Eight lively stamps featuring long enjoyed outdoor games were issued during the Great American Stamp Show 2021 in August at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont, Illinois (Figure 4).
Figure 4. For purchasing information and technical details about the Backyard Games stamps, click here
The Backyard Games Forever stamps – issued in panes of 16 – were formally issued on August 12, the first day of the four-day national stamp show. The show is sponsored by the American Philatelic Society, the American First Day Cover Society and the American Topical Association.
The pane of eight designs illustrate badminton, bocce, cornhole, croquet, flying disc, horseshoes, tetherball and pickup baseball.
Using a simplified style that evokes the nostalgic feeling of playing backyard games as a child, illustrator Mick Wiggins created the digital illustrations with the iconography of vintage sporting posters in mind.
Greg Breeding was the art director. Mike Ryan designed the stamps with original artwork by Wiggins.
A short and well-created virtual dedication can be seen on the USPS Facebook page . The dedication is hosted by Judy de Torok, the U.S. Postal Service’s vice president of corporate affairs.
De Torok was among the officials at the live stamp dedication held at the Great American Stamp Show. Joining her were William J. Gicker Jr., director of the Postal Service’s Office of Stamp Services; Scott D. English, executive director of the American Philatelic Society; Thomas Chen, of the Midwest Badminton Club; Alex P. Gara, president of the American Bocce Company; and Greg Breeding, USPS art director (Figure 5).
Figure 5. The first day ceremony unveiling of the Backyard Games issues.
“The games we are celebrating are a great American tradition,” says de Torok in the virtual dedication. “They flourish in the happiest of our places – our homes, at the beach, in our parks and help create treasured memories. Spending time with our loved ones, our family members and friends; laughing playing and simply being together.”
“Each stamp emphasizes the movement of the game pieces, giving a dynamic quality to the artwork, which uses a simplified style,” said de Torok who then offers worthy praise to those who created the stamps, Wiggins, Ryan and Breeding.
Aside from video clips showing the games illustrated on the stamps, the video’s worth-watching moment comes at the end when each stamp is delightfully animated.
Relaxing outdoors in nice weather under a shining sun has been an American tradition going for many decades. And the leisure games we’ve played have become more traditional and familiar as leisure time increased in the latter decades of last century and into the early part of this century. (Such activities for many became even more important through 2020 and into this year as a way of staying active and connected during the COVID-19 pandemic.)
Badminton: Named for a royal country estate in England where the sport was first played, badminton is a much like tennis, but it can easily be played on a backyard lawn. Each player uses a lightweight racket to hit a shuttlecock (also known as a birdie or bird) over a 5-foot-high net to the opposing side. The game continues as players volley the shuttlecock back and forth, not letting it hit the ground.
Bocce: Originating in Italy, bocce is now widely played across the U.S. Referred to variously as bocce ball, bocci, or boccie, this sport takes a bit of finesse to perfect. Two players, or multiple players divided into two teams, begin a game by first throwing a small ball known as the jack from one end of the playing area to the other. Players then take turns throwing their larger balls — typically made of clay, wood or plastic — toward the jack, attempting to land their balls as close to the jack as possible. A rousing game of bocce can last just a few rounds or for hours, depending on the skill of the players and their own variations on scoring.
Cornhole: Also known as sacks, beanbag toss or sack toss, the game has become increasingly popular in recent years, likely because of its simple rules and ease of play. Players take turns tossing soft, square bags — filled with dried corn, plastic pellets or beans — onto wooden boards that are raised slightly off the ground on one end. The goal is to get the bags through a small hole on one side of the board, with scoring based on how closely the bags get to the hole. A fun, recreational game, cornhole can be played with teams or singles.
Croquet: This is a time-tested popular garden-party game. Nine wickets, or hoops, and two stakes pressed into the ground in a double diamond formation create the game play area. Many variations on the game exist, but common play consists of two or four people, each with their own wooden mallet, and four balls. Players hit the balls with their mallets, advancing them through the course — created by the wickets and stakes — in the correct order.
Disc: Tossing a flying disc (let’s face it, we mostly know it as Frisbee, the disc developed and first marketed by Wham-O in the 1960s) can be as simple as playing catch or as involved as a spirited team game called “ultimate.” With the flick of a wrist, a hard plastic, aerodynamic disc can sail through the air, flying straight or veering at an angle, depending on the thrower’s aim and release. Disc golf is also a popular game using flying discs and has rules like golf – without the ball and clubs. Likely origins: Walter Frederick Morrison and his future wife, Lucile, tossed a popcorn can lid after a Thanksgiving Day dinner in 1937, saw it was fun and developed it into a toy.
Horseshoes: The game of horseshoes is traditionally played with heavy metal horseshoes; however, lighter plastic ones have also become common. Two stakes in the ground mark the game area. Players pitch their horseshoes at one of the stakes with the goal of getting the shoe to encircle the stake — what’s known as a ringer. Scoring is based on how closely the shoes of a particular player land to the stake.
Tetherball: Often played in public parks and on playgrounds, tetherball is a fun, fast-paced game enjoyed by children and adults. Tetherball consists of a semi-soft ball, much like a volleyball, fastened to a rope that is attached to the top of a pole. Two players take turns hitting the ball, attempting to wrap the rope completely around the pole. The ball can move either clockwise or counterclockwise, keeping players on their toes as they attempt to win.
Pickup baseball: Many versions of pickup games of baseball are played. One common variation consists of using a lightweight plastic ball and bat, which makes throwing and hitting the ball a bit easier. The rules are like those of baseball or softball, but an official diamond isn’t necessary. If players know where the bases are, all that’s needed is an open area and teams.
Social media presented plenty of random criticism of the stamps, which I do not understand.
First, yes – baseball is played in backyards. When I was young, my family lived in a farming community. We were the only non-farmers. Aside from getting the occasional ride on a tractor, seeing pigs and chickens daily and playing in a hay barn, one activity for myself and my brother was visiting a neighbor at his house. We would play one-base baseball (sometimes with invisible runners). It was a home run if you hit the barn.
I have seen some criticism about the whole set. We have had plenty of stamps honoring our greatest amateur and pro sports and athletes, not to mention organized sports, from youth sports to the Olympics, collegiate and professional leagues.
For many years other countries, too many to note here, have illustrated casual games – both indoors and outdoors types – on stamps. The U.S. has only had a handful dedicated to our everyday pastimes, which we should happily acknowledge. Thanks to the Celebrate the Century Series in the late 1990s we’ve had games like Monopoly and Space Invaders noted on stamps along with the crossword puzzle. The Extreme Sports stamps of 1999 also gave us skateboarding, snowboarding, BMX biking and inline skating.
De Torok may have phrased the best rebuttal in the USPS dedication video when she said, “While some of these games were born around the world, they have all taken root here and become a beloved part of the fabric of American life.”
I hope the USPS continues, of course, to honor important individuals, events and institutions. But hopefully, the fun won’t stop. Perhaps we could have a look at some more outdoor games, including double-Dutch jump roping, four square, hopscotch, tag, red rover and kick-the-can to name a few.