Pesäpallo (Finnish pronunciation: [pesæpɑlːo]; Swedish: boboll, both names literally meaning "nest ball", colloquially known as Pesis, also referred to as "Finnish baseball") is a fast-moving bat-and-ball sport that is often referred to as the national sport of Finland and has some presence in other countries including Germany, Sweden, Switzerland, Australia, and Canada's northern Ontario (the latter two countries have significant Nordic populations). The game is similar to brännboll, rounders, and lapta, as well as baseball.

Pesäpallo is a combination of traditional ball-batting team games and North American baseball. Pesäpallo was invented by Lauri "Tahko" Pihkala in the 1920s.[1] Pesäpallo has changed with the times and grown in popularity.

The basic idea of pesäpallo is similar to that of baseball: the offense tries to score by hitting the ball successfully and running through the bases, while the defense tries to put the batter and runners out. One of the most important difference between pesäpallo and baseball is that the ball is pitched vertically, which makes hitting the ball, as well as controlling the power and direction of the hit, much easier. This gives the offensive game more variety, speed, and tactical aspects compared to baseball.[1] The fielding team is forced to counter the batter’s choices with defensive schemes and anticipation; Pesäpallo becomes a mental exercise.

The manager has an important role in pesäpallo, leading the offense by giving signals to the players using a multicoloured red fan. The defensive team play is directed by the manager’s orders and hand signals by the fielders.[1]

Pesäpallo was a demonstration sport at the 1952 Summer Olympics, held in Helsinki, Finland.

Siipen nuoret pelaamassa pesapalloa
Girls playing pesäpallo in Siilinjärvi in 2006.
First played1920s
Team members9 (on defense)
12 (on offense)
EquipmentBall, bat, gloves, helmet, pitching plate
OlympicDemonstrated in 1952
World GamesInvitational in 1997
Eino Kaakkolahti
Pesäpallo match in 1958 in Jyväskylä, with Eino Kaakkolahti pitching a very tall "tolppa".


A regular pesäpallo game is played in two periods of four innings each. A period is won by the team which scores more runs in its offensive half-innings. If the periods are tied, there will be an extra inning; if needed, there is a round (similar to a penalty shoot-out) where each team tries to bring a player home from the third base.[2]

During an inning, both teams take turns playing offense (batting) and defense (fielding).[1]

The defensive team has nine players on the field. The offensive team can use three jokers (similar to designated hitters) during one half-inning in addition to the nine players in the regular batting order. The offensive team can continue batting until three players have been put out or one round of the batting order has been completed without at least two runs scored. The batter and the pitcher face each other in the home base, on opposite sides of the circular plate. The pitch is delivered by throwing the ball directly upwards above the plate, at least one meter over the head of the pitcher.[1]

The batter has three strikes available during their turn at bat. A fair hit does not require the batter to reach base; all three strikes can be used before the batter must reach first base. A pitch counts as a strike if the batter takes a swing at the ball and the umpire rules the pitch legal.[1] When a batter makes a fair hit, unless it is the third strike, the batter does not have to try to advance safely to the first base. However, if the batter hits a foul ball on the third strike and does not try to advance, only that player is out and the runners continue with the next batter.

If the pitcher delivers two bad pitches (ball), the batter is granted a walk to the first base only if all bases are unoccupied. If there are runners on the field, the point runner (the runner at the highest-numbered base) is granted a walk to the next base for the second and all consecutive bad pitches pitched for the same hitter. A pitch can be ruled bad for various reasons, most common ones being that the ball does not fall on the plate or that the pitch is not thrown high enough.[1]

A hit is foul if the ball first touches the field outside of the boundaries. The batter or the runners cannot advance on a foul hit. If a fielder catches the ball before it reaches the ground, the hit is a "catch", and all runners who tried to advance on that play are caught. Players who have been caught are removed from the field, but they do not count as outs.

The runner reaches safety on a base by touching the base area before the ball is thrown to a fielder in the base. If the ball gets to the base first, the runner is put out and removed from the field. The batter is also put out if the third strike is foul. A runner on a base is forced to advance if the next runner reaches safety on the same base.[1]

The offensive team scores a run when a runner returns safely to the home base after advancing through all three field bases. If a batter advances to the third base on their batted ball, it is a "home run". He can then stay on the third base and try to score again as a regular runner by reaching the home base on a later play.[1]

Differences from baseball

Pesäpallo field
Men's pesis/pesäpallo field.

