A Spalding Hi-Bounce Ball, often called a Spaldeen (with the accent on the second syllable), is a small rubber ball, somewhat similar to a racquetball, supposedly made from the defective core of a tennis ball without the felt. It was the more expensive and more popular version of the Pensie Pinkie (made by the Penn tennis ball company). These balls are commonly used in street games developed in the mid-20th century, such as Chinese handball (a variation on American handball), stoop ball, hit-the-penny (involving trying to make a penny flip on a sidewalk), butts up, box ball, punchball, half-rubber, and stickball (a variation of baseball).
The term most likely arose from a New York City-accented pronunciation of Spalding, the sporting goods company that produced the balls. Across the Hudson River in Jersey City, New Jersey, the ball was referred to as a "high bouncer." It may also have originated with a mis-reading of A. G. Spalding's signature on the ball. The name has become so common that Spalding now uses it in marketing, and it is now a registered trademark.
History and Memories
Spaldeens were available from the 1930s to 1979 to city kids. In urban areas sparse in grass, Spaldeens became integral to many street games due to their bounciness and light weight. Citing the declining popularity of stickball, Spalding took the ball off the market in 1979, but it returned in 1999 to much fanfare. The retail price in the mid-1960s in Jersey City was 29 cents.
In the documentary New York Street Games, celebrities discuss their memories of games they played as children growing up in New York City. Many of these games involved Spaldeens. At one point, Whoopi Goldberg is talking and rolling a Spaldeen in her hand. When she brings it to her nose and smells it, you can tell by the look on her face that she's reliving memories of happy hours with Spaldeens.
In the television series Weeds, Shane's grandfather tells him that, "Real Estate always bounces back. It's like Spaldeens. You know what Spaldeens are? Well, they bounce..."
In the television series Law & Order, season 4, episode9 - Adam Schiff tells a story of getting into a fight with a kids when they were both young, and having his spaldeen thrown down a sewer.
- Spaldeen.com (Spalding's promotional site for the ball)