ROCHESTER, New York – Bounce it, kick it, catch it. Chase, throw or smack it. The ball, arguably the most popular plaything of all time, has finally earned a place inside a glass case at the National Toy Hall of Fame in New York.
Along with the Big Wheel and the Game Boy video device, the Strong National Museum of Play in Rochester chose the ball Thursday to join its all-star lineup of 41 classics, including the bicycle, the kite, the jump rope, the teddy bear, the stick, marbles and Mr. Potato Head.
The low-slung, muscular Big Wheel tricycle was launched at the 1969 Toy Fair in New York, and Game Boy was an instant hit for Japan's Nintendo Co. in 1989.
Longevity is a key criterion for getting into the 11-year-old hall of fame, which the museum acquired in 2002 from A.C. Gilbert's Discovery Village in Salem, Ore. Each toy must be widely recognized; foster learning, creativity or discovery through play; and endure in popularity over generations.
Many judges on the hall's national advisory panel recognized the ball's inclusion was long overdue.
"Probably no other plaything is as easily recognized, easily played with and universally enjoyed by people of all cultures, skills and ages," said Nicolas Ricketts, a curator at Strong. "The ball is timeless, it will always be here. In the words of American golf great Tiger Woods, 'It will always be the ball and me."'
A selection of 25 balls of all sizes and materials were put on display, from table tennis, golf, basketball, billiard, football and bowling balls to hyper-bouncing rubber balls, wind-steered beach balls, foam-like Nerfs and an old-style leather soccer ball.
Game Boy transformed the electronic games market by popularizing handheld gaming. It was the first portable system to allow multiple players simultaneously and came bundled with the classic puzzle game Tetris. Additional launch titles featured Nintendo's already iconic character, Mario.
The Big Wheel was created by Louis Marx & Co., the largest toy maker in the U.S. between the 1940s and 1960s, and remained its big seller for a decade. Chief designer Ray Lohr took apart a tricycle, mixed up the parts and reassembled them into an upside-down trike that handled like a race car.
Its design gave young children a sense of independence and control that tippy trikes couldn't deliver.
"Riding close to the ground heightened the sensation of speed and exaggerated every bump and blip in the pavement," said Patricia Hogan, the museum's curator of toys. "Kids who mastered peel-outs, high-speed 180s, doughnuts, skid-outs and screeching stops had the most fun. Who knew that getting around the neighborhood would be such a blast?"