The most significant differences from baseball are:

  • The first bounce of the ball is decisive: It must bounce within the play area, and may then roll over a line and still be in play. The back line on the fly counts as a foul ball. The foul lines are also on the sides and the front of the field. So if a player aims high and hits a very hard hit that would be a certain home run in baseball, it is counted as a foul in pesäpallo. This increases the tactical approach. All home runs, therefore, are the "inside-the-park" variety.
  • Catching a ball in flight is not an out, but forces all runners advancing at the moment of the catch to attempt to reach the next base. If they succeed they must return to home base with no further consequences (this is called a haava, literally "a wound" or simply koppi, "a catch"). If they fail to reach the next base, they are out.
  • Instead of a "batter's box", the home plate serves as a pitching plate, which is round with a diameter of 0.6 metres (24 in). All other batting team players stand in a semicircle near the batter.
  • Players generally have little difficulty hitting the ball, so the main target is not just hitting the ball but selecting a suitable type of hit and directing it correctly. There are many different types of hits used, here are a few examples:
    • Snap (short) hit: Normally used for advancing fast runners between bases, aimed to avoid defensive players. Usually hit in such way that the ball takes a hard spin.
    • Fly hit: An intentional high hit to be caught, often used to give way for faster runners.
    • High drive: Aimed to drop to the field between midfield and outfield, with a top spin. Excellent for scoring.
    • Bouncer: Used for advancing fast runners, hit downwards very hard to be bounced right next to the front arc. Aimed towards the base runner is leaving, or to the center. Technically very hard to perform, used only by advanced players.
  • A home run is scored if a batter advances to the third base on his own fair hit. After a home run the runner will stay at third base and continue as a normal runner.
  • Walking requires fewer invalid pitches. When the field is empty of runners, one invalid pitch grants a walk, otherwise two. After two invalid pitches, each such pitch grants another walk. A walk advances the point runner; if there is a runner at third base, that player shall score.
  • A fair hit does not force the batter to advance; he can use all three strikes at bat before he becomes a runner. A pitch counts as a strike, if the batter takes a swing at the ball or if the umpire rules the pitch legal.
  • "Force outs" are always outs: if the runner is off the base and the ball is in the control of a defensive player at the next base, the runner is out.
  • The bases are not laid in a diamond shape; the players have to 'zig zag' the court (see chart).
  • When entering a base or the home base, the runner only has to cross the line of the base; there are no actual cushion bases like in baseball, only lines in the field showing each base's boundaries (a much larger area compared to the bases used in baseball). Similarly, the pitcher or the fielders in the bases don't have any plates to touch to make an out; having only a foot in the base is enough.
  • The attacking team uses a colour-coded fan to signal the runners when to move. The fan is multicoloured, held by the coach of the team. Colour sequence is decided prior to the game.


Heinäheimo lyömässä
Batter hitting the ball.
Veto - Kossu (1.8.2014) 23
Pesäpallo player diving

The team playing the defensive half has nine players in the field. The pitcher is positioned in the home base. A catcher plays in the infield on the side of the second base. Each of the three bases has its baseman and an additional two shortstops playing close to the second and third bases. Two outfielders cover the outfield. Players can switch their places and position themselves to the field wherever they want. Different positioning is used in different situations, when the defensive team can expect a certain type of hit. This is usually determined by the location of the offensive team's point runner. Special tactics could even be made against a certain batter.

The team playing the offensive half has nine batters and three additional batters known as jokers (The term "joker" refers to a wild card rather than a jester). Whereas ordinary batters must bat in a pre-designated batting order, the joker batters are allowed to breach the batting order.

Today, players usually have a specialized role in the batting order depending on their abilities. Fast runners are usually positioned first in the batting order, after which players who specialize in advancing runners between bases. Next comes a player specializing in scoring runners home. Players from 6 to 9 often form another attacking combination. The jokers are usually a selection of either batting jokers (good hitters specializing in scoring) or runner jokers (fast runners specializing in advancing in the field).

