Fungo (Family of Games)
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Games featuring batting/hitting (but no baserunning).
Games belonging to the Fungo Family (55)
A fungo-like game played in Elizabethan times in England. The ball was an inflated leather bag, and was knocked with the arm - sometimes aided by a wooden brace. Hitting for distance was evidently desired, but no running or fielding is described.
[A] per Bronner . Using three sidewalk squares, a “pitcher” throws the ball into the box closest to his opponent, who tries to slap the ball into the box closest to the pitcher. If he missed the box or the pitcher catches ball on the fly, it is an out. There is no baserunning. Also called “Boxball.”
[B] New York City streets are composed on concrete squares approximately [X?] feet square. Players would be separated by three squares. They would alternate pitcher/catcher and hitter depending on who was up. The pitcher had to have the ball bounce in the box closest to the batter. The pitcher would place the ball and fluke it in order to make it difficult to hit after the bounce. The batter was required to slap the ball so that it landed in the box closest tot he pitcher. If the pitcher caught the ball on a fly, it was an out. One bounce was a single, two a double, etc, The batter would try to hit the ball low and fast in order to get it past the pitcher.
Bunt is downsized baseball. One reported Massachusetts version was a one-on-one game in which any hit ball that reached the not-distant field perimeter was an out. The batter ran out hit balls, and the pitcher fielded them, but thereafter base advancement was done by ghost [imaginary] runners. Terrie Dopp Aamodt reports playing a similar game as an adolescent girl.
per Jamieson (1825). A game known in County Fife. Two teams, armed with clubs, try to drive a ball into a hole defended by their opponents. This game may have resembled field hockey more than a safe-haven game.
For a recent description of Cat/Old-Cat, see Supplemental Text below.
Per Culin. A batting game played with a six-inch, pointed wooden “cat.” The cat is pitched to a batter standing near a four-foot circle. The batter is out if he hits a caught fly or if the ball falls, unhit, into the circle. If put out, the batter goes to the end of the sequence of fielders, and the pitcher becomes the new batter. A batter can accrue points based on the distance from the circle to the where the hit ball lands. A version described by Newell allows the batter to elevate and hit any cat that is pitched outside the circle.
Note: A Dutch book printed in 1845 also describes "Kat:" See http://protoball.org/1845.29.
"The Kat is a piece of wood about 6 inches long, 1 1/2 to 2 inches wide at the midpoint and comes to a point at both ends making the form of a double cone. The Kat is placed on the ground in the middle of a big circle and a player uses a "ball stick" to hit one end of it to launch it into the air. As it comes down he tries to hit it out of the circle. If he fails to hit it or doesn't hit it out of the circle he steps off and the next player takes his turn. If he's successful he's assigned a certain number of points depending on how far he hit it."
|Catch a Fly||Derivative||Manhattan, New York|
A fungo game played in Manhattan in the 1950s. A fungo hitter is replaced by a fielder who catches a ball (or sometimes three balls) on the fly. Played when fewer than six kids were at the ballyard and a team game wasn’t possible.
Evidently primarily a St. Louis pastime, Corkball is presumably derived from baseball, involving down-sized bats and balls. The ball is pitched overhand from a distance of 55 feet. There is no running, but imaginary runners advance on hits by succeeding batters. Hit balls are defined as singles, and sometimes as longer hits, depending on where they land. Caught flies are outs. The game is said to have originated over a century ago among brewery workers using broomsticks and the bungs [corks] used to seal beer barrels. Team sizes vary from two to five players. Annual tournaments have been held at least through 2012. Dedicated corkball fields are reportedly found in St. Louis.
When played with tennis balls, the game is sometimes called Fuzz-Ball.
Some additional 2013 data from Corkball fan Jeff Kopp in St. Louis:
 The game was reportedly first played in about 1890.
 There are four active clubs in St.L, and pickup games appear on many Sundays at the Don Young Corkball Fields at Jefferson Barracks Park.
 Special balls and bats are supplied by the Markwort Sporting Goods Company.
 Isolated reports of corkball play are found in other US locations. Drummer Butch Trucks, a nephew of Tiger pitcher Virgil Trucks and founding member of the Allman Brothers Band, reportedly played corkball in Jacksonville FL and taught his band-mates the game. Another account places the game in an area from St. Louis "only" north to Springfield IL. A Chicago Corkball Club was reportedly active around 2010.
