Pesäpallo (Or Finnish Minutia)

Keeping with the winter theme and the long stretch between pitches we’ll pull away from the holidays and focus on the wonders that the game brings to those encumbered by the cold or in other cases as we’ll see distance from the origins the baseball we watch here in the US of A.

First let’s take a look at an attempt to transfer the game to a different surface as did a group of folks in Cleveland tried way back in 1920.

Judging by the popularity of that form of the game these days I’ll venture that it didn’t catch on, which in retrospect is too bad, as it probably would have helped heighten the knowledge of global warming.

Moving on let’s take a look at what I find to be a fascinating version of the game of baseball in the Finnish game of Pesäpallo.

Pesäpallo, a literal translation of baseball, combines many traits of baseball and older Finnish ball games. Pesäpallo was introduced to Finland in 1922 by Lauri “Wheatstone” Pihkala (Finland’s Abner Doubleday) after he visited the U.S. in 1907. Some call it the national sport of Finland, it is often found in other countries that have a larger then usual population of Finns.

The game is most popular on the western coast of Finland about 10% of all Finns are active Pesäpallo players. Over 2,600 teams play Finnish National baseball in Finland All school children in Finland learn to play the game as part of school curriculum.

So what are the differences?

Too many for me to list, but let’s start with the basics that are listed on Wikipedia.

The more significant differences to baseball are:

The back line on the fly counts as a foul ball.

A batter’s box is removed and the home plate serves as a pitching plate; there is no catcher. Pitches are thrown straight upwards, and the batter tries to hit the ball when it drops down.

The strike zone is rather different, and walking requires fewer invalid pitches.

Catching a ball in flight is not an out, but forces all runners not on a base to return to home base.

The batter is not required to run after hitting the ball on his first or second strike.

The field is somewhat like the baseball fields we are used to, but then again not at all like the ones we are used to as well.

The pitcher delivers the ball in this manner, with the batter facing him from the other side of the plate, swinging as if he threw the ball up to himself as he hit fungos to the lads in the outfield.

I found a pocket explanation of the game on the web, and it is as follows:

A pesäpallo game is played in two periods of four innings each. The defensive team (team I in the drawing) has nine players on the field. The batting team (team II) – the offensive team – can use its nine players plus two jokers during one half-inning. The batter has three strikes and he tries to hit the ball out of reach of the fielders, within the boundaries. After a good hit he starts running through the bases (1, 2 and 3). If he succeeds in it, his team scores a run. Team I tries to defend by catching the ball and putting the runners out. If the ball gets to the base first, the runner is put out and removed from the field. An inning ends when three players have been put out. A period is won by the team, which scores more runs. If both teams win one period, there will be an extra, decisive period.

So the game has its baseball like tendencies, but it’s also the equivalent of the game of Speedball (One of the greatest games ever played in gym class. It is a combination of basketball soccer and football. You can either score a goal (one point), shoot a basket (two points), get a touchdown(one point), or dropkick the ball (ten pionts). Any time the ball hits the ground the only thing you can do is kick it. You can kick it up for someone to catch. When the ball is in your hands you can only take three steps before you have to get rid of it.)

You know the game, it’s something that isn’t what it appears to be until you change the rules, it’s somewhat reminiscent of “Calvin Ball”

However, the game is bigger then one would think, it has professional leagues, strict rules and an international site that governs the game.
For the really hungry fans of the game this link covers the games international presence.

The Finnish championship series is known as Superpesis. Both men and women compete in their own series.

I imagine somewhere right now a kid in Finland is practicing his Pesäpallo moves in hope of winning the big game and dreaming of playing in the pros

And perhaps playing for the team that sports this logo.

Leave a Reply