Both teams have a pelinjohtaja, lit. a game leader or more simply, a manager. The captain of the team – one of the players – tries to beat the other team's captain in the hutunkeitto, draw of choice which determines which team gets to choose whether it will want to start in the offensive or the defensive half. The manager is also akin to a coach and he does not take part in the actual game.


Pesäpallo equipment
Pesäpallo equipment


Each player is required to wear a helmet when playing in an offensive inning. If a player sets at bat without a helmet an out can be marked for the team. Apart from the pitcher and the outfielders, fielders are required to wear helmets.[2]


The glove is used to ease catching the ball when playing a defensive inning. The glove used in pesäpallo differs from the one used in baseball both in characteristics and in appearance, resembling more a hockey goalkeeper's glove . The glove is made of leather although some manufacturers use different kinds of synthetic fibers on the back side. The inside of the glove is always made of thick leather and the main differences between gloves lie in the amount and quality of padding, the thickness of the leather, the size of the glove and its shaping.

The ball is caught into the glove's cup between the thumb and the index finger. Sometimes, however, the ball hits the palm and a properly designed glove can prevent injuries.

Other devices to catch the ball are not allowed.


The bat is a round, tapered cylinder. Previously the bats used in pesäpallo were made of wood. These were fairly brittle and did not last very long when used to hit such a heavy ball. Now, wooden bats are only used in children's games and the bats used in adult's games are made of a mixture of glass fiber and carbon fiber.

The biggest differences between bats lie in the weight, center of gravity, flexibility and length. The maximum length of the bat is 100 centimetres (39 in). When using a children's ball the maximum length of the bat is 90 centimetres (35 in).

The weight of the bat is considered to be its most important property. A typical bat used in top competitions weighs between 580 grams (20 oz) and 620 grams (22 oz). The heaviest bats weigh more than 650 grams (23 oz) but these are only used by strong players like batting jokers. Junior players typically use bats that weigh less than 400 grams (14 oz). The usual diameter for the bat's hitting point is 56 millimetres (2.2 in).


The use of spiked shoes—like in running—is not required to play pesäpallo. However, they do help the player substantially in rapid situations, especially when playing on modern artificial grass fields which are very slippery to ordinary sport shoes. The artificial turf differs from what is used in football fields.

There are only a few manufacturers producing spikes designed for pesäpallo and many players use normal running spikes. Some shoes have also spikes at the heel but mostly spikes are positioned under the ball of the foot. Usually there are seven spikes in a shoe and they are 3–15 millimeters long. When playing on artificial turf the maximum length of spikes is 6 millimeters.


The ball used in pesäpallo is yellow and has a circumference of 21.60–22.20 centimetres (8.50–8.74 in). The weight of the ball varies by series:[2]

  • Men's ball 160–165 grams (5.6–5.8 oz)
  • Women's ball 135–140 grams (4.8–4.9 oz)
  • Junior ball 95–100 grams (3.4–3.5 oz)


The Finnish championship series is known as Superpesis. Both men and women compete in their own series.

A Pesäpallo World Cup is played internationally every three years. In 2006 the fifth World Cup was played in Munich, Germany. Participant countries included Australia, Finland, Germany and Sweden. The sixth World Cup took place from July 8–11, 2009 in Pori, Finland, with teams from Australia, Finland, Germany, Sweden and Switzerland. The seventh World Cup took place in 2012 on the Gold Coast of Australia. The three teams were Australia, Finland and "Team Europe".[3] The eighth World Cup was played in Lucerne, Switzerland in 2015 featuring Australia, Germany, Finland, and Switzerland.[4]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Introduction to the game". Pesäpalloliitto. Retrieved 16 October 2015.
  2. ^ a b c "Pesäpallon pelisäännöt, ohjekirja ja kenttäkuvat". (in Finnish). Pesäpalloliitto. 2015. Retrieved 16 October 2015.
  3. ^ "World Cup 2012 - Pesäpalloliitto". Retrieved 28 December 2017.
  4. ^ "World Cup 2015 -". Retrieved 28 December 2017.

Further reading

External links

Media related to Pesäpallo at Wikimedia Commons

Aalto University Sports Club

Aalto University Sports Club, AaltoUS, (Finnish Aalto-yliopiston urheiluseura), formerly known as Polyteknikkojen urheiluseura (‘Polytechnics Sports Club’) or PUS, is a Finnish sports club founded in Helsinki in 1903.

