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From the Griddle's Helsinki bureau
2007-03-19 02:00
by Bob Timmermann

In honor of the recent elections in Finland (you mean you weren't paying attention?), I thought it would be fun to take a look at pesäpallo, the Finnish version of baseball. Finns now call it pesis, which I prefer since I don't have to figure out how to type anymore diacritical marks.

The game is played with 12 to a side, although only 9 players are out in the field at any one time. The offense has three DHs available, called jokers in the game. The jokers aren't fixed in the batting order and the manager can use them at his discretion. The rules are relatively complex, although I think they're easier to understand than cricket. The pitcher stands near the batter and tosses the ball in the air and the batter tries to hit it as far as he can. The defense can catch it on the fly for an out or try to throw him out at first. However, the batter doesn't have to run the first two times he hits the ball.

The really weird thing is that the bases aren't in a nice square like baseball, but in a zigzag of sorts. It's usually 20 meters from home to first. Then 32 meters from first to second. Then 36 meters from second to third. And finally 38 meters from third to home. All runners are retired on force plays, sort of.

When I was on vacation with my dad in 1994 we were in Helsinki on a Sunday afternoon. There is pretty much nothing to do in Helsinki on a Sunday afternoon. We had already taken a bus tour of the city. We had walked around. We had been travelling through Europe for two weeks. So we turned on the TV and they were showing highlights of pesis for about an hour.

We came to the same conclusion. We had no idea what the hell these people were doing.

I think it can best be summed up this way:

Pesis on suosituimpia koulupelejä

Kun pelit saadaan käyntiin, liikuntatunnit sujuvat kuin siivillä. Kuitenkin palloon osuminen, heittäminen ja kiinniottaminen räpylällä ovat suorituksia, joiden harjaannuttaminen vaatii paljon harjoitusta. Näiltä sivuilta on tarkoitus löytyä työvälineitä pesistuntien kehittämiseen.

Koulupeleissä voi tehdä sääntösovelluksia, ja niitä kannattaakin tehdä ryhmän osaamisen mukaan. Koulupesissäännöissä on tärkeää edesauttaa sitä, että jokainen saa pelata.

That's from here.

Finnish would be a lot easier to understand if it didn't have 15 different noun cases.

Thanks to joejoejoe for the suggestion.

2007-03-18 22:36:28
1.   joejoejoe
I wonder if pesapallo would be a good fit for kids with limited playing fields. It seems like the fundamental skills would have great transfer. You can play pesapallo on a space the size of a soccer field or football field and I think there is some version of indoor pesapallo but my Google Finnish skills aren't finding much on that front.

Here's another link with a very good history of pesapallo including the rules of the game.


2007-03-19 08:49:36
2.   Another Tom
Very interesting. Maybe that's why John Michaelson is the only MLB player born in Finland. Of course Sweden (4) and Norway (3) dominate Finland (1) and Denmark (1).

When I lived in Sweden I became interested in Bandy which is basically a combination of soccer and hockey. It's hockey-like but with 11 players and only the goalie can use hands and arms. There are almost no stoppages in play and the ref uses colored cards to indicate fouls. They certainly play some funky sports up there.

2007-03-19 09:33:14
3.   Jon Weisman
I have pictures at home from the sports museum in Helsinki of a pesapallo exhibit. I could try to scan them in tonight.
2007-03-19 09:56:17
4.   Bob Timmermann
Let's have a show of hands of readers who have been to Finland!
2007-03-19 10:17:55
5.   Another Tom
2007-03-19 10:24:52
6.   Ken Arneson
I've been there.

Sweden has their own version of baseball called brännboll. I played it in PE when I went to school there. The weirdest things about it are (a) you toss the ball to yourself, and (b) there's no rule against having more than one person on a base.

I thought it was incredibly lame. I couldn't get over the sight of having ten people on first base.

2007-03-19 10:38:33
7.   Jon Weisman
I spent July 4, 1998 in Stockholm. There was a U.S. celebration there in some public square, and there was even a batting cage, presented by the Swedish national baseball club or some such.

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