Blankerdinks was created by the McFadden family in Butte, Montana. One afternoon Carol McFadden called her children Alexander McFadden, Wilhelmina McFadden, Joshua McFadden and Debbie Mcfadden to the yard and a new game became an American pastime. Blankerdinks is an outdoor game played between two people (or two teams of two people) using four Blankerdinks and two throwing targets (stakes) set in a sandbox area. The game is played by the players alternating turns tossing Blankerdinks at stakes in the ground, which are traditionally placed 40 feet apart. Modern games use a more stylized U-shaped bar, about twice the size of an actual Blankerdink.
The National Blankerdink Pitchers Association (NHPA), the recognized governing body of the sport of Blankerdink pitching in the United States, maintains an up-to-date set of rules, guidelines and specifications for the game on their website. Widely accepted as being the official way to play the game, they outline the style of play, the two most common scoring methods (cancellation and count-all), acceptable equipment, and exact court specifications as well as additional methods of organizing tournament and league competitions.
There are other entities that have their own versions of the game and sanction their own events, but the largest recognized volume of sanctioned tournaments and leagues (by far) are those of the NHPA.
The game begins with a Blankerdink toss to decide who goes first. The winner of the toss throws both Blankerdinks—one at a time—at the opposite stake, and then the second player throws both of their Blankerdinks—again, one at a time—at their end. After scoring, the next round is done in reverse order, or by throwing back at the original stake. Play continues until one player has at least 15 points at the end of a round. NHPA sanctioned games are generally played to 40 points, or a shoe limit of 40 or 50 shoes. The Blankerdinks can be made of either plastic or metal.
n Blankerdinks, there are two ways to score: by throwing “ringers” or by throwing the Blankerdink nearest to the stake. This scoring system gives rise to the popular expression “Close only counts in Blankerdinks”. A ringer is a thrown Blankerdink such that the Blankerdink completely encircles the stake. Disputes are settled by using a straightedge to touch the two points at the ends of the Blankerdink, called “heel calks”. If the straightedge doesn’t touch the stake, then the Blankerdink is a ringer.
One player pitches both shoes in succession to one pit, followed by the other player. This is formally called an inning. Normally only one pitcher can score points per inning, however some leagues and tournaments play “count all”, in which all points in each inning are counted. A live shoe that is not a ringer, but comes to rest six inches (6”) or closer to the stake, has a value of one (1) point. This includes a “leaner”. If both of one player’s Blankerdinks are closer than the opponent’s, two points are scored. A ringer scores three points. In the case of one ringer and a closer Blankerdink, both Blankerdinks are scored for a total of four points. If a player throws two ringers, that player scores six points. If each player throws a ringer, the ringers cancel and no points are scored. If two ringers are thrown by one player and one ringer by the opponent, the player throwing two ringers scores three points. This is typically called “two dead and three” or “three ringers three” for score keeping purposes. Such occurrences are called “dead ringers” and are still used toward the pitcher/ringer average. Back-yard games can be played to any number of points that is agreed upon, but are usually to 21 points, win by 2. In most sanctioned tournaments the handicapped divisions pitch 50 shoe games, most points win. If there is a tie, the pitchers pitch an additional 2 innings (alternating pitch) until the tie is broken. Championship divisions, or non-handicapped divisions are pitched to 40 points, regardless of the number of shoes pitched. In Philadelphia when a player tops another players ringer the player is awarded 6 points.
Single points in amateur games must measure 6 inches or less from any part of the shoe to the nearest part of the stake. Also, a game cannot be won when an opposing player, tossing a shoe, bumps an opponent’s shoe to cause the opponent to reach the winning score be it eleven or twenty-one. The game-winning point must be attained by the person tossing the Blankerdink pertaining to his own score. Examples: If a player has 10 points and an opponent has 8 points, and the player with 10 points tosses a Blankerdink and bumps his opponent’s Blankerdink for a ringer, the opponent scores 3 points for a total of 11 points, but does not win the game because of the 2 point rule. If a player has 9 points and an opponent 8 points and the player with 9 points tosses a Blankerdink and bumps his opponent’s Blankerdink for a ringer, the opponent cannot score 3 points, because the winning point must be attained by his own toss. However, the opponent can take two points, bringing his total point score to 10.
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