Pimple Ball

Note to those who wonder what a pimple ball is:
Pimple Balls were used in Philadelphia, Boston, and other Northeastern cities for wallball, handball, boxball, points, wireball, stickball, and Hit the Penny among other games. If they were severly exposed to the elements (down a sewer or over the roof) they usually did not bounce as well so they were cut into halfballs. And if you had the dough, you might even cut up a new pimpleball for a game of halfball.

I haven’t seen a pimpleball in about 15 years, but those who remember them can tell you that they were perfect for inner city street games like the ones named above. It was basically a thin rubber ball much like a racketball. It had little dimples, raised stripes and some models had a raised star on the top. If your family comes from Philadelphia, Boston or New York ask your father what a pimpleball is, he will be happy to share the information.

Pimple Balls were distributed by the Eagle Rubber Company of Ashland, Ohio from 1932 through 1982.  About a half of a million pimple balls were produced each year.  Most of which ended up on roofs and in sewers.

UPDATE: In recent years the pimple ball has been recreated. You can buy them online at thepimpleball.com. Although they are look really close to the original, everyone who touches it says it isn’t quite the same. It somehow feels different.

95 thoughts on “Pimple Ball”

  1. I grew up in East Boston and played half ball steps handball all the good games using pimple balls. I just bought some on ebay and am a little disappointed they are thicker and heavier than the original ball but still I am psyched to have them as soon as I opened one I cut it in half, I want to play half ball in the worst way now.

  2. Hi, after reading this amazing article i am as well glad to
    share my experience here with friends.

  3. Hey Everyone,

    Just an FYI, a store called Five Below in the Northeast US (I'm in Philly) has them for sale $1.99 per ball. I've been looking for them online as a gift for my dad who's shared so many stories growing up playing with them.

    I was so surprised to see them I bought a bunch.

    – Joseph J. Figaniak

  4. Chris, I have about fifty balls that I paid $2.99 for. Your welcome to them for cost. I'm in South Jersey if your in the Philly area, which is where I'm from. I'm also stoked about springs arrival and getting my nephews playing halfies.

  5. Five below has the pimple ball right now 3/23/14, just bought 4 and going back to buy more.

  6. Working on a grant to promote physical fitness in urban kids and the first thing I said was, let's get the kids back out on the street. Looking to buy a bunch of pimple balls and teach the street games again.

    I would value any descriptions of games and their variations!



  7. I'm so pleased to see that pimpleballs are back! I just purchased four at 5-Below for$1.99 each. This brings back memories of the mid 70's playing half-ball till too dark to see at 6th and Moore. I hate half pinkies and tennis balls and had no problem throwing german helmets back at the pitchers face.

  8. I lived in Malden, Mass and our lives revolved around that ball from 1952, when I was 8 years old until about 1960. The pink ball sucked and broke too easy. There were two types of pimple balls. The one with the star on the end was the best, the one with a pimple on the end was a cheap knockoff that cost the same, but we learned to avoid buying it, unless we could not get the good one. If anyone wants to hear about all the things we did with this ball, let me know through this site and I will start writing a bit. I have a lot of good and some funny memories.

  9. Steve Tronieri:

    When I was a growing up at 4th and McClellan we had a beautiful deadbox painted in the middle of the street that lasted about 10 years. We used to call the game tinnies.

    Steve Martin

  10. Lived in Northeast Philly(Parkwood) and we would buy them and color them in before we destroyed them outside playing handball,wireball,suicide,sickball..Its crazy that a ball could bring so many memories back. To all who grew up in Parkwood or the Northeast these balls were life and if they didn't have them at the hardwood store or pharmacy at Parkwood shopping center or wherever you went after saving money you were destroyed. Many of us who had them would tag them with our names too. 5 below will be getting a visit real quick. Later friends. Pimple balls live again.

  11. Steve, I grew up in South Brooklyn and we played most of our games with pimple and then later on with star balls. I used to love to play pitching in, I would drive my friends crazy. I found out that by holding the ball along certain lines that it would curve left or right. I never told them and they never figured it out. Another game we played was rolly poley. when you would self hit the ball up the block and wherever they would catch the ball they would roll it down the block, you would place your stick across the upper rim of the sewer, when the ball rolled into the stick you would have to catch it, if you missed the guy who rolled it would get up.