 Another form of the game, played with bottle caps in place of balls/corks, is called Bottle Caps.
|Curb Ball||Derivative||New York|
"Curb ball - no baserunning - played with 1 -3 players per team on a side street directly under my (Bronx) bedroom window [which allowed me to participate whenever i wished because i could always hear the game organizing] - a 1 1/2 lane street separated the hitting curb from a 3 1/2 foot chain link fence beyond which was a 2 lane street beyond which was a small grassy rise - spaldeen was thrown against the curb - balls that missed the point of the curb and bounced off the building wall [~10 feet away] were foul balls but if caught on the fly were outs - balls that were thrown below the curb point were in play [but usually weakly hit]; balls hitting the point often went very far[or fast] - caught fly balls or caught grounders were outs, unfielded ground balls were singles - balls off the first fence were singles - balls over the first fence [where 2nd and 3rd players could be positioned] were doubles if not caught on the fly - balls on the rise were triples, balls over the walls were homers - major hazards were moving cars and mothers yelling out their windows for us to quiet down."
(Email from Raphael Kasper, February 3, 2020.)
Gregory Christiano describes curb ball as a game he played in the Bronx in the mid-1950s:
CURB BALL: Hit the 'spaldeen' against the sharp edge of the curb causing it to fly up as high as possible. The fielder must catch it on the fly to get an out...otherwise the number of bounces determines if it was a single, double, triple. Four bounces is a homer. There were no actual bases to run. The players would take turns when the inning was over. A regular nine-inning game was played.
 Drive ball: An 1835 book published in New Haven describes drive ball. David Block's summary: "In this activity, two boys with bats face each other, taking turns fungoing the ball. When one boy hits the ball, the other has to retrieve it as quickly as he can, then fungo it back from the spot he picked it up."
 Drive: A ball game, listed along with the Old Cat games and Baseball, mentioned in the memoirs of a New Hampshire man born in 1831. The rules of this game are not given. It may not have been a baserunning game.
per Gilbert (1910). Remembered as Town Ball, this game was a simple fungo game played in the 1850s in which a fielder who caught a hit ball on the fly or on one bounce became the fungo batter.
Fielders catch fungo hits, with a caught fly worth 100 points, a one-bouncer 75 points, etc. A player who accrues 500 points becomes the hitter. In some versions, muffed catches deduct points, and the Hit-the-Bat option for returned throws is employed. Land’s review of schoolyard games includes two references to 500. It is also evidently called Twenty-One in some localities.
Writing in volume 5, no. 4 (April 2012) of Originals, Tom Altherr notes that a 1900 source on schoolyard games noted "The game of Flip Up or Sky-Ball is still played by smaller children, and sometimes by large ones (especially girls). It is often played by as many as a dozen players and is here as "Tip-Up," or "Tippy-Up." The 1900 source is D. C. Gibson, "Play Ball," Mind and Body: A Monthly Journal,Volume 7, no 73 (March 1900), page 7. No rules for this game are given, but Sky-ball is elsewhere descrived as a fungo game.
Gregory Christiano recalls this as a fungo game for times where there were too few players for stick-ball in The Bronx, New York in the mid-1950s. A fielder who caught the ball on the fly went “up” to bat.
Gary Land quotes New York City resident Michael Frank: “Hardball? Never. Other baseball-related games we played included Stickball in the street and “Flies-Up” in the playground. The latter game is not further described, but could be a species of Fungo.
"Plugging as in soaking the hitter - never read about that in Cricket except for 'French Cricket' (a picnic game played by kids in France & I played it too) where you stand with your feet together as if standing in attention, with the bat in front protecting it below the knees and surrounded by fielders/catchers surrounding you. The object is to hit the batter below the knee with the ball from any direction & the batter hits it away. If he looses his balance & one leg is lifted up or he gets hit on the leg, he is out. Fielders are about 10' away & the ball is thrown quickly at the legs."
Query: It would be interesting to know what the French name for this game is, and whether it relates to earlier folk games in France.
Protoball's Glossary of Games includes many nonrunning games in which the ball (or cat, or other object) is put in play by a batter who gently lofts a ball and bats, or "fungoes," it to other players. Some better-known examples are Brannboll (Sweden), Catch-a-Fly (Manhattan), Corkball (St. Louis), 500, Half-ball, Indian Ball (MO), Sky Ball (CT), and Tip-Cat.
