We played a LOT of Chinese handball on my block in Astoria, primarily without boxes even though the sidewalks had them. When we were younger we played the AKQ version but than got more athletic and adventurous. A distinguishing rule on our block was that as long as the ball hit the wall in-bounds it could hit the ground on its way back to the next player OUT-of-bounds, which meant the winning strategy was to get up as close to the wall as you could on an offensive play and slam it as hard as you could at a sharp angle just in-bounds. The successful result was a ball that ran great distances unimpeded down the sidewalk for retrieval until it would go under a car, or in one direction on into traffic. The other blocks where I’d occasion to play in Astoria or nearby Jackson Heights also played this game in various forms and my observation was that the guys on my block were consistently better players down the line than other blocks we’d visit as it was the ONLY game we played. Not having a convenient schoolyard or park we didn’t play much stickball, though we did when we got a little older throw some touch fotball and eventually softball in nearby yards. For many years though Chinese was pretty much all we played. I taught the game to a guy in Texas a few years back in the university gym. He was a competitive tennis player and really liked it. I’ve had a standing bet with my oldest friend that I can spot him 19 points in a 21-point game one-on-one. He still declines and I still keep offering though we’re both currently 48 years old.
Original author: Brian Cornforth [e-mail]