IS IT STICKBALL SEASON YET?

It’s heading toward the middle of June, the heart of baseball’s season. The Red Sox are in last place — I think. The Rays and the Sox have been duking it out for bottom of the Eastern Division all year. Garry would normally be obsessively glued to the television, but it’s a bad year. Very bad, so he has only been watching pieces of games. It’s less painful that way.

The sportscasters were talking about somebody getting stuck with an error because he couldn’t catch a ball on a bad bounce and how hard it is to catch them when they take an unpredictable bounce.

Spalding Hi-Bounce BallWhich got me to thinking about stickball. These guys are paid gazillions to play professional baseball. They have parks with groundskeepers, bases, uniforms, baseballs and even bats! How would they do without all that fancy stuff, huh? We didn’t have any of that. No siree.

We had old broomsticks and pink rubber Spalding balls. The broomsticks were worn out. If it was any good, your mother was using it and it had a broom attached. Try to take that broomstick and she’ll beat you with it. The ball? Half the time, they weren’t even round, just lumps of old pink rubber which had once, long in the past, been balls.

In hometown stickball, assuming you actually hit it (dubious), you had no way to predict where it would go. All bounces were bad. Crazy. The bases were “the red car over there” and “the big maple tree in front of Bobby’s house” and everyone agreed the manhole cover was home because it was more or less in the middle of the road. Third was the drainage grate over the sewer

It left the game wide open for serious disputes about fair versus foul. The team who was most vigorous in pursuing fairness or foulness got the call, especially since we were our own umpires and decisions were voted on (but the bigger team always won).

Stickball-Brooklyn-1989-8000-copy
Photo credit: mattweberphotos.com

If those super highly paid athletes had to play stickball, how well do you think they’d do? I’d just like to see those tough major leaguers playing stickball with a worn-out broomstick and an old pink Spalding ball bouncing all over the place.

That would teach them humility in a hurry.

23 thoughts on “IS IT STICKBALL SEASON YET?”

  1. The Red Sox are not in last place…at least not yet. But that’s only because the Rays are having an even worse season, if that’s possible.

    Your nostalgic look back at stick ball brought back fond memories of our neighborhood street “baseball” games and they were pretty much as you described. One of my most painful memories – literally – of stick ball was when I was going after a fly ball, looking up at it as it started its descent, not paying too much attention to where I was going, and running into the tail fin of a 1957 Cadillac with my groin. I still double over whenever I think about it.

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    1. I have hilarious memories of stickball. The field was vaguely defined, the bases completely off target, the arguments about fair or foul fierce AND absurd 🙂 I never ran into a tail fin, but I certainly fell on my face often enough. Lots of skinned knees, twisted ankles, wrenched shoulders. Which was no big deal at the time because kids bounce, unlike these days when I just go splat. Stickball makes up some of the more positive memories of kidhood.

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  2. I never got to play true blue stickball when I was a kid, but we had whiffleball! A good pitcher could make that holey, plastic ball do some crazy things that your skinny yellow bat never had a chance to touch…

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    1. I think you had to live in the city to play real stickball. We didn’t have a lot of toys except the everyone had a bicycle. But we had the equivalent of child dog-robbers who could scrounge up the stuff for a game. I don’t think anyone owned a real softball, mitt or bat. It wasn’t poverty (not everyone was poor, though some were), but there were no little league teams, no lots on which you could really play softball and I guess our parents didn’t see the point of spending the money. I always thought whiffleball looked like great fun. We just didn’t have the kind of yards in which you could play it. Also, I think it hadn’t been invented yet.

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  3. This reminded me of “punchball” that we played with a red rubber ball larger than the spalding-same creative bases using trees and cars, played when we weren’t skate boarding down the hill we lived on – thanks for the memory!

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    1. Yup. Punchball, stoop ball … we had easily a dozen games all dependent on having a pink rubber ball … but stickball was more complex because you needed a team, something like a “field,” AND a broomstick! I actually saw a “stickball set” at Walmart. Have we fallen so far that kids cannot do ANYTHING if they don’t get it in a package from a store?

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          1. It was invented in 1953 and become popular in the 1960s. In 1960, I started High School. I graduated in 1963, graduated college in 1967 (got married in 1965) and was a mother by 1969. No wiffle ball in the 1950s.

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            1. I remember my childhood better than I remember what happened yesterday. It’s the curse of age. And yes, not only am I a little older than you, but I was pushed through school at supersonic speed, so I was married and a mother when most people were just starting to seriously date.

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