Stoolball is one of the games I outline in the upcoming book Past Times: Sports and Games of Medieval Europe. It is actually the game that made me interested in historical games. I had recently been told about a game called Tablero and was told by several people that it was completely SCA period, and then by a whole bunch more people that it was completely fabricated by people within the SCA. The debate over the accuracy of games played in the SCA got me curious about games, and I realized that chess and 9 man morris were about the only games regularly played at events. I started digging around and found Stoolball. I won’t go into too much detail on how the game is played as I have written on this subject repeatedly in many other places, this is more reminiscing about some fantastic games of stoolball I have played.
When I was researching how to play stoolball I discovered that there were likely highly regionalized rules so when I run a stoolball game I make the team captains decided on the final rules, the base rules are the same, but the number of stools, and how rough the game can get is all decided on the spot. It makes for an interesting game, and you can always tell someone who has played stoolball before because they add rules that seem so odd, such as no hiding the stools. In my experience stoolball ALWAYS devolves into pure silly fun.
One of the first games I ever organized was in London Ontario with the SCA Group Trinovantia Nova at their annual event Winter War. The game was very well received and everyone was having fun. Because there were kids involved we did not use the soak em rule (which is getting a runner out by throwing the ball at them). At one point the ball was hit and the runner ran, one of the fielding team grabbed the outfield stool and ran away making it impossible for the runner to circle the stool. Both teams laughed themselves silly at this, but eventually the game resumed. During the same game a ball was hit, and the fielding team this time played a bit of a prank on the runner, someone ran off with their arms in front of them making it look like they had the stool, the runner chased the “stool thief” but another fielder with a long dress had lifted her skirt, stood over the stool and lowered her skirt back down so the stool was hidden. The runner finally caught up with the thief and realized that he didn’t have the stool and stood there confused while the pitcher threw the runner out, this maneuver became quite popular, always to hilarious results.
At an event called Fruits of Our Labour in the SCA group Ramshaven (Kitchener Ontario) I began an annual Stool Fool Tourney, the first Stoolball tourney was interesting, only two teams turned up, but we were able to at least play a game. We did make this a no kids game, you had to be over 16 to play in the tourney. The game started out civil enough, as they always do. Midway through the game the ball was hit into the at bat team that were waiting for their turn to hit. They decided to play a little offensive interference to allow their runner to score more points. It turned into one of the largest pileups I have ever seen to scramble for the ball. At one point I was on my hands and knees trying to crawl under the main pile up when I felt someone trying to climb over me, I grabbed the persons leg and flipped them over, I turned back to see it was an older lady, at first I felt bad, but then I noticed she was laughing uncontrollably so I continued to dig for the ball.
The game of stoolball can be quite amusing, if not taken too seriously. Hip checks, full on tackles, interference with the players the balls and/or the stools are all common occurrences depending on the rules. If you’ve never had a chance to play stoolball I highly recommend getting some friends together and playing a game ASAP.
Want to learn more about stoolball, read my article on Medieval Stoolball!