Some early references:
Culin (1891): A batter fungoes balls to a set of fielders. A fielder who first catches a set number of balls on the fly becomes the batter.
Chadwick (1884) describes Fungo as requiring the hitter to deliver the ball on the fly to the fielders, or he loses his place. This practice probably has had numerous local variant names such as Knock Up and Catch and Knocking Flies.
It is common for those coaching baseball to give outfielders practice in judging and fielding fly balls by hitting balls toward them fungo-style.
Fuzz-Ball evidently takes many local variant forms, but all employ a tennis ball (often with its surface fuzz burned off and a slim bat. The number of strikes per out and outs per inning, among other parameters, vary from place to place. It is placed in the "fungo" category here, but in some areas real baserunning is seen, making it close to baseball. Teams are often small.
In St. Louis, some players use the term Corkball for Fuzz-ball.
per Wieand. This is a game with pitching and batting but no running. A caught fly ball results in an out, and the batter then goes to the outfield, or grutz, to begin his rotation back to the batting position. If a ball is not caught, the fielder tries to return it to home through an arch made by the batter.
An apparent non-running relative of tip-cat. A batter hits a gulli (a six-inch cat) with a danda, and is out if a fielder catches it. If it falls to the ground, a fielder throws it back, trying to hit the danda, which is laid on the ground. It is not clear if this is a team game, or if the gulli is pitched on simply fungoed. There is no running. The geographical range of its play is unclear.
Thomason (1975) recalls Half-Rubber as a 1930s school recess game involving a sponge-rubber ball sliced cleanly in half and a sawed-off broomstick as a bat. Thrown side-arm, the ball had good movement, and was difficult to field. There was no running, but outs and innings were recorded and (virtual) base advancement depending on the lengths that the ball was batted.
(A 1997 newspaper article recalls a similar game recalled as Half-Ball being played in the Philadelphia area.)
This game emerged in about 1910 in the SC/GA area of the south, and retained strong popularity into the 1970s.
|Hit the Bat||Derivative||A fungo game in which a ball is hit to a group of fielders. If one of them can roll the ball back and hit the bat so that the ball hits the ground before the batter can catch the ricochet, the two exchange places.|
|Hoina||Predecessor||Romania||A predecessor of Oina.|
|Hornie-Holes (also Kittie-Cat)||Predecessor|
per Jamieson (1825.) Two teams of two boys, defend their holes with a sticks, described as like a walking sticks, against a cat (“a piece of stick, and frequently a sheep’s horn”) thrown “at some distance” by their opposite numbers.
Per Brewster, 1953: A down-sized, non-running baseball variant. Two teams of five players form. A regular softball is pitched underhand to the batter. Outs are recorded for caught fly balls and ground balls cleanly fielded inside the baselines. Unlimited swings are permitted. Three-out-side-out innings and five-inning games are prescribed. The playing field is represented in a figure showing a fair ground of less than 45 degrees.
See also the text of "Teach Your Kids to Play Indian Ball!," below. The variant of the non-running game Indian Ball described in this 2013 article entails pitching by a member of the batting team, strikes called on all balls that are not hit fair (including pitches not swung at), outs on short fair hits, home runs for suitably long fair hits, employment of a baseball or tennis ball, and ghost runners. The author, at playcorkball.com, stresses that players can play this game without adult supervision.
An account of Indian Ball as played in St. Louis in 2008 is found at http://www.stlmag.com/St-Louis-Magazine/July-2008/What-the-Is-Indian-Ball/.
|Kibel and Nerspel||Predecessor||Stixwould, England|
per Gomme. A game played at Sitxwold [huh?] resembling “Trap, Bat, and Ball.
