beavis and Butthead "huh huh, stool" fest and then ran away.
posted by litlnemo at 3:08 PM on December 8, 2006


« Older Swedish cops kept record of beautiful women....  |  Hundred Dollar Holiday... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments