By Chris Marchewka
South Carolinians enjoys a rich history of firsts. First shot of the Civil War, first golf club, first commercial tea farm, first public library; but the crowning jewel among these firsts must certainly be the creation of Half-Rubber, the story of which surrounds the late Mr. E Wayne Goss Jr., known to most as Bubba Goss.
Bubba and his brother Mickey grew up in Downtown Charleston on Alberta Street in the 1940s, where baseball equipment was too expensive and even stick-ball got pricey with balls lost over fences and down sewers. The quick fix: cut the balls in half, doubling the number of balls. With old shovel handles for bats and no bases (because it’s just far too hot in the summer to run), Half-Rubber was born. It wasn’t until the 1950s, when Bubba moved to Isle of Palms where his grandfather owned Hudson’s Pavilion, that the game began to spread.
“It just took off from there. He taught all the kids on Isle of Palms and from out of town how to play,” says Bubba’s son, Wayne Goss, who’s documented Half-Rubber’s history. Residents of Isle of Palms will get a chance to enjoy this historic game next month. The 11th Annual IOP Half-Rubber Tournament will take place Saturday, August 22, at the Isle of Palms Recreation Department. Anyone looking to register their team should checkout www.halfrubber.com by August 19. Of course, knowing how to play the game might help. Half-Rubber is simple to learn but full of technique for someone looking for a challenge. Teams usually consist of three or four players; one team bats while another fields for three innings. The field is marked only by two lines, a “single” and “homerun”. The pitcher pitches the half-rubber (usually sidearm) to the catcher while the opposing team’s batter tries to hit it. If the catcher can successfully catch the ball three times while the batter misses, then an out is made. If a hit is made it and touches the ground before the fielding team can catch it then its single or homerun, depending on how far it traveled.
A poor catcher can absolutely ruin a team. If a batter keeps missing but the catcher can’t catch the ball then a strike is not made and the game could take all day. Bubba Goss was undoubtedly the best catcher of his time; his talent and passion for the game helped it grow from just a backyard pastime to the quintessentially southern sport that it is.