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March 9th, 2000

Baby in the Air

A few months back I got an e-mail from an elementary school friend that I hadn’t heard from in years. In the note, he sparked a memory of a game that we used to play called “Baby in the Air.” The basic idea was that one person would have a ball (usually a kickball) and the rest of the players would stand around him in a circle. Each player would have drawn a number beforehand, and as the person in the middle threw the ball high into the air, he’d yell “Baby in the air, number…” Whoever had their number called had to wait for the ball to come down, catch it, and then yell “freeze!” Everyone would then stop in their tracks and the person who caught the ball would be allowed to take 3 big steps in any direction. Then he would try to “peg” somebody else with the ball (lots of kids game require “pegging” someone, it seems). If he hit that person, they would be the next tosser, if not, then he was.

Did this game exist elsewhere with a different name? In any event, I think someone should start a professional “Baby in the Air” league. 🙂 -ram

Posted in Childhood Memories

FROM: Old Fezziwig
DATE: Thursday March 9, 2000 -- 9:43:27AM
Never heard of this game, although it sounds like something I would've liked to play. We only played "Kick The Can" and occasionally "Smear the Queer"
-Old Fezz

FROM: Ryan
DATE: Thursday March 9, 2000 -- 10:16:10AM
It's amazing how nasty the names of these games here... Baby in the Air, Smear the Queer... sheesh.

FROM: Old Fezziwig
DATE: Thursday March 9, 2000 -- 12:16:50AM
"Smear the Queer" would not be very PC now-a-days but back in the 70's (when I was playing this game), I don't think the term 'queer' was as widely thought of as a reference to homosexuals. I could be wrong, but my perception is that queer (at that time) only meant something or someone that was different and not necessarily a gay person. As a 7 or 8 year old, that was the rationale. Maybe it''s the changing times or the fact that I'm 28 now, but the word queer in our society immediately means homosexual. In conclusion, don't play "Smear the Queer" anymore.

For those of you wondering how "Smear the Queer" was played: it's basically a bunch of kids who run around and try to tackle each other. One person (the 'Queer') has the ball (usually a Nerf football in my 'hood) and runs like hell to escape the others. If one of the others caught up to the Queer, they would tackle the Queer as quickly and violently as possible. The Queer would then have to surrender the ball to someone else. It makes no sense whatsoever because there is no winner (unless you can run forever and never get tackled) and what kind of coherent person would WANT to be brutally tackled. But for some reason, we spent countless hours and suffered numerous concussions playing this. I ruined a dozen or so Levi's jeans playing this 'sport'. But in the long run, I think it benefitted me because I can now run a little faster than the average white man - even when I'm not carrying a Nerf football.

And now back to your regularly scheduled show "Baby in the Air..."
-Old Fezz

FROM: Aaron
DATE: Thursday March 9, 2000 -- 12:32:26AM
I remember that by the time I got to my teens, the name had been more or less changed to "Kill the carrier". I wonder what kind of arbitration was involved there? I could imagine some Congressional-type setting with a bunch of pre-teen kids negotiating with some adults.

Kids: Ok, we'll change "queer" to "carrier", as long as we can use "kill" instead of "smear".

Is somehow "killing" the carrier more acceptable than "smearing" him?

I agree with Old Fezz. I don't think I had any idea what the "queer" in "smear the queer" was until I got to Jr. High. Until then, a "queer" was just the person who had the ball, that person could have been named "foo" for all it mattered.

Yeah, and where's the logic in that game? I remember that once someone was tackled there was this moment of hesitation before anyone else picked up the ball, and thereby inviting to have yourself be smeared.

Along with tetherball and four-square, we also used to play a game we called "ghost in the graveyard". It was basically like an inverted hide-n-n-go-seek game. In this game, one person (the "ghost") would hide, while everyone else stood at home base, covered their eyes and counted to 10. Then everyone would try to find the ghost. Once the ghost was found, or came out of his hiding, someone would yell "ghost in the graveyard". Once the signal was given, everyone tried to make it back to homebase. The "ghost" would try to tag as many people as possible before they could return to homebase. The people who got tagged would be the ghost or ghosts for the next round. We didn't play this game at school since our playground didn't have many good hiding spots. It was more of an after-school game.

We even had a special term for the act of showing balls and boldly venturing out to find the ghost, possibly making yourself vulnerable to being tagged in the process. For example, by being the brave soul who would check to see if the ghost is hiding behind a tool shed. We called such a show of bravery "Raiders'ing it" acknowledging the bravery of Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Never played "baby in the air"

FROM: Old Fezziwig
DATE: Thursday March 9, 2000 -- 1:22:17PM
I remember "Ghost in the Graveyard"! Was it just me or when you were the ghost and were hiding, did you have this sudden urge to pee? I don't know what it was but everytime I had to hide for a game like this, my bladder would lose all sense of the urgency of the game and start knocking on the door. I probably should have seen the school nurse about that.....
-Old Fezz

FROM: Ryan
DATE: Thursday March 9, 2000 -- 1:32:54PM
I also remember Ghost in the Graveyard, but I think we had a different name for it... that game was a lot of fun.

