I’m Tony from Astoria Queens. We used to play with Spalding Balls and played stick Ball, Strike Box (AKA Alley ball), Stoop Ball, Box Ball, Handball, and all the others mentioned. One thing I haven’t heard about the spalding’s were the types or classes of each. I can remember there being four to choose from numbered 1-4. They went from #4 being softer (less air) to #1 being the hardest (most air). When you bounced the #1 you could hear the p’ing’ or ‘ting’ sound it made from it being so tight. In stickball, I could hit that ball for two blocks in the air and it would bounce for about five more blocks! Telling my kids this seems unbelievable to them; and if you really think about it, you start to second- quess yourself about being able to hit it that far–but you know you could. I think we (ALL) were the true superheroes of NYC and the Tri-State area. Never forget where you came from is my moto!!!
I grew up in Astoria, Queens 60’s – 70’s went through countless number of spaldeens (most lost on roof of P.S. 85). Played Ace King Queen, Punchball, Stickball and Russia (Russian). Have 3 spaldeen balls a 60’s, 70’s and one of the new ones probably 90’s. Moved to Malvern, PA in ’74 and nobody knew what a spaldeen was.
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…
In Astoria, we called it Ace,King,Queen. Asses. up had to be called in the beginning. We also had rules about who chased the ball if it went into the street. Last player to touch the wall had to get the ball. Chips were often called in case the ball went down the sewer. Spaldeens were the preferred ball but sometimes we used a Pennsy Pinky. We also had a rule that if the ball hit a car after only one bounce you could hit “off the car” legally. We the “Ace” got “out” he went to the end of the line, as did anyone else who faltered. I don’t recall if only the Ace scored points but I think so. A good, low “slice” would generally take out a player. We generally used the sidewalk boxes for each players area. Sometimes we would mark it off with chalk but that usually only happened if the landlord with the sidewalk boxes chased us away!
Love this site! I grew up in Astoria, very familiar with “Last Licks” and “Chips on the Ball”. The home team, or team batting in the bottom of the inning was the team who got “Last licks”. “Chips on the Ball” meant, if the ball was lost or split ( Spaldings had way of splitting at the seams) the person who hit it had to give the guy who brought the ball money to buy a new one.
Hey, Loved playing Cracktop as a kid growing up in the Ravenswood projects on 21 st. and 35 ave. in Astoria It involved the use of small wooden tops. We would get in a circle and spin all of our tops at the same time. The first top to come to a stop on it’s side was the top that was put in the middle of our circle. Then each of us in turn would try to “Crack” the top in the middle by hitting it with our top as hard as we could as we threw it to spin it. If you hit the top in the middle on your throw and your top kept spinning, you were good till next turn. If you hit the top or missed and your top did not spin, it was your turn in the middle. But if you missed the top in the middle, as your top was spinning you could pick it up in the palm of your hand ( the top had to remain spinning all the while ) and drop it on the top in the middle, if yours kept spinning after that, you were good to go. We had hours of fun playing this game and we became quite adept at hitting and even Cracking the tops in the middle. We would show off the Paint of other tops that would rub off on ours after hitting them. We also had a name for hitting the top in the middle. I have no freakin idea where it came from, but we called it a ” Kosky ” LOL I have no clue what that means, but when we hit the top in the middle it was called a Kosky! Hope this brings back some good memories, it does for me.
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.
I lived in Astoria growing up in the lates 50’s We used Spaldings for stick ball but we also used the Spalding to play ” Strikebox”. This game featured a Concrete wall usually in a school yard with a box chalked onto it representing a strike zone.It was played with 4 player max ( 2 per side ) or just 2 players. The pitcher stood approx 50 feet from the wall and thru the Spalding and tried to get it past the hitter.As in normal baseball the batter had a chance to get 4 balls or 3 strikes. The outs per side were agreed to in advance as were the singles douobles etc. A broomstick handle was used for a bat. In 1958 a company actually came out with a nicely varnished broomstick just for us kids to play the game..