SOME STICKBALL MEMORIES – Kenneth Lowman

I have some great memories from playing stickball and here are some of them. I had some good laughs writing them, even that damn skidder that hit me. I hope the guys playing stickball today can look back in years to come and have similar stories of the game.

In 1954, the Tigers left the South Bronx for the first time to play an older team in the Bronx Park area. We had only one car that day so most of us went up by bus. We lost a double header and some of us had to walk back since we lost all our money. We walked Boston Road to Morris High School and down Trinity Avenue to PS 51. We got beat, the other team was better. However, there were a number of good stickball players in the South Bronx and we went around and got a couple of players for next week. We went back up and beat them the next two weeks and the next year also. They wouldn’t play us anymore. Walking back from Bronx Park was nothing, we were young, The real drag was why we had to walk back.

We won a game 1 to 0 in the top of the 10th inning on a home run that bounced about 15 feet fair behind first base. It was the windiest day I ever played in. The field was wide open and there was nothing to block the wind. The wind was blowing in and the two deep fielders on both teams could have sat down and watched the game since no balls could get out there. The other two outfielders were playing just behind the infield to catch the dying line drives. In the top of the 10th inning one of our guys hit a towering fly ball that stopped going forward at about second base and started back toward first base. This ball was way up there and hooking all over the place on the way down. The first baseman totally misjudged the ball and didn’t even get a hand on it. It landed fair just past first base and went up in the air about 2 and ½ stories. It was still going backward when it came down on the sidewalk and hit either a crack or a rock, shot back onto the street  past home plate and down the block. Our guy scored and there wasn’t even a play at home plate. It looked somewhat funny to see their second baseman and shortstop running after the ball from around first base and our guy running from third base to home plate. The three guys got to home plate at about the same time, but the ball was past it.

We went to play another team on their field and during practice and I was playing first base. One of their players hit a skidder that came up belt high and handcuffed me. It hit me about two inches above the belt and STUNG LIKE HELL. The ball landed in front of me and I threw it back to home plate like it was nothing. You know, that Macho crap: Like if that’s as hard as you can hit the ball then don’t even bother to run during the game. A little later I went to the outfield and looked where the ball hit me. There was a sick looking grayish white mark about an inch in diameter and a flaming bright red ring around it. It was still stinging hours later and I had a mark there for over two weeks. If I could have gotten out of the way of that skidder, I wouldn’t be writing this today.

I was watching a game around the Saint Anselm’s church area and one of the players hit a skidder that hit an oil slick in the street. Skidders come up fast, but this one was unbelievable. Only the short stop could have knocked it down and it was by him before he hardly moved. It was a home run. If you were an infielder, you would not want that ball to come straight at you.

On the Mulberry Street field in Little Italy there was a tall warehouse on the left side of the outfield. It had fire escapes on it and on the lowest level was a ladder in the horizontal position that could be lowered to the street. When you looked up through the ladder the steps were on an angle blocking a lot of the view. One of the Mott Street players hit a fly ball that was coming down along the wall toward the ladder. Because of the ladder I was only getting glimpses of the ball. When it got about fifteen feet from the ladder, I lost it and then I was holding the ball. It came through the ladder and I caught it. It wasn’t luck since I played the ball.
It probably was instinct developed over the years from fielding thousand of balls. It still seems strange even after all these years.