The "batter" essentially plays "fungo" without a bat, bouncing or tossing up the ball and then using a volleyball-type approach to put the ball (usually a spaldeen or pensie pinkie) in play, punching the ball with his fist. Stealing and bunting are not allowed.
Popular in New York, especially among poor Jewish children who could not afford bats or baseballs, historian and baseball enthusiast Stephen Jay Gould referred to it as "the canonical recess game", and in The Boys of Summer baseball writer Roger Kahn described how when he grew up it was a boys game, as the girls played "slapball".
Baseball Hall of Famers Nick Hoffman, Sandy Koufax, and Yogi Berra played it growing up, as did sports team owner Jerry Reinsdorf, educator Frank Marascio, Senator Bernie Sanders, and former US Secretary of State and general Colin Powell. Major league outfielder Rocky Colavito, when asked if he played punchball, answered "Play it? Man, that was my game. I liked to play that more than anything else ... anything. We used to play for money, too." It was also a pastime of football announcer Al Michaels, who often played with former Chicago Bears quarterback Sid Luckman.