  12. I came from the Red Hook section of Brooklyn. We called the game fist ball.
    Other sections used the pink 'Spauldeen'. Now when I talk to neighbors, they
    do not believe me when I decribe the flight of a pimple ball. I can't wait to buy
    one and show them the action of a pimple ball. I just have to get a young kid
    to toss the ball around. At 80 the arm and aim are dead
    Rocky Carrano

  13. I just picked one up the other day at Ricci's hoagies in south Philly. I went in to pick up my order, and there there were in a box on the counter just like when I was a kid. I bought 2, and gave one to my brother who's eyes lit up immediately. $2.50/piece, but I didn't care. I had heard a rumor a few years ago that someone was going to make them again, but hadn't seen any until now. No other ball is like them for playing street games. These were a little harder than I remember but I'm sure they'll soften with some play.

  14. I did a Google search; that will do the job. Just search for Five Below and it will show up.

  15. My Dad used to tell me about them (he's 80) and I remember seeing them when I was very young. He seems to be the only person from Brooklyn NY who used to use them. He would tell me how they would curve and rise when thrown a certain way. They used to use them for punchball alot.
    Only people from his neighborhood knew about them.

  16. I see some people would and would not pay $6 for a ball. What if they were readily available such as someone started manufacturing them again? How much would you pay for a single ball? What about a pack of them like lets say 20 balls? Curious to see what these pimple balls are worth to people.

  17. I found them. I found them. I've found a Pimple Ball!! Slightly thicker than the old originals. But its a pimple ball!!! Five Below sells them in south and I think it was $1.19. I was soooo excited. My kids thought I was nuts. Ive been trying to explain to them how this was the best ball ever made. And how many games with would play with this single ball.

  18. Grew up in the streets of West Oak Lane in the Germantown section of North Philly. Half ball, wall ball, step ball was our life's passion. We would climb roofs, go down sewers and invade dog infested yards in order to get a pimple ball to play. Trash day was the best time to get a good mop or broom handle. Saw it off. Wrap some adhesive tape around the top and bottom and….BLAM……playball! Those were the good days.

  19. WOW, I completely forgot about the "slides" between the steps (not stoops) on those great old rowhouses…..

  20. After 50 years, I'd love to just hold a pimple ball and then throw a few curveballs or knuckleballs or sliders or overhand curves. What fun. And then to get a hold of one with your broomstick bat and give it a 300' ride. Awesome. As a guy from the Boston area, I say bring back stickball to the neighborhoods and get rid of those video games.

  21. There was an art to cutting the pimple ball in half. You first sliced along the center line just enough to allow the liquid to pour out. Then very carefully with a razor blade you would need to follow along the center line. If you deviated from that it made that half more vulnerable to tear when hit. There were actually two "pimple balls". One had a star at each end and another simply had another pimple. The one with the stars was the preferred ball since it was thicker and more durable. There were other balls that just didn't measure up, such as the pink ball which seemed to be slightly smaller. Tennis balls were used only in desperation. Then, of course, "hose balls" were used when nothing else was available. They were four inch cuts from a rubber hose that stung pretty badly when you got hit with them.

    Jack Anthony, Kensington in Phila.

  22. I grew up in Boston's "Little Italy", the North End. I played with a pimple ball everyday in the summers of my childhood. Didn't know they had them in Philly and NYC. There was nothing better than growing up in Italian inner-city neighborhoods back in the good-old days.
    Peter P.

  23. how about the other ball instead of pimples the ball had stars on it. That ball hurt when hit by pitch

  24. Those were definitely the days! I just recently found an old Pimple Ball in my mother's basement and it got me thinking of all the good times back then. Needless to say that Pimple Ball is safe at my house now!

  25. I am always on the lookout for them myself. When I thinkn back to my early years, thats one fo the first things that comes to mind. Actually wish I had 1 photo of me playing halfies. Oh Well.
    I have 2 full pimple balls. One from my dad. One I traded Phillies tickets for. I also have 2 halves. One decorated in the style I would have used back in the early 80s. I also recall spending a ton of time playing wire ball. That one I have taught my son up here in NJ.

