|The "field" as drawn by Dede|
Addendum: I answer my own question with a little web search in Turkish--"Kürt beyzbolu"
Check out this video. In Van and Bitlis, apparently, a game like gaço is played. The Van people in this video call it topa garan with garan being a general word for group, often used for flocks and herds of animals. Herd ball? (And top is Turkish, which is weird--ye olde assimilation). The word herd was used because it was played when people were tending flocks. One of your own team pitches the ball and it doesn't look like the batter runs, but another team member. One of the guys at the end explains that it is played with 15 players, 6 on each team and 3 others performing another job watching the animals. (Dede also mentioned the animals "leaving" when they played). He also says that the ball was made from goat hair stuffed tightly into a sock.
This article talks about how it is played in Bitlis. These guys say they mostly have tournaments in winter to reduce the chance of injury (less dangerous on snow?) One guy says "Most people say don't let the winter come, don't let it snow, but we can't wait for the snowy weather. It means Kurdish baseball!" They use an old axe handle for a bat.
|A picture of the ball the Bitlis players are using--the stitching is either just like a baseball (but white) or it is a baseball|
With all this talk of what they use for balls and bats, it makes me think how odd it is, the vagaries of politics and history. Delal and I went to a Birmingham Baron's game last summer and I had forgotten how much I really love the sport. "This is a whole culture," she said to me. "Look at all the rituals and shows between innings." If Kurdistan had been a stable country and wealthy enough, a la England, then perhaps this game would have developed into a ritualized national sport. There would be regulations on what the ball could be made of--tightly wrapped wool?--and on the nature of the bat and shape of the field. But it stays in the villages (or in Bingöl's case--in the memories of the old folk) and so always has the flavor of the more chaotic American baseball of the 19th century (check out Shelby Foote's documentary for just how ruleless things were) before it was taken up as a formal, national sport.
I wonder if the people of Bitlis, Van and Bingöl realize that they are all playing the same (or a similar) game, they might start organizing tournaments with each other--informal at first--and bring the game to wider attention. A Kurdish national sport?