FROM: skidz
DATE: Thursday March 9, 2000 -- 1:34:10PM
We played a similar game in elementary school. It was called "free for all." The rules were simple, all of the kids occupied the gym (of course, it was one of those old elementary school "multi-purpose" rooms where the cafeteria tables actually came out of the walls). Anyway, one student was chosen to get the ball and start the game. The goal was to "peg" as many people as possible and be the last surviving player. Once pegged, you were out of the game. The game was really just controlled mayhem, in that once a ball bounced off of a pegged player, there would be a mad rush to get the ball so that the retriever of the ball would be the next thrower. One other interesting rule of the game was that if the target of the ball was to catch the thrown ball, the thrower was out.

Our sixth grade class was NUTS about this game. Our teacher, of course knew this and she used it as the ultimate positive reinforcement. An interesting side note about this game was that the bullies (who were usually bigger and stronger) of our class would use the game as an opportunity to target weaker kids. There was one kid in our class who was always picked on by the bullies. Nick managed to get really good at catching the ball (again, causing the thrower to be eliminated) to the point that most people wouldn't choose to throw at him. I guess it was an early form of geek's revenge.

FROM: nervo
DATE: Thursday March 9, 2000 -- 6:22:20PM
i think that "baby in the air" is just a different version of dodge ball. the basic idea is the same.

FROM: Ryan
DATE: Thursday March 9, 2000 -- 11:56:17PM
Nervo --

Dodgeball is more of a team sport, though, with two sides split on even playing areas. Baby in the Air was one man versus many with no set boundaries. I'd say the only similarity is the goal of "pegging" someone, but as we've seen in the discussion above, most kids games have that goal. :)

FROM: christopher
DATE: Tuesday March 14, 2000 -- 1:49:50AM
I also remember playing smear the queer; however, in my neck of the woods, it was simply named "kill the man with the ball." Not much imagination in that one. And there was always that one ego-maniac who would get control of the ball and declare "Now it's kill the man with big balls." Moron! I'm sure everyone knew at least one clown like that.
All this reminds me of a game called Bloody Murder. I remember playing, but can't recall the details. Can anyone clue me in?

FROM: Ryan
DATE: Tuesday March 14, 2000 -- 9:25:19AM
Chris -- good to see you here! Of course, you were the one that brought Baby in the Air up to me... any particular memories of this game? I'm trying to remember exactly when we played it -- I'm pretty sure it was when I was in about 2nd grade.

Bloody Murder... don't remember that game...

FROM: franko
DATE: Tuesday March 14, 2000 -- 6:05:41PM
Cool, let me get in on this.

Sure, we used to play "Smear the Queer" all the time and it was the best way to get cauliflowered ears in the world. I remember getting into a lot of trouble in PE of my elementary school when I shouted that we should play "Smear the Queer" with the PE teacher being the queer. Whether his reaction was due to homophobia or the old-school interpretation of the term, I got an ass-whuppin' at home for it.

I'm very glad to hear someone bring up "Bloody Murder", I had always been under the impression that it was invented on my block (all kids probably think that about all the games they play). This was my favorite game when I was little. The rules: this is a variation of tag where a growing number of people become "it" as they are tagged a la "Sharks and Minnows" in the pool. And it's gotta be dark outside. So it starts with one person who's it and hides somewhere in a yard. Everyone else chants some witch-like verses, starting with "1 o'clock, 2 o'clock..." and ending with "star-light, star-bright, I hope to see no ghosts tonight", or something to that effect. So then at the end of the incantation everyone attempts to make a complete circuit around the house without getting tagged. The person who's "it" scares the living crap out of people by jumping out of their hiding place while everyone else screams "bloody murder!" Everyone tagged in the last go-round is "it" for the rest of the game, until everyone had been tagged. Last person caught is the new "it" person in the next game. It was awesome when you were the last person and you had the whole neighborhood lying in wait for you. Inevitably two people would run pell-mell into each other when it got pitch black, and that generally ended the game.

On a more sobering note, I do remember the worst case of an evil kid's game name which I'm not proud to have propagated when I was little. The term "n****r knock" was used for when someone knocked on a door or rang a doorbell then ran away before the door was opened by the people living in the house. Real cool. I have no idea why it was called that, I didn't really know why it was a bad thing to call it that, until my mom heard me say it and she explained why it was a terrible thing to say (and then whupped my ass).
I learned it from a couple of rednecks-in-training across the street - go figure.

FROM: christopher
DATE: Wednesday March 15, 2000 -- 12:49:34AM
Ryan---My memories of that game are hazy. I do remember playing it in your driveway. I think there was always a debate whether to pick new numbers every toss or keep the same ones. And each time you got pegged you got a letter. Once you spelled out "baby" you were the loser and had to go through the paddywack machine. It was really scary---something like crawling through everyone's legs while they whacked your ass. I think our parents should have worried more than they did.
On another note, I remember the knocking game fondly, but it was more P.C.'ly named Ding-Dong-Ditch. There was one spikey-haired Buffalo Run resident in particular who was regularly a victim of our antics. Do you know who I mean?

