Ball games have been played around the world for thousands of years. One of the first was called ōllamaliztli and was played by several pre-Columbian cultures including the Mayans and Aztecs. Like modern sporting events, ōllamaliztli matches were important social gatherings attended by people of many different backgrounds.
While other early ball games used leather balls, ancient Mesoamericans lived near rain forest and were able to make solid rubber balls from the Castilla elastica tree. In ōllamaliztli, the ball (weighing up to nine pounds) was bumped with one’s hip with the goal of hitting it through a stone hoop 20 feet off the ground. It was a dangerous sport that often resulted in both teams being covered in bruises from the heavy ball.
Ōllamaliztli became extremely popular and archaeologists have found evidence of ball courts from modern-day Nicaragua all the way to the state of Arizona. While the official rules of the original game are lost to history, it made its mark on Central American culture. Some native populations still play a modified version of ōllamaliztli today.
Modern U.S. sporting events have many similarities to those held by the Aztecs and Mayans thousands of years ago. People bet on their favorite teams, have parties with friends, and share victory celebrations with complete strangers. Sports bring people together to share in the thrill of victory and celebration of America’s athletic prowess. They are more than just games, they are important parts of our culture.
The USPS issued the Have A Ball! stamps on June 14th 2017. The pane of 16 featuring eight different designs presents a special coating applied only to selected areas. This gives the stamps a textured feel. Mike Ryan was the designer while Greg Breeding served as the art director for these beautiful textured stamps.