  26. MICK C

  27. You are right. We had Spaldings, which were pink, and then there was a softer version, we called pinkies. The Spaldings were much harder and hurt like hell playing punch ball or slap ball. If you whacked a soft pinky with a stick it would rupture forthwith.

  28. Hey gang. Nobody mentioned the pinky ball. It was 5 or 10 cents more expensive than the pimple ball. It was also a superior half-ball. It's amazing how all of our games transcended our own neighborhoods.

  29. I heard there was a guy on Ebay selling pimples. Guess if you can find a way to adhere the pimples to the pimple-less ball you might have something.

  30. There is a guy in Ventnor NJ who is making halfballs which are very similar to the pimple ball. All he is missing is the pimples. They play just like the pimpleball half balls.

  31. i grew up in n philly and played all the same games and some. i would love to know where to buy them and give em out at christmas to the guys i grew up with .

  32. Roe…I have one and I wouldn't part with it for any dollar amount…well, I guess I would IF….I had another one. I have been looking for years. I bring it to work with me and show the people who remember those days…it's a wonderful keepsake.

  33. Carmine B.

    How about step ball. It was amazing how many creative ways we used those beloved pimple balls. No one has mentioned Star Balls yet. Remember them? They would make your knuckles bleed when used for handball. I still have scars. I lived in the East Falls/Allegheny Avenue area (32nd street).

  34. Pimple ball!! I grew up farther north in the Olney section of the City, and played halfball all the time. Haven't thought about the pimple ball for decades. At summer day camp they would have a tank of liquid nitrogen, dip a pimple ball in it, then shatter it into a dozen pieces against a wall. God Bless the pimple ball!

  35. Where can you get a pimple ball from now. I would love to buy one for my 6 brothers for christmas, we played everyday in Northeast Philly, Bridesburg.

  36. Growing up in North Philly we would play with pimple balls all day and I mean all day. Handball was the game of choice until we ran out of good balls then we would play stick ball. I did this through the early and mid 60's.

    I remember being able to float a pimple ball that had great velocity about 4 feet from the ground straight as an arrow. I loved doing that. I also remember hitting many of the halfies over the roofs of our row homes.

    I like others here are still waiting on my online order!!

  37. Buyer beware, like a few others I ordered pimple balls online, still waiting, wish I checked here first.

  38. I am an artist and for about 12 years now I have been loving these 3 old rotting balls with dots and ridges I picked up at a yard sale. It wasn't until I starting photographing them and painting them that someone finally told me they were "pimple balls".
    I am originally from the midwest and never heard of such a ball. I thought he was joking until I looked it up and – here I am. Your memories and stories are wonderful and rich. I feel like my poor decrepit balls have a bigger soul now. Thank you all.

  39. As a kid growing up in South Philly after school we would rush home to change then go to Willie's corner store on 15th and Jackson and buy a pimple ball. I remember going thru the box and squeezing them to get the one with the most air in it. Then we would go to 'the playground' at 16th and Jackson and usually play handball, dinky, chink, wallball, or stickball. As the ball became worn, we would
    cut in half and play halfball.
    Stickball or half ball in the neighborhood was always fun but you had to play at a three story building, usually found on the corner like John's butcher shop or Freddies fruit store. First floor hit was a single, second floor was a double, third was a triple and over the roof was a homerun.
    I remember when we saw a roofing truck we would bug the guys to throw down all the pimple balls and we would see what was still useable.
    Hey, does anyone remember the game deadbox?

  40. Do yourself a favor and do not order pimple balls online it is a scam. I have been waiting over a year for delievery.

  41. I remember when the pimple ball would go down the coal bin (sewer) and we would take off the lid and hold the smallest kid by the legs and lower him down right to the edge of the water and pick up all the floaters. On 18th and Ritner we played manhunt and German Gastopo. You could pitch two different ways according to which game you played with the half ball: either underhand or sidearm. We played two hand touch football in St. Monica's schoolyard In So Philly, and sometimes if nobody had a football, we would roll up newspapers to about 5 inches wide and fasten them with rubber bands and use them for footballs.
    And if you walked your girlfriend home, we used to climb up the pole on the gaslight and turn down the light so you could get a bat job in the dark.
    Also, when the trolly car came to a stop we would pull the cord and disconnect it from the overhead wire and run like hell when the conductor came off the trolly to re-connect it. Great times…..we used our imaginations to entertain ourselves because there wasn't any money

  42. Another popular street game, at least in Philadelphia was "hose ball." "hose ball" was played with cut up rubber garden hoses about 4 inches in length. The rules were the same as half ball but the game was different because the heavier hose reacted differently when batted. It could break windows.

