Brännboll is a game similar to rounders, baseball, and lapta, which is played at the amateur level throughout northern Europe, including Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Germany.  In some areas, it is better known as slaball or brennball.  For the most part, the game is played in parks and fields, though some schools include it as a part of their physical education curriculum.

Since there is no central governing body for brännboll, there are no codified rules, though games played generally follow the same regulations and traditions.  The game is usually played with a tennis ball, and unlike baseball and cricket, there is no pitcher or bowler.  Instead, the batter himself throws (or bounces) the ball and hits it with his bat.  “Fair territory” is usually determined according to natural features such as trees, or sometimes is little more than an imaginary border, and like baseball, these borders don’t restrict how far the ball can be hit straight away from the batter.  As a result, there is no standard size for the field of play.


Diagram of a typical brännboll field (Wikipedia)


Upon hitting the ball, the batter then makes their way around the four bases (usually counter-clockwise), while the fielding team catches and throws the ball back to the designated catcher positioned by what is known as the outing base (brännplatta).  The catcher announces the end of the batting round with “out” (bränd, “burned”) when they step on the outing base with the ball in their possession.

If the runner is caught between two bases at the end of the batting round, they move back to either the last visited base or, according to some local rules, back to first base.  When this occurs, the fielding team earns a point.  The offensive team can have as many players on the bases as they like, as there are no restrictions (i.e. you can have more than one runner to a base, as both those runners might be caught between the same two bases when the ball makes it back to the catcher).

If a fielder catches a fly ball before it hits the ground (lyra), the fielding team also earns a point.  However, if the batter makes it past fourth base before the ball gets to the catcher (varvning), the hitting team earns a point.  If the hitter gets what we’d call a home run (frivarv/helrunda), the offensive team gets 6 points.

If all players on the batting team fail to reach fourth base (and thus rejoin the queue to hit again) and no batsmen remain in the queue, the hitting team as a whole is caught out (utebrända).  This results in 5 points awarded to the catching team.  The indicator at which the two teams switch sides also remains unclear, and likely differs from location to location.  Typically, however, each team get to play on each side, usually one or two times each.

Interestingly, in spite of the lack of organization, there is a brännboll world championship known as Brännbollscupen.  It is played annually in Umeå, Sweden.  Brännbollscupen was first organized in 1974 with 44 teams taking part.  Over the years, the tournament has grown to over 1,000 participating teams.

You can watch a bit of brännboll (including a team of superheroes, it appears) being played here:

Why are they called innings?

In sports like football, soccer, or hockey, the division of the game into parts is much easier.  Four quarters.  Two halves.  Three periods.  These are divisions of the time allotted to play that particular game.

Baseball, however, is not a timed sport.  Therefore, the usual segments for dividing up the game into parts don’t really work.  Instead, the game is divided by aspects of play within the game itself: three outs per half-inning, with each team getting the opportunity to bat, therefore allotting six outs per full inning, and nine innings in a game.  But why do we call these nine segments of the game “innings”?

Not surprisingly, the term as used in baseball originally comes from cricket, in which the time a team has at bat is referred to as an “innings.”  In the original English usage of the word, “innings” was used both as the singular and the plural term.  Baseball Americanized the word to create the singular “inning.”

It is interesting to note that the word “inning” pre-dates even cricket.  According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, “inning” comes from the Old English word “innung,” meaning “a taking in” or “a putting in.”  The first known use of “innings” in cricket occurred in 1735, referring to “a team’s turn in action in a game.”  Thus, an inning refers to that period of time in a game during which a team “puts in” its time at the plate.


“Don Larsen’s Perfect Game,” by Louis Phillips

This piece by Louis Phillips was published in Spitball Magazine in December 2014.  I like the contemplation of that moment as soon as a perfect game has come to a close.  In between that final pitch and the outburst of celebration, there must be a moment in the pitcher’s mind where they are thinking … something.  Honestly, I cannot even fathom what one would think in that brief winking transition from being a pitcher who might pull off one of the most difficult feats in baseball to a pitcher who has actually completed it.  I imagine no small dosage of relief is mixed in there, and perhaps a sprinkling of disbelief.  Perhaps even the pitcher doesn’t know what he’s thinking.

When you came to the end of your perfect game,
And you stood alone with your thoughts,
While your chums sang out “Hurray, Hurray!”
For the joy your feat had brought,
Did you think what the end of a perfect game
Had meant to the baseball crowd?
Watching the batters go down in flame
Had made your teammates proud.

Well. it was the end of a perfect game.
At the end of the Series too;
And it left its mark in the Record Book
Where every stat is true.
My memory recalls that day
Every pitch, catch, & out,
With Yogi running out to the mound,
To leap & hug & shout.

When we think on the glory of your perfect game
Does it make us young again?

This day in baseball: Marquard’s streak ends

Left-handed pitcher Rube Marquard of the Giants won 19 decisions in a row to start the 1912 season.  This tied a single-season mark set by Tim Keefe in 1888 and remains a record that stands to this day.    Marquard’s first loss of the season came on July 8th, when the Cubs defeated New York, 7-2.  Marquard went on to win a total of 26 decisions for the season, helping the Giants on their way to winning the NL pennant.

Rube Marquard, 1912 (Library of Congress)

Hall of Fame Simpsons

The 2017 Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony doesn’t take place until the end of the month, but if you’re Homer Jay Simpson, you’ve already been honored this year.  On May 27, 2017, the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum celebrated the 25th anniversary of that iconic Simpsons episode, “Homer At the Bat.”  This Simpsons episode featured the voices of Ken Griffey Jr., Darryl Strawberry, Jose Canseco, as well as other baseball personalities, and first aired February 20,  1992.

As part of the event, Homer Simpson himself was “inducted” into the Baseball Hall of Fame with a little ceremony:


Some of Homer’s co-stars in the episode even made a special trip to Cooperstown for the event:


Homer HOF
Baseball Hall Twitter

And, as you can see above, Homer even received his own plaque:

Homer plaque

Congratulations, Homer!