"As a rule, boys played rougher games. One of them was the competitiveKichke-pale or Chizshkes, as it was known in the Polesie region. Kichke-pale was an East European Jewish version of cricket or baseball, and was similar to the English game called Peggy. The kichke was a small peg pointed at both ends, while the pale was the longer stick. The kichke was placed on an elevated spot, near a hole in the ground. The player would hit the pointed end of the peg with the larger stick that would send the peg flying into the air. He would then run and again try to hit the peg while it was airborne, to send it farther away from the plate. The more times one hit the peg, the more skilled the player. The other player would run to get the peg and throw it to the plate. The peg was not to be struck on its return to the plate. But if it were not successfully returned, the first player would then strike the peg wherever it happened to fall. This would continue until the second player got the peg back to the plate, after which he became the striker and the other player, the catcher. The game would go on until the second player scored a given number of hits of the peg, usually twenty or thirty. The loser would then have to give the winner what was called a yarsh, which meant that the winner would have the right to strike the peg even when it was being returned to the plate. The yarsh would end when the peg fell on the plate."
A fungo game in which a player who catches the ball on the fly qualifies to become the hitter. Regionally variant names include Knock-Up and Knock-Up and Catch.
Apparently a form of Stickball played in Chicago area streets as early as the 1940s that uses 16-inch circumference softballs (the standard softball is about 12 inches), a slow-pitch delivery, small teams, and an unspecified bat. The type of hit achieved depended on where the ball fell among lines marked on the street (implying that baserunning was not part of this game.
|Long Ball (US Batting Game)||1800s|
"Long Ball" is generally known as a baserunning bat-and-ball game in Europe. However, Steven Katz (email of 2/5/2021) notes that, according to an article in the Connecticut Courant, April 23, 1853, was locally the name of something like a fungo game:
"Reader, did you ever see a bevy of boys playing what they call long ball? One stands and knocks and the others try to catch the ball, and the fortunate one gets to take the place of the knocker."
|Norr and Spell||Predecessor|
A game described as the same as Trap Ball. Also names as Nor and Spel, Knur and Spell, and Nur and Spel. Gomme notes that a wooden ball was sometimes used. The objective was mainly to hit the ball for distance.
A game described as the same as Trap Ball.
|Off The Point||Derivative|
|New York City|
Off the point
Described as akin to Pepper, this bat-control game involved hitting lobbed pitches toward a fence featuring extra-base zones. Cleanly-fielded balls, wide hits, and hits over the fence were outs. Baserunning is not part of this game.
This game, similar to the game known in other locations at strike-out, involved the use of plastic golf-ball-sized balls and regular baseball bats.
A batter stands before a wall marked with a strike zone and attempts to hit pitched PeeGee balls. Balls hit to particular zones are counted as singles, doubles, etc., and imaginary runners advance to score runs. There is no live baserunning or fielding in this pastime.
A drill to sharpen the batting eye and fielding reflexes in baseball. A few players stand side by side in a line and toss the ball to a batter who hits short grounders to them in turn. Forms of the game involve penalizing players for fielding errors and mis-hits. There is no running and no team play in this exercise.
A lifelong baseball man Reflected on the game of pepper. "Another problem [with today's practices] is the absence of pepper games. I had a discussion once with Ted Williams, ans we both agreed that playing pepper was important in the conditioning of every player. Every movement that you make in a pepper game, whether you're swinging a bat or fielding the ball or throwing the ball or whatever, you would use in a professional baseball game. . . . But pepper games are gone. . . . It would still be worth putting every player through a pepper session every day."
A game - evidently evolved uniquely by Bob Boynton -- with two players, a field marked with zones for singles, doubles, etc., and employing a ping-pong ball thrown from 33 feet to a batter standing at a home plate of 12 inches square. Bats were the size of broomsticks with toweling for padding. There was some fielding but all “baserunning” used only imaginary runners.
Gregory Christiano recalls this urban game as being a derivative of Stickball for two or more players. A square painted on a building was the strike zone. A batter used a broomstick to hit a pitched spaldeen ball across the street, where the height at which the ball hit a wall across the street determined the bases advanced orand runs scored. This game could be played with only two players. He played he game in The Bronx in the mid-1950s.
Porschek resembles trapball, but uses a four-inch wooden cat in place of a ball. A batter lofts the stick, and then hits it into the field of play. The fielding side can attain the batting side by catching the hit projectile or by picking up an uncaught ball and throwing it to hit the bat, which is dropped by the batter.
Batters are not described as runners. We are unsure when this game was played, and if it persists today.
A game banned, along with cat-ball, in Norwich CT in 1832. A 1890 source describes Sky-Ball as a fungo game in which a player who can catch the hit ball qualifies to hit the next fungo.
