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November 1, 2013

Hidden Gems: Finding Skeeball in Union Square

**Guest Post by Skeeball Champ Joey the Cat

The San Francisco cable cars are one of the major attractions in Union Square. Every day, these majestic vehicles pull thousands of passengers up and down the hills using an elaborate cable system. In the photo below, you’re looking up Powell Street towards California Street along one of the cable car lines. From this angle, it looks like a steep ramp and if you were to roll a ball up it, the ball would fly into the bay making a huge splash. Unfortunately, we don’t have a ball that big or the ability to pull off this feat so we must resort to a smaller version of the same concept, Skeeball. 

Powell Street

The game of Skeeball was invented in 1909 by a man named J.D. Estes in Philadelphia, PA. It was one of the most popular games at carnivals, boardwalks and arcades. Skeeball even had an entire section dedicated to it at Playland at the Beach (one of San Francisco’s pre-eminent amusement parks). The game hasn’t changed much since the early 1900s. It’s very simple: take nine balls, roll them up a sloped ramp and try to score in the various concentric scoring pockets ranging from 10 points to 100 points. 

Skeeball has been popularized in last 30 years by gaming restaurant establishments, such as Chuck E. Cheese’s and Dave ‘N Busters. There are also a variety of competitive Skeeball leagues throughout the country. Given the nostalgic nature of the game and its ease of play, (simply roll the ball up the ramp and you’ll score) the game continues to be a huge hit.

So, where can you find Skeeball in Union Square? There are two locations.

1. Clash Clubhouse - 447 Stockton Street at Bush (below Tunnel Top)

This location has two classic Skeeball machines with wooden balls. Since this location is primarily home to scavenger hunts and Skeeball tournaments, the games are free of charge. If you stop by on a day when there isn’t a tourney or hunt going on, you can pop in and play a game or two.

Skeeball Tournament at the CLASH SF Clubhouse

2. Golden Gate Tap Room - 525 Sutter Street at Powell, 2nd Floor

Head upstairs into the Golden Gate Tap Room and you’ll find a ton of games. Towards the back left section of the bar and you’ll find three brand new Skeeball machines. These machines cost $1/game to play and are fresh off the assembly line at Skeeball Inc. Playing with the plastic balls does detract a little from the nostalgic feel but the game is the same - you can still challenge your friends for the next round of beers.

Both of these venues are perfect for special events. The Clubhouse is much more private and intimate (capacity: 80 people). The Clubhouse also hosts Skeeball tournaments for corporate team-building off-sites. Golden Gate Tap Room has a ton of space and has a convenient location.

If you’re interested in hosting your own Skeeball tournament or renting a Skeeball machine in Union Square, please contact Joey the Cat or visit JoeyTheCat.com for more information.

About Joey the Cat:

Specializing in Bay Area Skeeball rentals. Two-time National Brewskee-Ball champion. Classic Skeeball collector and restoration expert. Featured in the NY Times, Washington Post and NPR.