Fuzzball is a bat-and-ball street game related to baseball, usually formed as a pick-up game, and played in various areas of the United States (especially St. Louis, but also in Chicago where it is called "strikeout", Florida, and South Carolina). The equipment consists of a bat and a tennis ball that has had its outer layer burned or worn off. The rules come from baseball and are modified to fit the situation, i.e. whether it is played indoors or outside. Fuzzball can be played by as few as two players; outside of a league in St. Louis, the Bevo Area Fuzzball League, it exists as a pickup game, which has been successfully transplanted to "players leagues" which play a quasi-legal, quasi-outlaw version in Philadelphia and Northern California (San Jose and Santa Cruz, specifically). There are also fully official organized leagues for indoor fuzzball in St. Louis. Interest in the game was waning, however, at the turn of the century: by 2004, most serious players were in their 40's, with a decreasing number of new players becoming interested. Many St. Louis locals consider fuzzball to be a minor league training ground for future corkball players.
Summit Fuzzball League rules follow the same general rule structure as baseball, with the finer details varying considerably by region. The one consistent difference between fuzzball and baseball is the use of a tennis ball instead of a baseball. Players may or may not use a baseball glove while fielding.
Indoor fuzzball is usually played inside of a large net with no base runners. Outdoor fuzzball can be played either on paved school playgrounds (typically marked off for kickball) or on a baseball or softball field. Serious players will also use a cigarette lighter or a blowtorch to burn the felt off of the ball, thereby making it much faster when pitched. Bats may consist of broom handles, baseball bats, corkball bats, or official fuzzball bats, such as those made by Markwort Sporting Goods of St. Louis, Missouri. Markwort also makes an official fuzzball for use in games.
The batter may be out after one, two or three strikes. The batter may also walk after three, four, or five balls. If a batter is hit by a pitch, it can be worth two balls or the strike count may be reset. Once again, this depends on regional rules. If the ball lands behind a fence, on a roof, on a porch, or breaks a window far away it is usually ruled a home run. In some versions of fuzzball where space is a concern, hits are decided by how far the ball travels, in which case there is no running (similar to corkball).
If small teams play, "ghost runners" can take the place of an on-base player who must go back to home plate to bat once more. "Ghost runners" move the same amount of bases as the batter gets on a hit. For example, if a "ghost runner" is on second base and the batter hits a double, the "ghost runner" passes home plate and scores a run.
Game length (including innings and outs-per-inning) also varies considerably from region to region. A popular version of fuzzball played in the western Summit, NJ suburbs involves nine two-out innings as well as a twenty-run mercy limit.
- Charles P. Pierce (2000). "The Sport That Time Forgot". The Game. Esquire. Retrieved November 14, 2012.
- Buck, Fred (2004). Street Games: Memories of a St. Louis Childhood, the Fifties and Sixties. AuthorHouse. pp. 1, 52–53. ISBN 9781418454746. Retrieved November 12, 2012.
- Steven Fitzpatrick Smith (April 2002). "Get Fuzzy". The Commonspace. Retrieved November 13, 2012.
- Pierce, Charles Patrick (2001). The Sports Guy: In Search of Corkball, Warroad Hockey, Hooters Golf, Tiger Woods, and the Big, Big Game. Da Capo Press. p. 52. ISBN 0306810050. Retrieved November 2012.