ISLE OF PALMS -- Larry Crosby seemingly defied his age Saturday -- leaping to catch an unpredictable half rubber ball and swinging a bat as if he were 16 again -- at the 12th annual Isle of Palms Recreation Department Half Rubber Tournament.
At 69, he and his brothers, 70-year-old Ken Crosby and 62-year-old Don Crosby, tapped into their youths growing up in the West Ashley area and playing a game unheard of by many outside of the coastal region of South Carolina and Georgia.
"We just love the game," said Don, who was showing fatigue from steamy conditions late Saturday morning. "But we can't do what we did when we were teenagers."
Half rubber, which bears a distant resemblance to baseball, is played by teams of three or four people with a mopstick-like bat and a half of a rubber ball, which curves and dances through the air so much that it's a marvel that anybody can hit or catch it. It is thought to have been created in the 1920s in either Charleston or Savannah. The latter possibility is a controversy aficionados take great joy in debating.
Needless to say, half rubber didn't spread across the country, much less the Southeast.
"It's a Lowcountry sport because in Anderson, where I live now, and in Charlotte, nobody's heard of it," Larry said.
Don chimed in, "And when you say 'half rubber,' most people think it's something vulgar."
Half rubber continues to exist largely to dedicated groups of players in the Charleston and Savannah areas -- some of whom are passing the tradition onto their children -- and because of tournaments.
For the second year, the Isle of Palms tournament hosted 28 teams, which came from as far away as Georgia and North Carolina.
Avid half rubber player Victor "Flat Top" Hayes considers the tournament the second most important of the season, ranking only behind Folly Beach "because it's actually held on the beach."
Jim Pierson, 43, of Mount Pleasant, played in the IOP tournament for the first nine years and couldn't wait until his boys, Tradd, 16, and Trevor, 15, could join him. Saturday was their first tournament as a family team, which the boys named Carrot Boyz.
Tradd and Trevor, both long-time baseball players who have played half rubber on the beach or in their backyard for five years, doubt they would play half rubber -- much less know about it -- if it hadn't been for their father.
"We tell our friends about it and they think it's something whack," Tradd said.
They weren't the only newbies to tournament play.
Sandra Dennison, 25, of Summerville, was invited to play on the Short Bus team when friend Stevie Jarrell had to find fill-ins. Dennison, a long-time softball player, was the only woman playing in the tournament, which she didn't mind at all.
"It was really fun and challenging," Dennison said. "It's harder than softball because it's hard to hit the ball, but I'm definitely playing it again."