  43. How about "carpet guns"? I grew up in Brooklyn, NY. We had all of the above, the wooden milk crate scooters and carpet guns being my favorite. Actually a carpet gun used vinyl flooring as the projectile, and a piece of 2×4, a clothespin and rubber bands. A stretched heavy duty rubber band, held in place by what used to be wooden clothes pins would do the trick. Also, if you had a strong arm, you could make a pimple ball"sail". It would actually come in low then rise up a foot or two. Was an amazing sight. We also opened up fire hydrants and would shoot the water across the street using a beer or soda can, not made from aluminum so it would support the pressure of a NYC fire plug. How about skelzy, using wax filled bottle top or playing marbles?

  44. I still can't believe that South Brooklyn, NY has not been mentioned. My dad and father in law tell me all the time about how they played with the pimple ball and how many sewers they used to hit the ball.
    I believe South Philly was similiar to South Brooklyn. I think they both were the homes of Italian immigrants. Up until the 80's it was still 90% Italian. Then the yuppies realized what a great location (so close to NYC) and neighborhood it was.
    There was a great TV special on this past Sunday on channel WLIW (it's like a Public Broadcasting Network). It was called New York Street Games. You guys would love it. There is a web site that has a trailer for it. http://www.newyorkstreetgames.com

  45. Wow, pimpleballs were the stuff back in the 60's and 70's. If you had a pimple ball, you always had friends. I grew up in the Kensington section of Philadelphia and not a day went by from April to October when we did not have a stick and a pimpleball or halfie in our hands.

    We would all show up in the school yard an hour before school and play the old version of handball or boxball . During school hours at recess we would get in a fast game.

    On our street we could play a variety of games because we had everything. marble steps with the slanted marble slide in between each house so we could play step or slide ball. We had wires cross the street for wire ball. Brick facades on our houses for wall ball, chink or assball.

    The street was wide enough for a game of stickball or halfies. What a wonderful time to grow up.

  46. Responding to Anthony (south philly bred)

    I am in a halfball league from April thru Oct. We are looking to expand our league so if you are really interested in the league or know anyone else interested, contact me via email. We play throughout South Philly and Fishtown areas. [email protected]

  47. Hey where did you find them on line? I would definitely drop 6 bucks for one of these. Also would love to find out about one of those half ball leagues!

    south philly bred. Now in NE.


  48. What I loved about the pimple ball was the assortment of pitches I could throw. I felt like every baseball pitcher I watched on tv. I would throw my over the top curveball like Marichal..my rising fastball like Koufax and my side-arm curve like Tiant.

  49. I've yet to see anyone post that they were fron South Brooklyn besides myself. I'am I safe to assume back in the 50's & 60's south Philly was an immigration point for Italians like south Brooklyn was?

  50. My father, who is from North Philly, taught me and my brother how to play half ball. We moved from Phila. to Northwest New Jersey in the late 60's and played the game in front of our house. You can imagine the weird stares we'd get from passers-by.

    I agree with "Russ d" that the pimple ball is the only "true" half ball. We tried playing with the so-called "Pinky" as well as with a cut tennis ball, but nothing matched the pimple ball.

  51. AMEN brothers. I grew up in Southie [South Boston] and Dorchester and, like the "Chickenman," we played half ball from dawn to dusk. Pimple balls disappeared, I remember being told, because they were manufactured with a compound that was poisonous.

    No other rubber ball, cut in half, could match the action you got pitching half a pimple ball.

  52. I was from West, Southwest. For those from that area there is a great book called "Row House Days" about growing up in neighborhood.

    For kicks I took a picture of a pimple ball and put it on some items eg mousepad, magnet, etc. I did it more for a kick to bring back great memories.
    You can go to


    I collect things of my youth that brings back great memories. Like skate key, drive-in speakers, old siren for your bike you would pull a chain and it would rub on tire and sound just like the police siren, toy soldiers,view master etc. I will soon post them also. Those were the days my friend I thought they never end.

