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…
Greetings, Streetplayers. I’m part of a group that is setting up a “play street” in Jackson Heights, Queens. We’re making one block of 78th Street (next to Travers Park) car-free every Sunday between now and Thanksgiving. Over the long run, we’re very interested in exploring ways to promote traditional street games on our play street. (In the near-term, the population of kids in the area is largely a bit too young for most of these games). We’d also like to find ways to demonstrate that a play street isn’t just for kids, perhaps by organizing an adult stickball game, or other such event. We’d like to invite this community over to play with us, and organize or demonstrate street games on our block. If you’re interested, please contact us at 78thplaystreet [at] gmail [dot] com Thank you!
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 grew up in Queens (Sunnyside, then Jackson Heights). It was always a “sliding pond.” When there was a parkie at the school playground (PS 149)we would get a Nok-Hockey set. I bought one for my oldest son some years back and we still have it in the basement and play it occasionally. The pucks are now plastic instead of wood. No splinters.
Another street ball game. Where I grew up in Jackson Heights, Queens we used to go to the playground behind my elementary school (P.S. 149 for those in the know). There was a park house that was the home of the “parkie” who was supposed to give out equipment and keep everyone from destroying the playground. His “house” had a slanted roof of all sides. We would stand underneath it and throw the ball up onto the roof, usually at an angle and with some spin. The other player had to catch it on a fly off the roof. If he didn’t it was a single-double-triple-homerun depending on how many bounces. It wasn’t as easy as you would think, especially when the ball landed on the cobblestones and would shoot off into the monkey bars. We could play this, and all the other pink ball games, for hours.
Hi – I grew up in Jackson Heights, Queens and played all of the street games everyone else did: Handball, stickball, stoop ball, Chinese handball, boxball, single-double-triple, slapball, errors, etc. Pensie Pinkies definitely were higher bouncers than Spaldeens and easier on the hand for both punchball and handball, especially on cold days. I haven’t seen a Pensie Pinkie in maybe 30 years, but I recently bought a “Spalding” at a Modell’s where I now live in Fairfax County, VA. It cost $1.99 – a far cry from the 15 cents or so when I was a kid, but probably equivalent with 35-40 years of inflation. Anyway, I got to play some fungo stickball with my 10 year old son today, and also introduced him to boxball. I have a stickball bat I bought about 10 years ago. If anyone knows where you can currently get a Pensie Pinkie, let me know. It was great finding this site.
Hi, Jerry. I grew up not far from Jackson Heights. We played single, double, triple, which sounds a lot like your Stonewall Jackson (probably named after your neighborhood, no?). Anyway, did you really have a batter, or was the “batter” actually the person who hit the ball against the wall?
I grew up in Jackson Heights. We played a game in the schoolyard of P.S.69Q. We called it “Stonewall Jackson.” Everyone faced the handball wall. The ball was pitched against the wall and the batter had to hit the wall first. Then depending on how far the ball traveled, the hit was determined. Catching the ball on a fly was out. I mentioned this game to a lot of guys who grew up in NY and no one ever heard of it. Did you?