The club was the sports club of the Helsinki University of Technology, but as of 29 March 2010, the name has been Aalto-yliopiston urheiluseura, reflecting the merger of the Helsinki University of Technology, the Helsinki School of Economics, and the University of Art and Design Helsinki into what is now the Aalto University.

Eeles Landström

Eeles Enok Landström (born 3 January 1932) is a retired Finnish pole vaulter, a former member of the Finnish parliament and a former business executive. He won two European titles, in 1954 and 1958, and competed at the 1956 and 1960 Olympics, winning a bronze medal in 1960 and finishing seventh in 1956. Landström also placed 14th in the decathlon at the 1952 games and was selected as the Olympic flag bearer for Finland in 1956 and 1960.

Finnish pesäpallo match-fixing scandal

Finnish pesäpallo match-fixing scandal was a match fixing scandal in Finland that involved a large number of players, managers and other team officials of Superpesis, the top professional league of the Finnish sport of pesäpallo, a game similar to baseball.

Hyvinkään Tahko

Hyvinkään Tahko is a Finnish sports club from Hyvinkää. It was founded in 1915. Hyvinkää Tahko has participated in many sports in Finland over the years, such as athletics, skiing and orienteering. Since 1980, the club's main successes have been in basketball and pesäpallo.

Hyvinkää Tahko has won the men's Finnish Pesäpallo Championship, (Superpesis) four times, between 1979–1981, and in 2007. The Women's Championship Tahko has won twice in 1979 and 1983. Tahko's home ground is the Pihkala Pesäpallo stadium.

Kirsi Hänninen

Kirsi Maari Hänninen (born 3 October 1976) is a Finnish female ice hockey player. She played on the women's ice hockey team for Finland at the 1998 Winter Olympics, and won a bronze medal. Hänninen was born in Joensuu.

Lapta (game)

Lapta (Russian: лапта́) is a Russian bat and ball game first known to be played in the 14th century. Mentions of lapta have been found in medieval manuscripts, and balls and bats were found in the 14th-century layers during excavations in Novgorod. It is similar to cricket, brännboll, Rounders, baseball, oină, it:Tsan (Italy) and pesäpallo.

Lapuan Virkiä

Lapuan Virkiä (abbreviated Virkiä) is a sports club from Lapua, Finland. The club was formed in 1907 and currently operates 11 divisions namely skiing, football, ice hockey, volleyball, wrestling, basketball, slalom, orienteering, swimming, fitness and athletics. Another sport that the club excels at is pesäpallo. The men's football first team currently plays in the Kolmonen (Third Division). Their home ground is at the Lapuan keskuskenttä.

Lauri Valonen

Lauri Valonen (November 28, 1909 – October 2, 1982) was a Finnish nordic combined skier who competed in the 1930s. He won a silver medal in the individual event at the 1935 FIS Nordic World Ski Championships in Vysoké Tatry.

Valonen also finished 4th in the individual event at the 1936 Winter Olympics in Garmisch-Partenkirchen.


Lukko (Finnish for "lock") is a Finnish professional ice hockey team based in Rauma, Finland. They currently play in the Finnish Liiga, the top tier of Finnish ice hockey. The club was founded in 1936 as Rauma Woodin Lukko, and play their home games in the Äijänsuo Arena which has a capacity of 5,400 spectators. They have won the Finnish championship once, in 1963. Since 2011, Lukko has also had a team in the Women's Pesäpallo Championship League (Superpesis).

Nurmon Jymy

Nurmon Jymy is a Finnish sports club with several departments, located in Nurmo.

Pallo-Kerho 37

Pallo-Kerho 37, also known as PK-37, is a Finnish football club from the city of Iisalmi. The club was founded on 10 October 1937 as a bandy and football club, but later on it also became known for its pesäpallo and ice hockey sections. Nowadays PK-37 concentrates only on football.

The club's men's team play at the third highest level of Finnish football, in the Kakkonen. The Club chairman is Mikko Aminoff and the team is managed by Marko 'Pessi' Pesonen. The previous coach was Atik Ismail who has now moved to Jämsänkosken Ilves.

