Pushball: an unusual game in Regent’s Park

Date
26 April 2017 22:00

Our First World War blind veterans played a wide variety of sports and games at our headquarters in Regent’s Park. One of the more unusual they tried was pushball.

Pushball originated in the United States in the late nineteenth century. Its creator, Moses Crane of Massachusetts, watched a lot of American football but felt that he and other spectators often struggled to see the ball. He thought a very much larger ball would increase interest and enjoyment of those watching, and this led to a ball of a size , what the American Sports Publishing Company’s history of pushball described as ‘as large as a small elephant’. Early games were played between two teams on a gridiron field.

Blind veterans playing pushball at Regent's Park in 1916

The first game of pushball in England appears to have been in 1902 at the Crystal Palace, when a team was brought over from the United States. This evidently helped popularise it in this country and further abroad, and there was even a variation of the game played on horseback!

Photos show how our early blind veterans were adventurous in trying a wide range of activities, but unfortunately our version of pushball was not one that proved to be enduring. Our founder Sir Arthur Pearson wrote:

"Pushball, too, was tried, but was not a brilliant success, for as the huge ball was twisted one way or the other, the players got out of touch with it."

Pushball’s general popularity faded too, but it has never disappeared completely and later versions such as bladderball have sometimes proved popular.

Interested to see more? Watch some film footage of our First World War blind veterans playing pushball, which the British Film Institute has made available online at: http://player.bfi.org.uk/film/watch-blinded-soldiers-playing-push-ball-1916/

Blind veterans playing pushball at Regent's Park in 1916