Written and contributed
Preface: Following the nostalgic stories “Awesome Playground Equipment found in Ipoh ACS 1953, Anyone for Konkey and The Game of Marbles as Played in Ipoh and Surrounds c1950s” which appeared in IpohWorld, this article, “Bat and Ball games Menglembu style”, is the 4th in the series in regard to the games played around Ipoh and Surrounds.
In 1950s, Menglembu was blessed with 2 large patches of green within the town centre. Patch A (see picture) was a green park with swings bounded by the old railway road (now Jalan Lee Ming Hin), the back end of the terrace houses in Main Road (now Jalan Lahat), the mysterious house & hidden temple, the Lee Wan Sang house, the toddy shop & public toilet. Patch A has a softer and moist surface. Patch B (see picture) was a vacant lot bounded by the old bicycle repair shop, No 61 Main Road, the mysterious house with a long brick wall, previously a soya sauce manufacturing place, and the Main Road. A satellite map of these two patches are shown above. Parch B is a grassed area with harder and drier surface. Bat ball games can be played on the two green patches but Patch A was more suitable for soccer games. Today, Parch B no longer exists and is occupied a row of terrace houses.
In all the bat and ball games described here, the bat is made from rubber wood and used tennis ball is used.
The first bat ball game, called BG1, was an adaption of the American baseball game. The players were divided into two teams of nearly equal capabilities and even distribution of age in the teams. Normally, a minimum of 4 players were required. On the field, 4 bricks were placed on the ground forming the corners of a diamond shape. The home brick (see illustration above) and brick No 2 faced each other whilst brick 1 and brick 3 facing each other. The toss of a coin was used to choose the batting and bowling sides. Once chosen, the batsman stayed behind the home brick, the bowler behind the brick No 2 and his team mates (fielders) were scattered all over the field behind the bricks No 1, 2 and 3..
The direction of the run for the batsman is counter-clockwise, starting with the brick No 1, Brick No 2 and Brick No 3 and finally the home brick. The game began when the batting team sent out the first batsman and the bowler team sent out its bowler. The bowler is usually the strongest of their players and sometimes they did switch bowlers during the game. The batting team took turns to become batsman and they position themselves just in front of the home brick.
The bowler faced the batsman. He “chucked” the ball in a similar fashion as the baseball bowler would but never a gentlemanly fashion as the cricket player. The aim of the batsman was to hit the bowler’s body (if it did, the bowler is out) or the home brick, and the batsman job was to defend his body and home brick with a bat fashioned generally from a piece of rubber tree fire wood, shaped like a cricket bat but flat. A baseball bat was never used. The batsman could also “whack” the ball in the air. If the ball was caught in the air, the batsman was called out.
The batsman hits the ball and he dropped his bat on the ground. As the ball was up in the air, the batsman would attempt to circle as many bricks as possible (making sure he was on the left side of every brick). Meanwhile, the fielders was attempting to retrieve the ball as fast as possible and return it to the bowler who would attempt to use the ball to hit the body of the batsman. Alternatively, the bowler can hit any brick whilst the batsman is running. If successful, the batsman is out. Otherwise, depending on the risk of being hit by the returning ball, the batsman had a choice of stopping at a brick and putting his foot on it. Whilst his foot is on the brick, he could not be called out even if the ball hit him. There was no referee in these games and at times, controversial decisions taken can cause the game to be abandoned. When a batsman returned behind his home brick, the team score one point. In summary, a batsman could be called out when his ball was caught by a fielder in the air, being hit by a ball whilst running in between bricks or the (another variation), the ball hit the brick before he could reached it with his foot.
When a batsman has to stop to rest his foot on brick 1, 2 or 3, another batsman comes out to bat. As the ball is hit, both of them will try to retain to the home brick. Each batsman returns score a point. Both batsman can be a body target also and if they get hit whist running, they are considered out.
When all the batsman were declared out, the team changes side and the game continues. The team with the highest score was the winner. This was an example of a team effort game played by the children of Menglembu. The game was usually played when the sun is not high in the sky or a cloudy day. The game cost nothing to play.
The second bat and ball game (BG2) is more individualistic and could allow some bullying to take place when confronted with physically strong built bowler. Each player would chose a position in the field by dropping his stone (half-brick size) on the ground and putting one foot on it. A minimum of 5 players were required for a good game and sometimes more than 10 players participated. One player was chosen to be the bowler and he had no home stone. His job was to take a batsman out and occupy his/her home stone.
In the beginning of the game, the bowler toss the ball high up in the air and any batsman can “whack” the ball away from his home stone, whether the ball was still up in the air or on the ground. The bowler would be looking at the batsman on the field and would attempt to occupy a stone if it was not guarded by the foot of a player. Since each batsman could whack the ball with his rubber wood bat, it was rather dangerous to retrieve the ball with your bare hands. You could get whacked with the bat. It would be better to occupy the “whackers” stone rather than to challenge his bat with your hands!
One the ball is safely retrieved by the bowler, he could be standing in a position surrounded by batsman. He would then choose the weakest batsman, and chuck the ball at him whilst the chosen batsman would protect his turf by attempting to whack the ball to away from him. The batsman is out when the ball hit his body, or when the ball is caught in the air by the bowler or his home stone was occupied by the bowler. It was quite a frightening experience for a physically small built batsman when facing a physically big bowler. Of course it hurts when the ball hits your body at close range. Hence bullying little ones did took place. But, one can take revenge, by targeting the bully, and in this case, it was a satisfaction that you can still whack the bully even though you could not cause too much pain. The old principle for a fearless victim was this: “if I could not win the fight, the least I could do, was to bleed all over him!”.
In retrospect, this game was quite rough and despite that, girls were also allowed to play. Nevertheless, it was fun!
Written and contributed