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franklin county times

Stickball is a wonder to watch

By By Marty Stamper / EMG sports assistant
July 11, 2003
For those who have never seen the sport of stickball (or those who have and liked what they saw), you've got just two more days this year to see the event live. That's if your mom lets you stay up past midnight.
One of the few remaining truly amateur sports, stickball is the sport
of the Choctaw Indians.
The crowd at the Wednesday night game between Conehatta and the Warriors easily filled Choctaw Stadium on the Choctaw Central High School campus.
Fans took up much of the space on the track that circles the field as well.
It's a safe bet no football game there this fall will attract as many followers.
For those unfamiliar with stickball, each team must have 30 players to start the game. Teams usually have 10 on offense, 10 on defense, and 10 in the middle. Let a team get a two or three goal lead, however, and its middle men may drop back and join the other 10 on defense.
Each player must have two sticks and the game is played with a ball
slightly larger than a golf ball.
To score, a player must shoot the ball with his sticks and strike a pole
that is 12 feet high and four inches wide. Or he may touch the pole with the ball in the cup of the stick. No score is given if the ball ricochets off
the ground or a referee and then hits the pole.
Scoring is permitted from all four sides around the pole.
The game is divided into four 15 minute quarters. There is a five-minute halftime break and a three-minute rest between the other periods.
Although it's no longer a life or death sport, it's still a rather violent
game. Some of the minor infractions are tackling below the knees, an
early or late tackle, a clothesline hit, throwing a stick, intentionally hitting a player not in possession of the ball (a player fakes like he has the ball at his own risk), body slam, going into a huddle without sticks, and taunting.
Minor infractions cause a player to sit out the remaining time in a period. If the violation occurs with less than three minutes left in a period, he must sit out the next period as well.
In the adult divisions, players must have turned 18 by July 5.
Players participate at their own risk. There are no hopes of a professional contract. This is the pinnacle of the sport.
Players don't expect Nike or adidas to finance them down the road as they don't wear shoes to earn those endorsements. The only equipment used are pants, jersey, and the two sticks. Shoes and pads aren't part of the game.
Barry Jim didn't play in the first stickball game, but the announcer for the games remembers playing when each member of the winning team got a silver dollar for their effort.
their hearts out. They start practicing early in April just for one night's show of their skill in many cases."
The whole World Series is played in nine days. That's basically the stickball season, although some teams get in practice games prior to the World Series.
tournament," Jim said.
The Choctaws are politically correct these days as women now compete and have done so since 1996. Their skills have improved dramatically in the eight years they've competed.
other group of people plays it. It's truly a Choctaw sport.
One of the few changes in recent years has been the use of an orange
colored ball that makes it much easier to follow as passes often cover 80 yards.
A word of warning: the games don't start until 10 p.m., so you'll be after midnight getting home. It will be worth a little loss of sleep.