Peräseinäjoen Toive

Peräseinäjoen Toive (PeTo) is a Finnish sports club from Seinäjoki. It has activity in athletics, floorball, pesäpallo, volleyball, and wrestling. Peräseinäjoen Toive was founded in 1927 in Peräseinäjoki.

Pesäpallo World Cup

Pesäpallo World Cup is an international tournament in pesäpallo that has been organised eight times so far: In Finland 1992, 1997, 2009 and 2017 in Australia in 2000 and 2012, in Sweden in 2003, in Germany 2006 and in Switzerland 2015.

Women and mixed teams have been played in 1992 and again since year 2000.

Pesäpallo at the 1952 Summer Olympics

Pesäpallo, the Finnish variant of baseball, was played as a demonstration sport at the 1952 Summer Olympics in Helsinki, Finland.

The ceremonial first feed, or pitch, was thrown at 18:00 on 31 July by Lauri Pihkala, who had created the sport. The teams playing were the Finnish Baseball Federation and the Finnish Workers' Sports Federation. In a match with a shortened schedule, the Finnish Baseball Federation won 8–4.

Riikka Sallinen

Hanna-Riikka Sallinen (previously Välilä, née Nieminen, born 12 June 1973) is a Finnish female ice hockey player for HV71. She plays on the Finnish women's national team most notably appearing at the 1998 Winter Olympics and the 2018 Winter Olympics, winning a bronze medal at both events, and the 2002 Olympics. Nieminen-Välilä was inducted into the IIHF Hall of Fame on 21 May 2010 in Cologne, Germany, as part of the World Championship festivities. She was only the fourth woman to receive this honor. Nieminen was born in Jyväskylä.Her bronze medal with Finland at the 2018 Olympics made her the oldest ice hockey medallist at a Winter Olympics, at age 44, 20 years after she first won a medal in the first women's Olympic hockey tournament.

Sport in Finland

Sport is considered a national pastime in Finland and many Finns visit different sporting events regularly. Pesäpallo is the national sport of Finland, although the most popular forms of sport in terms of television viewers and media coverage are ice hockey and Formula One. In spectator attendance, harness racing comes right after ice hockey in popularity.

The most popular recreational sports and activities include floorball, nordic walking, running and skiing.


The Superpesis, known as SM-sarja from 1955 to 1989, is the top professional pesäpallo league in Finland. It was created in 1990 to replace the SM-sarja which was fundamentally an amateur league. The Superpesis is directly overseen by the Finnish Pesäpallo association. SM is a common abbreviation for Suomen mestaruus, "Finnish championship."

Both the men's and women's top division is called Superpesis. Comprising 14 teams in the men's league and 11 teams in the women's league, one team faces relegation to Ykköspesis at the end of the season. Superpesis was founded in 1990; before that the top division was called SM-sarja (Finnish championship series).

Most popular in semi-urban and rural municipalities, the pesäpallo matches gain a significant number of attendances compared to the population in the area.

Tampereen Pyrintö

Tampereen Pyrintö is a Finnish multi-sport club from Tampere. Pyrintö representatives have achieved several Olympic medals and other success. In the year 2017, Pyrintö has sport sections in cross-country skiing, basketball, ski jumping, weightlifting, orienteering, athletics, cheerleading and speed skating. In the past it has also had teams in pesäpallo and ice hockey.

Veikko Kankkonen

Veikko Kankkonen (born 5 January 1940) is a retired Finnish ski jumper who competed at the 1960, 1964 and 1968 Winter Olympics. He won two medals in 1964 with a gold in the individual normal hill and a silver in the individual large hill event. That same year he won the jumping competition at the Holmenkollen ski festival, which also earned him the Holmenkollen medal (shared with Eero Mäntyranta, Georg Thoma, and Halvor Næs). He also won the Four Hills Tournament and served as the flag bearer for Finland at the 1968 Olympics.Besides skiing Kankkonen played baseball for the Maila-Veikot Lahti club in the national championships of 1963–64. He also regularly competed in golf at the national level, with the best result of fourth place. Kankkonen was a turner by trade and later worked as a ski jumping coach. His son Anssi Kankkonen became a professional golfer, but he also competed in ski jumping and won a national title in 1985.

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