If you have ever been playing a baseball game and had some down time – a rain delay, in between a double header, or just riding the pine – you might have stumbled upon the Name Game. The Name Game requires baseball knowledge and provides hours of fun and frustration. It is easy to learn but virtually impossible to master.
You need at least two people to play. However many people are playing are divided up into teams. Playing in teams of two can be fun bouncing ideas off each other and coming up with names you wouldn’t think of on your own. Teams alternate turns back and forth until one team gets 3 strikes. Then the game is over.
Each turn, a team names a baseball player. The player must have played in the Major Leagues; career minor leaguers do not count and neither do your sandlot buddies. Any player can be used to start the game.
Here comes the important part. After the first name, the next name must be a player whose first name starts with the same letter as the last name of the previous player. For example, if I start a game off by saying Alex Rodriguez, the next player must say a player whose first name starts with the letter R. If the next player says Ryan Howard, then the next player must say a name whose first name starts with the letter H.
Sounds easy enough right? The fun part comes in when a player is said whose first and last name both start with the same letter. When this happens, the rotation of turns reverses. If there are only two players or two teams, the Name Game rules can vary. Either the next team goes twice, the team that said the double letter name can go again, or the game can go on as normal. This becomes a useful tactic late in games when names are scarce and memories need to be jogged waiting for the next turn.
Another rule that I have used is that if you are unsure whether a name has been said you may ask the other team before making it your official answer. If you simply say a name that has already been said without asking first, then that counts as a strike. Strikes occur when a name is repeated or a player cannot think of a name to say.
These are the essentials to the Name Game. While it is fun to play with all Major Leaguers available, it can also be very time consuming if the players are baseball savvy and have a vast knowledge of history. The longest Name Game I have played was on a road trip during one of my college baseball seasons. It was a 2-on-2 matchup that lasted almost 3 hours, 1 lunch break, and 1 rest stop. I got the perennial third strike by shouting out a name I thought had not been said, only to find out it was one of the first names used in the game a tank of gas ago.
The Name Game can be used with other sports, celebrities, movie titles, or anything else. The baseball version is obviously the best one to play and the most classic. You may think Dan Uggla or Carlos Zambrano would result in quick strikes by the next player, but there is a plethora of names that can follow those up. You very quickly learn new names and find good double letter names. Goose Gossage happens to be one of my favorites. Any long period of time can be effectively and efficiently wasted by starting the Name Game. Rick Vaughn may not count in the game, but he is always fun to try to sneak in.