"Stoopball originated in dense urban areas like New York, where children
The game is called "largely extinct" since World War II.
But Louie Lazar continues to say that there is a stoopball league in Wisconsin nowadays.
Gregory Christiano recalls playing Stoopball in The Bronx in the 1950s:
'Played against the steps on a stoop. The sidewalk and street is the field. Providing there was no parked car obstructing play, the game could be played. Throw the ball (spaldeen) against the steps. Agree on amount of points. If the ball bounces back the player catches it on the fly, it's worth a certain amount of points. There is a chalk line the player cannot cross. it is called the "short line." If the ball bounces more than once, you're out. All players get to finish a turn. The term "last licks", comes into play here a lot ... it is the final attempt to get a better score
There were only a couple of exposed stoops on our block, so this game of stoopball wasn't played that often.'
|Strike Up and Lay Down||Derivative|
A fungo-style game for two teams as shown in an 1863 handbook. A feeder throws the ball to a batter, who hits it as far as possible. A member of the out-team picks up that ball and bowls it toward the bat, which lies on the ground. If the ball hits or hops over the bat, the batsman is out. The batsman is also out with three missed swings.
This game is most often seen as a schoolyard game with from two to five players. A strike zone is drawn on a suitable wall, and a batter stands before it, attempting to hit a tennis ball, a rubber ball or another type of projectile. Baserunning is not usual. All other rules - for base advancement by imaginary runners, changing of batters, etc., seem flexible to circumstance. (Verification needed.)
As of Fall 2013, it is our preliminary impression that there are several local variants of strike-out, the name used in Central New York, and we group them together here under that name; they include PeeGee ball and Indian Ball.
|T-Ball For One Boy (and one other 'player')||Derivative|
This game features batting, running, and sliding . . . and "fielding."
|Three Man Ball -- Hit It Out||Derivative|
A "National 3 Man Ball League and Baseball Tournament" was announced in March 2013, to take place n Miami in April 2013.
In this game, hitters swing at underhand deliveries (from a teammate) and try to hit the (undefined) ball into a fairly narrow pizza-slice-shaped fair territory such that it is not caught by the three fielders playing defense for the opposing club. Shorter "hits" are counted as singles, longer ones doubles and triples, and hits passing the 360-foot outer boundary are home runs.
The game uses imaginary base-runners who normally advance only one base at a time. An unusual feature of this game is that after three home runs are achieved, additional hits beyond the end-line are registered as outs. Games take 45 minutes, or an unclear number of innings.
This game bears a resemblance to other non-running fungo-type games listed on this website, including Indian Ball (Missouri), Line Ball (Chicago), Wiffleball, Pingball, Evansville Townball, and Grutz.
In Tip-e-Up, boy A would loft a short soft toss to a batter B, who wouold hit the ball upward. If A could catch the fungoed ball on the fly, he took possession of the bat.
Only framentary information is as yet known about Tire-Ball. The game takes its name from the length of bicycle tube that served as the game's ball (later, a short section of garden hose filled that need more often. Other rules are unclear to us at this point.
Trap ball is one of the earliest known ball games. Its distinguishing characteristic is the use of a “trap,” a mechanical device that, when triggered by a batter, lofts the ball to a height at which it may be struck. Most forms of trap ball do not involve running or bases; to the modern eye, it is a fungo-type game. Trap ball commonly used foul territory to define balls that were in play, where the “play” involved the catching and tossing back of the ball toward the batter. Trap ball persists today in Kent, England, as a tavern game.
Per wikipedia article on "knurr and spell": "Knurr and spell (also called northern spell, nipsy or trap ball) is an old English game, once popular as a pub game. The game originated in the moors of Yorkshire, in England, but then spread throughout the north of England. It can be traced back to the beginning of the 14th century. It was especially popular in the 18th and 19th centuries, but was virtually unknown by the 21st century, though there was a local revival in the 1970s. As late as the 1930s exhibition games of knur and spell by veterans drew large crowds to the Rusland Valley in North Lancashire, according to the chronicles of the North-West Evening Mail, but even then it was regarded as an archaic game....