FROM: Ryan
DATE: Wednesday March 15, 2000 -- 9:24:35AM
Frank -- Bloody Murder sounds similar to the aforementioned Ghosts in the Graveyard. As far as the "Knock" game -- wow... I never knew it was called that. I guess as kids its innocent enough since most kids don't know how offensive that word is...

Chris -- The Paddywack Machine! There's a part I forgot about the game.

And, yes, of course I know which Spiky Haired Buffalo Run resident you're talking about. :) Actually, John R. and I were just talking about him the other day.

FROM: franko
DATE: Wednesday March 15, 2000 -- 10:43:56AM
Ryan: In college, we got introduced to the "doorknob" game from some wrestlers from NJ. Is this indigenous to the NJ area?

FROM: Ryan
DATE: Wednesday March 15, 2000 -- 10:50:50AM
Frank -- the "doorknob" game? Not sure I'm familiar with this one...

FROM: franko
DATE: Thursday March 16, 2000 -- 9:15:09AM
Ryan and I were talking yesterday and it turns out we played a game very similar to "Baby in the Air" called "SPUD". Admittedly, "SPUD" is a lamer name. The basic concept was the same, except you took 4 steps, and spelled out "S-P-U-D" while taking the steps. I seem to recall that we might have been allowed an extra step for ". [period]". So can I get a "what-what" from all the players who know this game as SPUD!

FROM: Old Fezziwig
DATE: Thursday March 16, 2000 -- 9:56:37AM
Yep, SPUD sounds more familiar to me. Of course, it would start off the way franko described, but then some wise-guy would always change the rules unannounced and SPUD quickly turned into Smeer the Queer again. It was tough growin' up on the 'East Side'.
-Old Fezz

FROM: Ryan
DATE: Tuesday April 11, 2000 -- 3:14:33PM
Look what I found!

DATE: Saturday January 1, 2005 -- 2:14:20 pm

FROM: Joseph
DATE: Friday April 15, 2005 -- 2:47:37 pm
I don't think the kids in my neighborhood were very inventive; we just played street football all the time.

When we got aggressive, we'd just plain fistfight or play chicken with our bikes. Basically, you'd play junkyard derby with your bikes (the ol' twenty inch banana bike). The derby usually ended when a kid got a rim so bent he couldn't ride his bike anymore. We'd usually spend the next week bending rims back and repairing bikes together. Needless to say, we grew up handy with the wrenches.

Most of us garbage-picked our bikes and parts anyway, so it wasn't like we were spoiled kids ruining our new bikes. The last thing you'd ever want to do in my neighborhood is show up on a shiny brand new bike, anyway. You'd just be asking to get thrown off of it and called a sissy.

FROM: Marcus Mackey
DATE: Monday May 16, 2005 -- 9:16:54 pm
A few of the games sound familiar. Ding-Dong-Ditch was of course something that most of us played at one time or another, much to the chagrin of neighbors far and wide. Smear the queer was also very popular. We also played Ghost in the Graveyard and Dodgeball. Those are pretty much traditional games. We also used to play a game during recess in grammar school that was like a cross between Soccer, Rugby, and Football on blacktop. LoL Needless to say... it's amazing none of us got seriously hurt. LoL The field that was once blacktop at Jefferson School where we played this is now a grass soccer field (would've helped). Then again, they also removed the monkey bars too which were located on black top. A definite sign of the times. LoL

I can remember a bunch of us in Berwyn (Paul and I grew up in the same town, different areas) used to play a widespread game of hide and go-seek/tag on 12th Street (Roosevelt Rd.) from around Home Ave. almost all the way to Oak Park Ave. We sometimes would jump from building-top to building-top amongst the two and three-flats (don't recommend LoL) to get away or we'd chase each other around this open atrium apartment complex around Home Ave. and Kenilworth off of 12th. It has a # of staircases to the different floors around the open atrium in the center between the 2 buildings that we'd almost partake in the chasing each other around a table routine to try to get to each other. To be in the kind of shape it took to play this game was pretty amazing (you're talking a ton of different hiding places and about 4-6 blocks of running, quite often constantly)... and I know I couldn't remotely think of doing this today in the shape I'm in. LoL It was a blast though at that time.

FROM: Aanen
DATE: Thursday September 29, 2005 -- 5:41:52 pm
Anyone hear of Buck-Buck? Bill Cosby did a skit about it.

DATE: Sunday November 13, 2005 -- 11:01:43 am

FROM: kegoguinness
DATE: Friday May 12, 2006 -- 1:36:50 pm
Doorknob! What a great little thing. Basically, take a room full of guys. Someone farts. He has to yell "safety" after farting. If someone yells "doorknob" before he yells safety, the farter must run and touch a doorknob to be safe. In that time period, he is a target to be hit/tackled, etc, until such time as he touches a doorknob. Extremely juvenile, thus I like it. This is a really old thread, but what the hell. It's a good topic.

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