Does anybody remember their dad in the 60s having a drawing (my dad’s was in his office in the store we owned). It was a guy trying to flush himself down the toilet (his head was sticking out of the bowl and his hand was on the flusher) and the caption underneath said “Goodbye Cruel World”? I thought every 60s dad had one of these!
My Dad, Vito Giannone, I’m sure was one of the greatest stickball players ever in his prime, and definitely if measured by his love of the game. He lived stickball, looked forward to it all week, and played all day Sunday. It keep him going, it was when he was his happiest. We flew to Puerto Rico for the stickball championship one year and I realized what a true family all of the players were. My Dad passed away a few years ago after an illness that took his sight and his hearing . . . but through it all he still loved to clench that stickball bat which we kept by his bedside. I would love to hear any memories you have of my Dad. I miss him a lot, and the stories he told over and over about the game he loved and the people he came to regard as family. My Dad was the nicest man I ever knew, he went straight to heaven and did not have to stop along the way, and he’s already started a stickball team up there . . . thank you, ginagiannone [at] aol [dot] com
Yeah, I remember dear old Dad. He loved to play the horses…in fact, he loved to wager on anything. Problem was, he wagered TOO much and it cost him his life. Well, that’s another story for another day and another topic (perhaps, “My Father was a Bookie, what was yours?”). Oh yeah, the story. One late August night, back in 1958, my father took me to a Yankees – Senators game at the stadium. For some reason, unknown to a 5 year old boy, he decided to pay for a taxi as the transportation to and from the Bronx (maybe the car was repossesed? We lived in Forest Hills, Queens). Anyway, I don’t recall too much about the game but I sure as hell recall what happened afterwards. The return taxi was summoned for the trip back home and some where along the line, maybe even towards the end of the game, it started raining…pouring…heavy! The cabbie wheeled the taxi into a gas station in order to refill the tank. I remember the back door opening and the water on the ground rising above my shoes. We raced/splashed/slid into the waiting room whilst the cab was re-fueled. My dad went off to another room…more than likely to use the pay phone to call…yup…his book. So I waited. And waited. The rain as so thick, I could barely see out the window to the gas pumps straight ahead. Still waiting. Finally, an attendant came in and asked me whom I belonged to. “My dad.” I replied. “And he’s in the taxi outside that’s getting gas.” “There’s no taxi out there now,” said the attendant. I think I started crying but I was too traumatized to remember. Still am. Turns out, he left me there…plum forgot about me…probably pre-occupied with his wagering. I find out later, he had gone 3 or 4 blocks before the cabbie asked about his son. Well, they did come back for me so all’s well that ends well, right? Sure it is.
My dad immigrated as a farm boy from Patillas PR in the early 1920s’ and saw Babe Ruth and Murderers’ row play in Yankee stadium. Dads’ a magnetic and fun personality who could always make us laugh. He’s 87 now still smokes those huge cigars and going strong. He was an ex-boxer and a welterweight along with my uncle who went professional. He boxed “two a days” in three round tournaments for the diamond gloves in ebbetts field and the golden gloves in madison square garden and got his picture in the Daily News more than once. In the Bronx growing up, me and my four brothers tried his patience more than we should have. My Dad never hit us kids and was a strong but gentle spirit who used humor to win you over and just cracked us up..
My father never raised his voice and I cannot remember him ever hitting “us kids”. I do remember his strong work worn hands. If we were misbehaving he would grip our leg or arm just above the knee or elbow joint. If we didn’t stop what ever we were doing he would whisper in our ear “Stop” or “Enough”. If that didnt work he’d say it again while slowly ratcheting in his fingers on our leg or arm. It worked every time, disturbed no one and earned the respect and love of all of “us kids” forever.
This past Father’s Day I called my dad in Arroyo, PR and thanked him for teaching me how to switch-hit, hit the cutoff man (although I wound up being a second baseman), how to run the bases and I always remember him telling me “never go down looking, take a cut if you’re going to make an out”. My friends all learned something from dad and applied it to their “game”. My dad played stickball as a teenager in “El Barrio” on East 103 Street and Lexington Ave, the HILL. He later played for “Los Astros” softball team in the Bronx in the early 1970’s as their 3rd baseman at Starlite Park .
Since streetplay is mainly centered around sports, I would just like to relate how great a baseball / softball player my Dad was. His name was Howard Friedman and he played on the baseball team at CCNY in the early 30s. He starred as a center-fielder, batted .310 over 3 seasons and was All-City. He had a beautiful, level left-handed swing. While I never saw him play regular baseball, we played on the same softball team when I was a teenager in the 50s. He could hit 300 feet line drives with a mushy softball even when he was older and could barely run the bases. While I never even came close to being as good as he was, he did teach me how to hit, which I put to good use playing not only softball (which I still do), but stickball as a kid in Queens. Jay Friedman Decatur GA
I live in Alpine but grew up in NY in a place called Spanish Harlem. I can remember as a little girl going into other neighborhoods to watch my father and his buddies challenge other teams. Most of the games were played on Sundays and the people would all take the cars off the block so the guys could play. I was Daddy’s girl and also the son he never had. Most of the games were played for big money, each man putting up a certain amount. My favorite place was Little Italy. They played right on Mott and Hester Street and I remember having a huge crush on a player from the other team. I was all of 8 years old. Those were the good old days. People would be hanging ot windows and families would be on their fire escapes with salami sandwiches to cheer their teams on. Win or lose, everyone had a good time and never did I witness any fights or hard feelings. I was always proud of Daddy and even though he is to old for stickball I’m still proud to be his little girl.