Just expanding on the comment above– we didn’t start playing stickball in my neighborhood until late teens, maybe adulthood. I wonder if that’s common? I see I posted in the chinese handball section a number of years back that chinese was the ONLY game we played, which was indeed the case until maybe 13-14 years old, when for some reason we switched to stickball, softball, etc. Anybody else do that?
We played at PS 166 in Astoria (33 St & 35 Ave)well into our 20s, usually one-on-one. We’d chalk or paint a strikezone on the wall and use a tennis ball, which was much more controllable and harder to hit for distance than a spaldeen. (I used to carry in my trunk a can of spraypaint and my ancient taped-up bat which had shortened drastically over the years from splintering at the ends and propping up a buddy’s air conditioner.) The pitcher’s line was about 50 ft away. Two outs per inning, grounders fielded cleanly and caught fly balls were outs. Any fairly placed hit that stayed in the yard was a single, in the street was a double, against the 3-story buildings across the street a triple, and over the buildings a homer. As we got older and the bat shorter, homeruns declined and eventually ceased entirely. There was a deli on the corner and a souvlaki stand on the next block. We’d drink beer and stuff our faces between games. Next day would invariably entail total immobility due to back injury suffered from pitching 36-45 innings without warm-up, and this only got worse as we got older. When my buddy and I moved to LA we tried playing in a couple of schoolyards (I think Palms Jr. High was one of them?) but it wasn’t the same. Since then PS 166 built a new structure which filled their yard so the entire venue no longer exists. I also played a LOT of chinese handball, but with slightly different rules than those I’ve seen elsewhere. All obstacles are in the field of play, one bounce to the car and one bounce off is still alive, the ball only has to hit the wall inbounds– we played on a handball wall or against the supermarket without ace/king/queen boxes– but can bounce out and still be live. This encouraged getting up close on the wall for a steep angle and slamming it down the block. Taught it to a couple of friends in Texas years later and they loved it. The quality of play in different neighborhoods (and on different blocks within the same neighborhhod) varied tremendously. When I was an early teen, the quality of play on my turf was significantly higher than that I saw in Jackson Heights or Elmhurst, but that’s probably changed many times over the years. I still have an outstanding challenge with a childhood chum who’s now a lawyer in Philly (he grew up next to PS 2 near LaGuardia) that I’ll spot him 19 points in a game to 21 and he’s been ducking me for over 30 years on this. Hope he reads this…
I grew up in the South Bronx in the early 1950’s, on 146th Street and Brook Avenue. When we played stickball a sewer was home plate and since cars were usually parked on the street we painted bases in the gutter next to the cars. If the cares were not on 1st and 3rd we had bases painted near the curb. Brook Avenue was center field, so the outfielder not only had to play the field but look out for cars. Any ball hit on the roof of the five story buildings was out and usually time was called until we could send someone up to the roof to retrieve the ball. We used the standard “Spaldeen” (Spalding)that we purchased at the local candy store. We would collect 5 nickels and go to the candy and hold two balls against another at about head height, drop them at the same time and pick the one that bounced the highest and then compare that on with another from the box of balls that the candy store owner had. We would go through the entire box until we buy the one ball the bounced the highest. If the ball went down the sewer we would fashion a wire coat hanger and try to scoop the ball out. Things were easier those days, we made our own fun out of the simplest things.
Stickball is a GREAT game! It is sure better to have the kids playing stickball, than sitting around the house playing video games. I am trying to help revive the game. I purchased a large quantity of the original SPALDEENS, or “Pinkys.” I also carry the “official stickball bats” made by Spalding. As you may know, these are VERY hard to find!! If anyone is interested, you may contact me at mlbbaseballs [at] aol [dot] com for more information. Keep on playing everyone!!
As I rememger playing stickball in the late 40’s and early 50’s in Bensonhurst Brooklyn, the distance between the home plate sewer and the first sewer was one sewer. All pitching was on the bounce and if you caught it on the end of the stick it would go a mile. Maybe we weren’t as good as we thought or perhaps we were smaller than I remember, but two sewers was pretty good.
Played stick ball at PS 46 in Bayside (Queens) N.Y. from 1960-1967. The ‘field’ consisted of the fence (used for the handball court) behind home plate (that was drawn on the ground), a fence from home plate with a distance of approximately 125-175 feet (it ran on a diagonal) and a fence (that was the foul pole) that ran down the right side of the field until it met the other fence in the right corner of the field. The foul pole on the left side of the field was a post on the fence approximately 175 feet from home plate. The pitcher stood approximately 50-60 feet away from home plate. There was no running. The batter would hit the ball and the result would be as follows: 1. A grounder caught by the pitcher was an out. 2. A grounder not caught by the pitcher was a single. 3. A fly ball caught by the pitcher was an out. 4. A fly ball that landed between the pitcher and the fence was a double. 5. A fly ball that hit the fence was a triple. 6. A fly ball over the fence was a home run. I used a number of bats that I purchased for 59 or 69 cents at the local candy store. These bats came in a variety of colors, were regulation size and width and of course they had the unmistakable black tape wrapped around the upper portion of the bat. The ball used was either a Spaldeen or a Pensie Pinkie. What a great game.
Playing stick ball in Brooklyn in the late 1940’s, most of us could hit the ball at least 3 sewer covers. Willie Mays probably did hit it over 4. Our street had covers about 75-100 feet apart. Too far to use one for home and the next one for second, so we used a piece of cardboard for home or second. First or third was usually a fire hydrant.
I remember playing stickball (fast pitch wall ball against the school wall in the summer months from early morning until the sun set and we could no longer see the ball. Unlike most of the games played in NYC, those of us on Long Island that played usually used a tennis ball instead of a pinkee ball. The advantage of using a tennis ball was it couldn’t be hit as far. This was critical if you were playing on a small field. It was also great for pitching because the seams on a tennis ball are shaped exactly like a baseball and you can throw all of the same types of pitches (curve, screw, 2 & 4 seam fastball, etc). Actually, you can get a lot more movement on a tennis ball than you can with a baseball. One of the great things I remember about stickball was the ability to get a game going just about anywhere at any time. Our group of kids used to go from school yard to school yard and play against anyone who was willing to play. Those were some great times.
the answer: in the Morrisiana sector (158th St and Eagle Ave) we called Willie Mays a THREE SEWER man because Home Plate was NOT a sewer but a chalked HOME PLATE; in other Neighborhoods a sewer might be homeplate but that was just because of the-lay-of-the-land. On 158th ‘tween Eagle and Caldwell Aves Homeplate was between the first sewer and the second one on the block.