In Yorkshire it is played with a levered wooden trap known as a spell, by means of which the knurr, about the size of a walnut, is thrown into the air. In Lancashire the knurr is suspended stationary from string. The knurr is struck by the player with the stick. The object of the game is to hit the knurr the greatest possible distance, either in one or several hits. Each player competes as an individual, without interference, and any number can enter a competition.
The stick is a bat consisting of two parts: a 4 feet (1.2 m) long stick made of ash or lancewood; and a pommel, a piece of very hard wood about 6 inches (150 mm) long, 4 inches (100 mm) wide and 1 inch (25 mm) thick. This was swung in both hands, although shorter bats for one hand were sometimes used. A successful hit drives the ball about 200 yards (180 m). The stroke is made by a full swing round the head, not unlike a drive in golf.
Originally the ball was thrown into the air by striking a lever upon which it rested in the spell or trap, but in the later development of the game a spell or trap furnished with a spring was introduced, thus ensuring regularity in the height to which the knurr is tossed, somewhat after the manner of the shooter's clay pigeon. By means of a thumb screw, the player can adjust the spring of the spell or trap according to the velocity of release desired for the ball.
On a large moor, and where the game is general, the ground is marked out with wooden pins driven in every 20 yards (18 m). In matches each player supplies their own knurrs and spells and has five rises of the ball to a game."
In the US, in 1821 the Kensington House, a popular resort near NYC, advertised that its grounds were "well adapted to the playing of the noble game of cricket, base, trap-ball, quoits, and other amusements..."
Gomme (1898) identifies this game as the Lancashire version of Trap Ball. A game named Trypet is listed in a English-Latin dictionary from the 1300s.
|Trippit and Coit (Trippets, Trip-Cat)||Predecessor||Newcastle, England|
Gomme (1898) identifies this game as the Newcastle version of Trap Ball.
Gomme (1898) identifies this game as a Norfolk version of Trap Ball, but with a hole for the trap and a cudgel for a bat.
This game is a fungo game that enhances fielding skill. A batter hits a ball, fungo style, to a number of fielders. A fielder receives 7 points for a caught fly, 5 points for a ball caught on one bounce, 3 points for catching a bouncing ball, and 1 point for retrieving a ball at rest. Points are similarly lost for muffed balls. Fielders who amass 21 points become the batter. Another form of this game is [[Five Hundred]], which proceeds similarly.
Wall Ball (our term -- the original Dutch source sites "Den bal tegen den muur werpen") is described in an 1845 Dutch guide to games.
A Dutch speaker's note on the game: "Wall Ball: A line is drawn on a wall about three feet high and another on the ground about six feet in front of the wall. The first player throws the ball against the ground and it has to hit the wall above the line and bounce back and hit the ground in front of the line on the ground. The second player catches it and then does the same. When a player fails to either hit the wall above the line or the ground in front of the line or the ball hits the ground a second time before he catches it, the other scores a point. The first to 15 points wins."
A Wiffle Ball is a hollow plastic ball with holes strategically placed in order to exaggerate sideways force, and thus enabling pitchers to produce severe curves and drops (and rises?). Competitive games of Wiffleball are known, some exhibiting team play. Few, we believe (as of September 2018), appear to involve active baserunning, and the Wiffle Ball company site's "suggested rules say that live running "has been eliminated."
Note: Wiffle Ball, Inc., which holds and protects key trade marks, has set out a set of rules at http://www.wiffle.com/pages/game_rules.asp?page=game_rules. However, many leagues, and tournaments, treasure their innovative rule options, including the doctoring of balls to make them curve more dramatically, and of bats that are dissimilar to those familiar thin yellow plastic cudgels you may think of. Multiple leagues and tournaments seem to claim that their championships produce the true national crown for wiffle ball.
The poem, Wiffle Ball, appears in he Supplemental Text below. It was furnished to Protoball by its author, Glenn Stout, on 8/17/2018.
A fine recollection of wiffle ball games is found in Glenn's "Wiffle Rules", at https://verbplow.blogspot.com/2018/08/wiffle-rules.html.
A September 2019 Boston Globe article by Billy Baker (cited below), features an account of the National Golden Stick Wiffle Ball championships (motto: "A backyard game taken way too far.")
In this game opponents position themselves on the opposite sides of as wire strung over the street. Singles, doubles, etc., are determined by whether the ball hits the wire and whether it is caught by the out team as it descends. There is no running or batting in this urban game.
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