During the late 1940’s I played stickball on Crotona Pkway, a quiet, narrow thoroughfare parallel to Southern Boulvd with its constant rush of traffic and trollycars. On one side There were large apartment buildings, “courthouses” and along the other sidewalk there were park benches, usually taken by mothers and baby carriages. The beautiful trees shading the benches were later overcome by the elm blight. Anyway, this was the scene of some happy stickball playing on the curve of Crotona Pkwy, between Bronx Park South and 181st Street.
Born & raised in the Bronx and current resident. I was born at St. Francis Hospital on St. Ann’s Avenue. I grew up near Tremont Ave & Southern Blvd area as a child. My teen years were spent on Grand Avenue off Fordham Road. My high school years and current residence is White Plains & E 233rd Street. We played alot of stickball when I grew up on Fordham Road. We’d play in the summer time on the street if we weren’t at a the Stadium sitting in the bleachers. In high school, my love for the game lessened as I found out I could croon a little bit. I met my first (late) wife singing ‘My Girl’ on the first day of school my soph year at Bronx Science (class of ’81). 15 years later after high school I wind up singing with Earl Lewis & The Channels Joe Rivera
It was probably the summer of ’70, a very hot and humid Saturday afternoon. I had just finished smoking a joint and was walking up Mott Street toward Houston Street, where I intended to walk straight down to Greenwich Village and sit in Washington Square Park for a few hours. Before I reached Houston, a car loaded with a bunch of guys slowed down and one of the guys, Mike Fink, a good friend of mine, called out to me and asked me if I wanted to go up to the Bronx to play stickball. Right behind the car was another one filled with a few more stickball players. The team from Mott Street were desperate; they were short a player, and Mike, who I had known since we were kids, was almost pleading with me to jump in and go with them. Mike Fink was an outstanding stickball player and he knew that I had a little game in me because when we were kids we would always be playing in the streets of Little Italy together. Stoopball, punchball, kick-the-can, stickball–seems we were always rounding the bases. But, that was then, and now I was about twenty and hadn’t picked up a stick in years–smoking pot and listening to the Beatles and Stones had replaced the childhood games. The truth of the matter was, Mike had invited me because absolutely no one else was around the neighborhood that Saturday afternoon. I jumped into the car and the next thing that I know is that I am in the South Bronx on Fox Street. When we had gotten out of our cars, the Puerto Rican players greeted us with handshakes and smiles. I was surprised how well players from both teams knew each other. They were even calling each other by first names. Simply put, it amazed me. The Puerto Rican team was truly happy to see us and get the afternoon rolling with some exciting stickball. Mike, our captain, knew I had always had a problem seeing and catching fly balls, so he stuck me on first base. I played a decent game, hitting the ball hard all four times and collecting two singles, but we got trounced 8-3. Early in the game a funny thing happened to me. A left-handed hitter sent a sizzling line drive off of my forehead. Man, the ball streamed at me so quickly that I don’t even remember moving my hands an inch. The ball stung me with the force of a powerful overhand punch just above my right eye. After ricochetting off my forehead, the balled ended up near home plate. I quickly chased and retrieved it and the batter wound up on second with an easy double. When I walked back to first with the ball in my hand, our second and third basemen came over to me to see if I was okay. With an angry glare, I sent both of them back to their bases before they even got close to me. Their were hundreds of fans lining up both sides of the streets, standing on fire-escapes, and looking out of windows. And, everyone of them knew I must have been aching from the shot I took, but I did not even go as far as touching or rubbing my forehead. I went back to first and waited for the next batter to hit as though nothing had happened. By now, it was very humid and hot, so I took off my t-shirt and tied a red bandana around my forehead to keep the sweat from dripping into my eyes. Then, after the inning was over, and I came up to bat, so many spectators watching the game began chanting at me: “Com’on Samson, let’s see if you could hit.” I lined a wicked singled past first base, and for the remainder of the day, each time I stepped to the plate to bat, everyone watching the game would chant at me: “Samson, Samson, Com’on, Samson hit the ball.” (I had shoulder length hair at the time) In the second game, we were leading 3-0 in the eight inning when an argument broke out and the Puerto Rican team quit. Our guys must have lost about $400 the first game and we scrapped up about $350 for the second. When the game broke up, we split up our money. I was happy to get my $10 back. That second game, I went 2 for 3 with a single and a double. My 2-game totals were 4 for 7 (3 singles and a double), hitting the ball hard six times and dribbling out once. As we rode back to Manhattan, I learned that the Saturday before on Mulberry Street, the Italians home field, the Italian squad quit on the Puerto Rican team, which was way ahead in that contest late in the game. So, that is why the Puerto Rican team quit on us; they got even. It turned out to be tragic because never again would these two teams play each other. True, all of these guys were stickball players, some were great ones, but even more than just ballplayers, these guys were diplomats. Those days–the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s–weren’t the best times for Puerto Ricans and Italians. But, by going into each other’s neighborhoods, which were considered hostile back then, these guys did their best to smooth the relationship between both etchnic groups. They were more than just stickball players–they were diplomats. And, it was a shame that the rivalry between some mighty big men ended on such a sour note. Anyhow, I tip my cap to you athletes and peace-makers from both neighborhoods. You truly deserve it! God bless!!