    Some people are like slinkies….
    They're not good for anything but they still put a smile on your face when you push them down steps.

  53. Like Dave S, we would buy our pimple balls at Izzys but it was the late 50s, early 60's and they were only 12 cents. We would collect soda bottles from the neighbors and turn them in to Barney's at 3rd and Ritner for 2 cents each. All of the games mentioned above were played on the corner of 3rd and Ritner except fastball. That was played at Sharswood school yard. To cuts it propery for halfball you would cut halfway through the center line of the ball then make a hole and rip the ball into two halve.

    The South Philly scooter was made out of an Abbotts or Sealtest mikecrate, a 3 foot – 2" X 3" board, a rollerstake, two sticks for handles, a few nails and as many "beerie" caps as you could find. The most important tool was the skatekey to seperate the skate.

    These days were the best of my life even though we were poor and lived with abusive parents. I would do it all over again and wish I could have my kids have the feeling of growing up in South Philly, minus the parents thingy.

  54. I remember playing half ball in front of a church located at 13th and Tasker Street and in front of Ray's grocery store on Tasker Street. located between 13th and Clarion sts. When the halfballs would go on the roofs, I would scale the walls and go on top of the roofs. Back then you could go a whole block worth of roofs and collect lot's of halfballs!!! What years they were…..

  55. Two are for sale on ebay…price is already up to $72.00!!!
    Somebody should start manufacturing them again.

  56. My dad grew up in south brooklyn NY in the early 50′s and used to talk about plaring fist ball in the street and hiting it 3 sewers!
    He use to tell me about how the pimple ball used to curve and rise if you threw it correctly. I remember buying them with him in the mid to late 70′s but he told me that they were made differently. Wish I could get my hands on 1

  57. My dad grew up in south brooklyn NY in the early 50's and used to talk about plaring fist ball in the street and hiting it 3 sewers!
    He use to tell me about how the pimple ball used to curve and rise if you threw it correctly. I remember buying them with him in the mid to late 70's but he told me that they were made differently. Wish I could get my hands on 1

  58. Back when I was a kid growing up in Philly, we used our imagination and we were never bored. Todays kids are bored if they are not on a video game. They are lazy and it is to much work for them to go outside and play. bsbdays is Broad Street Bully Days. Go Flyers!!!!!!

  59. I was from Northeast Philly and we played all those games too. It just wasn't in South Philly. I found some Pimple Balls on line, but they want $6.00 a ball. I like to get some but I am not going to pay $6.00 a ball, if anyone knows where to get some let me know. Thanks

  60. Grew up in Port Richmond and all we did in the summer was play games that used pimple balls: "fasties" (basically stick ball with a painted strike zone), "half-ball" (you all know what that was), hand ball, wire ball, and suicide. It was awesome and I am so glad I grew up as a kid in Philly, in the 70's. Things were much slower and the neighborhoods were very tight. What was the radio station, WFIL I think. Miss those days……

  61. two bounce ball games, (girlie, i guess) that haven't been mentioned….russia and A my name is angela and i come from alabama….also remember the little slide between the two front steps? when we weren't sliding down it we played a ball game on it which we called ledge. and then of course "run the bases" and monkey in the middle. i asked my sports crazy new yorker husband if he remembered pimple balls and he said he never heard of pimple balls or half ball, i just couldn't believe it. south philly was the best place to grow up, bar none.

  62. I remember buying pimple balls at Izzy's on third and Porter for 25 cents. How about fast ball or pony ball(our local rec had leagues) or running bases. I miss those days. We where lucky to have them!

  63. OMG!! Pimple balls! I used to find half pimples on the roof of our house!

    How about throwing tied sneakers over the wires? And the scooters made from wooden fruit crates and old skates?

  64. A board with skate wheels and a soda crate was called a "Pusho". Bottle caps for decorations. The older kids had them I moved out of the city when I was 5. Pushos were loud and fast.

  65. To go back, Just for a day! If I could let my kids & grandkids feel what being a kid is really like! South Philly ~ GOD'S BLESSINGS TO ALL WHO READ THIS~HAVE A GREAT DAY!

