This is a South Bronx tale: the setting is mid to late ’60s, Kelly Street 10 hundreds block = longer than most with wall to wall five story tenement buildings. We played stickball starting from the second fire-hydrant sewer lid (homeplate) towards the end of the block. Anything over the “wire” not caught was an automatic homerun. Only two guys ever hit the ball onto the roof of 1069 thanks to a favorable wind: Manny and Junior. We seldom played pitch ball but rather bounced the ball before hitting it or hit it in the air. Balls stuck on fire-escapes or on the roof before the “wire” were outs, down the basements were doubles. sidewalks were all you can run. The wire was a cable hanging across the street behind the second sewer lid which was a few feet behind second base. Only players from our street were allowed to toss their sneakers onto the wire. Those trophies were never taken down. When there weren’t enough guys to play a game, two guys with bats would hit the ball back and forth one from homeplate and the other from the third sewer lid towards homeplate. Spaldeens were the prefered ball, used also for slugs off the wall of Mr. Friar’s building 1045 Kelly Street; or hitting off the stoop of 1048 Kelly Street. Louie, Jorge, Mickey, Augie, Joel, Victor, Junior, Moses, George Pinocchio were the regulars. Stickball on Kelly Street died in 1978 when the whole block was nuked for redevelopment. We also played a mean game of skelzies and had the best aerial kite battles between glass-cord diamonds and razorblade sneekies. Those were the days!
At my elementary school, Jessie Beck, numerous classmates and friends of mine and I played handball. We’d choose a wall that wasn’t being played on and just start the game. The moves had wierd names like treetop; waterfall; black magic; baby(ies); beamer; white magic; black magic; wizard; around the world; rainbow; and, of course, butt crack. (Butt cracks were when the ball would hit the crack where the wall met the floor). Butt cracks usually made babies, little bounces, that usually took you out of the game almost atomatically. But that’s if you couldn’t get to the ball fast enough. It was so much fun to play that I’ve passed the game onto other people who don’t know how to play the game. Until now.
Spaldeens were the best. Had more zing, didn’t split as easily, and were cheaper. It was a sad day when Irv’s candy store started selling Pensy Pinkies in place of good ‘ol reliable Spaldeens. Sacrilege. Hit a Pensy a good whack and ooop’s, we have two halves. Just don’t roof it. I don’t feel like climbing.
Growing up in Staten Island in the 60’s we kids would get .25 from our parents every sat to go down to the corner candy store ‘every neighborhood had one’. Once a month, my cousin and I would take turns, one buying a Spaldeen ball and the other buying the candy, so every month we had a new ball to play with. I can remember the firt thing we did withour new ball was to inscribe it with our name so no one could steal it. When the store ran out we would end up with a pnky which was a dissapointment because the smell, feel and bounce were so different. It was something from my childhood that I will never forget. That rubber smell to this day brings back such great memories. I have been trying to find one for my grandson, now I know they are back I can look a little harder. But in the age of tv video games and romote control everything, will the thrill be the same? I doubt it, but I guess to thier generation, we are the olden days and the balls part of our nostalgia.
In Washington Heights (181st Street)in the late 50’s/early 60’s, you could get both – Spaldeens were harder and cost 25 cents, while the Pennsie Pinky was only 15 cents and a lot softer and smoother. We preferred the Spaldeen for stickball and the Pinkie for punch ball. When they went “dead” and lost their bounce, the game was to “roof” the ball by throwing it onto the roof of a 6 story apartment building. Sid’s candy store on 181st street was the only place in the neighborhood that let you check all of the Spaldeens and Pinkies by giving them the “bounce test” before buying – holding a ball at about chest height and letting it go to see how high up it would bounce. I broke Mrs. Morrison’s living room window with a Spaldeen and hit the super of the building across the street with a Pennsie Pinkie!
Just had to throw my two cents in. I hung on mostly in Kelly Park and Melet Park, we called it Mellow Park (Remember how kids like to rename stuff) they were both in Brooklyn, Midwood, Sheepshead Bay and Ave U. area. Anyway, it was rubber matts under the swings, slides and monkey bars, the hardest damn rubber I have ever felt. Laid right on top of the CMent. Only thing it did was cut down on how bad your knees got skinned. Only helped a little cause you could still get bloody. We used to do the flying acts off the top arch of the swing, 20 feet high on to a fence, just like spider man, which is what we called it. Crazy Eddies were when you would pop the swing from under foot and the seat would swing over the bar holding it… Loved doing that one, less chance of being hurt like when you would do a “Spider-Man” I miss the old swings. Don’t see any steel cover swings anymore. The are all those rubber ones that pinch your ass in the seat. No wonder kids stay home and play video games. Playgrounds are lacking in Play these days. Man am I old.
i lived in a few places in brooklyn, we lived on lincoln place for a while, then we moved to the projects that were on what used to be ebbets field, over by bedford ave. But my most fondest memories come from when me and my mom lived in prospect heights, on Eastern parkway right across from the brooklyn museum and the botanical gardens. there was a park with a playground in it and a huge circular track around this big ass grass field! i remember it was big enough where the kids had 2 makeshift baseball diamonds on it and there was room for the jamaican and haitian cats to play soccer on it. the track was i guess just a big asphalt walkway but you could ride bikes on it and jog or whatever, the playground had two swingsets on it and 1 sliding board…(not much as far as playground stuff goes) but it had an old parks and recs maintenance house on it that we had two fast pitch stickball courts on, and a “self hit” or slow pitch one in the center of the playground. we did so much stuff… we used to play co-co leavio on bicycles!!! YOU TALK ABOUT AN INTENSE GAME WITH GREAT LANDSCAPE! we had swing races where you get 4 to 5 kids or so on a team, the first kid jumps on…standing up was the best way to do it…up pumped your swing until you were deemed “up” (past a certain height level) then you had to come down and hand off to the next person, this took daring sometimes because the most fearless would jump off the swing while it was up high then the next kid would catch the chain and keep the relay race going!!! those were some of the best times of my life and i will never forget them for as long as i live.