The transparent glass wall that divides the lobby of my gym from the workout areas is used as an announcement board. Information about upcoming special events is handwritten directly on the glass with erasable markers. I usually ignore the messages, but last week one caught my eye. It announced a pickleball tournament for the second week of April.

I have never played pickleball, nor am I interested in learning the game. I think I only noticed the announcement because two weeks ago I’d written a blog about pickles.

Somewhere I’d read that the inventor of pickleball named the game after his dog Pickles. Whatever the derivation, it not a good name: not because the game has no pickles and not because I have anything against naming stuff after pets, but because the name’s already been taken. As a kid, my friends and I played a different game called pickle. I’m sure kids still play it. It is just one of things kids do during baseball season when they can’t round up enough kids for a full game. 

Pickle is when two kids each stand on a base and play catch with each other. A third kid stands between the other two and tries to steal bases back and forth by timing his or her break with the throws of the other two kids. The runner steals as many bases as possible before getting tagged out. When he or she is tagged out, the kid making the tag becomes the next runner. (In professional baseball games, runners sometimes get caught in a rundown. Pickle is making a game of getting caught in a rundown.)

When I was a kid, the alternative to playing pickle when we couldn’t find enough kids for a neighborhood game was to jump on our bikes and ride to Pickle Park. For the eastside of Green Bay, Pickle Park was one of agreed upon places to go if a kid wanted to get in on a pickup game. Pickle Park wasn’t the park’s real name. It was just what the kids called it.* There was a pickle factory just beyond the right field fence, and the place always reeked of dill. Years after my own playing days were over, the city temporarily closed Pickle Park because it was discovered that the soil beneath the ball field was saturated with brine. I hope the problem with briny soil is that it kills the grass, not that breathing the fumes is a health hazard. If the problem is the fumes, then I’ll add baseball at Pickle Park to the list of dangerous things my friends and I unknowingly did as kids (e.g., chasing the mosquito truck on our bikes and playing with mercury). 

* When I was kid, I probably knew the park’s real name, but I’d long forgotten it. For this blog, I googled “Pickle Park Green Bay. ” Pickle Park’s real name is Farlin Park. 

Steven Simpson