  66. I grew up on Leeds st. in the Overbrook section of West Philly. From playing chink on Tony and Palma's corner to playing fast ball in Cassidy's school yard, the pimple ball was the greatist. Just saying it brings back such a wonderful feeling. I remember standing on the side walk for hours just putting the penny back on the crack and trying to flip it again. Lets not forget step ball . When that ball hit the bull nose part of the step, that sound it made i can still here it today. My favorite was box ball. Remember how small and narrow upper leeds was. Their was nothing like waiting for that pitcher to release that ball and one bounce later you caught clean. I remember hitting it up the curb side and if that ball got by the first baseman you watched it got all the way up toward 66st. Boy do i miss those days. We would almost cry when are moms would say it's time to come in for dinner or time to come in for the night. Please bring back the Pimple Ball and get rid of the vidio games. Thanks for the memories.

  67. I grew up on Boston so I'm an outsider but we played plenty of half ball up here too. It was great and the best part was that you never had to worry about breaking windows. The other tough part was making sure that you got the mop handle back before your mother noticed it was gone.
    There is a company in Charlestown, MA. and I think the web site is http://www.halfball.com but the prices are ridiculously high. That is how I found this site hoping that someone still produce the pimple ball are a decent price. If I find it, I'll buy some and bring my kids down to South Boston where I grew up to show them how the game it played.

  68. The pimple ball brings back memories. I was hoping if anyone remembers making a skate board, you would make it with old skates, a wooden carton,usually a soda carton, and put soda caps on it. My question is what did we call it? Was it a skateto and if yes, did I spell it correct.


  69. For kicks I took a picture of a pimple ball and put it on some items eg mousepad, magnet, etc. I did it more for a kick to bring back great memories.
    You can go to


    I collect things of my youth that brings back great memories. Like skate key, drive-in speakers, old siren for your bike you would pull a chain and it would rub on tire and sound just like the police siren, toy soldiers,view master etc. I will soon post them also. Those were the days my friend I thought …

  70. Found a pimple ball from 70s in good condition in grandmoms basement. Brought me back to games like wire ball, CHINK, and ASS ball. Wonder what cash value is? I know the memories are priceless.

  71. The Pimple Ball was the best ball ever invented…I grew up on the Kensington Streets of Philly and we had games like boxball, stickball, and after the pimples rubbed off on the balls we'd cut them in half and play halfies against the factory buildings that were 10-12 stories high. It was great hitting the halfies on the roof for a Automatic Grand Slam!!! Those were the days my friends…too bad our kids now are so roped into video games…now not living in the City doesn't help as the kids these days are inept to just go outside and play. We need to bring back the oldskool games to these kids like Boxball, Stickball, bottlecaps, Double-Dutch, Hopscotch…these kids need to be outside playing more!!! What I would do to be a kid again these days!!! BRING BACK THE PIMPLE BALL PLEASE!!!!

  72. Urban legend says that pimple balls were provern toxic and that is why they were taken off of the market. is there any truth to this??

  73. There is a submit link on the main page so you can submit games and stories that you remember from growing up in South Philly. Feel free to go ahead and submit some stuff!!

  74. "Those were the days my friend"

    I would love to find some pimple balls and show my grandkids what fun it could be to play outside and forget the Playstation etc. I grew up in South Philly and we played from dawn until we heard the, "Get in this house its bath time" Some games we played not listed on Streetplay, Buck Buck, Underhand Halfball, Babies in the Air, Deadbox, Ons Foot off the Ice Box, Cops and Robbers, Black Wolf, Pitching pennied, Building Scooters from Wooden Milk Crates and ols shoe skates with bottle tops as decorations, Melting wax into bottle tops for using in dead box, Two man Stickball using the wall and a painted Strike Zone. Playing under the fire plug.

    I could go on and on, we spent many hot humid summer days playing and the time just flew by.

    Al "Chickenman" Cialella

  75. yeah we played halfies in philly too. I actually showed my son how to play it in Allentown and we used tennis balls cut in half. They worked fine. I saw the pimple balls for sale for around $6 each. WTF? I'd pay a buck and no more.

  76. At first I said no on the blue pimple ball. Then as I got thinking I may recall seeing them once in a while. Thought they were a little thicker too. Of course I could be confusing with the blue Mylec street hockey ball you used when it was nasty cold.

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