The History of Half Rubber

These days, the Italian game of bocce or the Ohioan game of cornhole are more likely to be seen on the beach than one of the most traditional games of the Carolina coast.  That game is half-rubber.  As indigenous to the coast as Gullah, the shag and palmetto bugs, half-rubber has roots (depending on who's telling the history) in Charleston and/or Savannah. In fact, half-rubber players in South Carolina and Georgia almost relish the debate on the game's origin as much as the game itself.

Like bocce, some prefer to play on grass, some on sand and some ... just about anywhere, even empty tennis courts.  And that's not the only variation on the game. Some write about it as half rubber, half-rubber and halfrubber. Regardless, it's a game that will stop those unfamiliar with it in their tracks. That's largely because the half-sphere shape of "the ball" cuts, curves and spins through air in a way that few could imagine even nicking it with a bat, much less with one that looks like a mop handle. Those two pieces of equipment are testament to the humble beginnings — actual rubber balls cut in half and mop handles — of a game that likely started in the streets of Charleston and Savannah before World War I.

Half-rubber, a sport similar to baseball but played without the bases and with only half a ball, is nearly a century old and barely exists beyond the coastal regions of Charleston and Savannah.

Tournaments play another vital role. While participants are enthusiastic boosters of their sport, they also seemed equally fired up for the charities that the tournaments support. In 2007, the inaugural Charleston Nine Memorial Half Rubber Tournament raised money for the families of Sofa Super Store’ fire. Man of the Sand raises money for Camp Good Times, a summer day camp for nearly 100 children with autism. "It's one of our biggest fundraisers," says camp board member Ange O'Neal, adding that last year's tournament raised $8,000.

Like some sports, half-rubber is played on a variety of surfaces: beach sand, grass or hard courts. Some prefer certain surfaces, while others play them all. Regardless, tournaments offer a chance for those who aren't familiar with the game to see its spectacular qualities.