Hello to all the Bronxites. I grew up in the Bronx from the 60’s to now. My parents had moved from Mount Vernon to Pelham Parkway to get away from crime and a better life. I hung out on Pelham Parkway North, South, Lydig Avenue, and the Allerton Avenue area. There were alot of great times, memories, and sometimes mischief. What changes over the past 40 years as I am still here. Anyone who wants to drop a line please do so.
I grew up in the South Bronx on E 142nd between Willis and Third Ave, back in the early 50s. I was the smallest kid on the block. Whenever we played stickball, the ball would inevitably end up going downhill into the sewer on Third Ave. The big kids would remove the grating, give me a coat hanger with a loop at the end of it and lower me down head first holding me by the ankles. I’d reach down with the coat hanger get it under the ball, scoop it up and toss it to the guys. Sometimes there would be other balls in there for awhile. you could tell because the submerged half would be a different color than the top. This was considered a real good thing by the guys cause we wouldn’t have to go and get 10 cents for a ball. My mom didn’t like it cause I’d come home smelling likt the sewer. One time when I was about 8 or 9 she really got disgusted, she stripped me down, threw me in the tub and beat the sh** out of me while scrubbing me down and yelling. Even that didn’t stop me. Being part of the boys was more important.
I grew up in the South Bronx in the 60’s and we used to call this game “skellzies”. We spent many hot summer days avoiding the cars while we laid on the ground trying to calculate each shot carefully. We used whatever we could get our hands on be it soda bottle caps and liquor bottle caps which seemed to be plentiful on some streets back then. We also used to trim the top rim of the soda bottles by gradually scraping it on the sidewalk curb. These glass pieces worked great because they seemed to glide such a long distance instead of the cumbersome caps we used to use. Yet, “skellzies” also had a killer instinct quality to the game. You see the only way to stop someone from beating you, if you could help it, was to blast their pieces into kingdom come. This was easily acomplished when someone in my class brought a bottle opener to school and proceeded to fiddle around with the metal bottom glide of a school desk. When he succeeded, we ran out of the classroom, out of the building and followed him around the block. He immediately sat on the curb and pulled out of his pocket a popsicle stick. Then he began to dig deep into the tar on the street. He filled his metal glide piece with the tar. Once completed, he challenged us to a game of “skellzies”. We all gathered together in anticipation of what this “new” challenger piece could do. As we began play, it became evident what this metal glide piece could do. It could slide long distances like the glass pieces yet it was durable. But most of all it was dominating. He sent all of the challenger’s pieces into kingdom come. They went flying across the street and under parked cars. As for the glass pieces, you guessed it! They were smashed into smithereens. I mean it was ugly!!! The replacement bottle caps did not fare well either. The “Dominator” was born!!! Of course, you all know the rest of the story. Shortly after the “Dominator victory”, all the desks at school had no metal glide bottoms. This caused such a scandal that the whole school had detention for a week. Ahhh, but it was worth it!! The sight of game pieces flying all about as we challenged our neighbors in “skeelzies” and coming away with the spoils of war, was and still is a glorious memory today. Thanks for bringing your website to us all.
I grew up on the corner of 166th Street and Sheridan Avenue, across the street from P.S. 90. (90 Bronx, the best and finest, hail to dear 90). I wouldn’t trade anything for being brought up there until I went in the service in 1951, but I wouldn’t move back for anything as well. 35 years in South Carolina has spoiled me but good.
I lived on Westchester/Bryant Aves. The building was huge with 3 entrances surrounding a beautiful courtyard. I grew up there from birth (1945) to age 16 (1961). It was a pretty safe neighborhood until around the time my family moved to Queens. I attended PS 75, JrHS 60, and James Monroe HS. I used to love to walk to Southern Blvd. up to Hunt’s Point. I remember getting on the bus and going to the 3rd Avenue Alexander’s as well as going to the Fordham area. We couldn’t afford a bike and I remember renting one for the day every Saturday. All my relatives lived in the Bronx and it was a great place to grow up.
Remember the guy who would walk around with an “enormous” bundle on his back yelling, “I Buy Old Clothes”. This was in the South Bronx circa 1950’s
I grew up on 181st between Vyse and Bryant in the Bronx. (right around the corner from the Bronx Zoo-South enterance “West Farms Square”) We called it skully. Had to go 1-13 and around the center and back down to become a killer. If you ended up in the sections around 13 you were stuck till someone hit you out. We all had different size caps filled with wax. When it rained we played on the linoleum in my bedroom (6 story walk up) that had flowers located in the in the shape of the “skully”. I am now a Phys Ed teacher in Phoenix and we play skully, stickball, one wall handball, off the curb, punch ball and Johnny on the Pony. The kids love thses games and I really enjoy the memories while playing with them.