The "Stickball Originals" Series – Part 4

Old Time Stickball Hitters Vs Today’s Hitters

Vido thought it would be interesting to have a story comparing the players from my time to that of today. He asked if I could write it. At first I didn’t want to write it since I knew it would piss off a lot of guys when I told you we were better.  But when I thought about it and the high probability that most of the old timers will be gone in about ten years, I decided to write it even though I have a limited knowledge of modern day stickball. I have not seen a modern stickball game, but I have seen Bragging Rights, the Home Videos on the web and the pictures on the NYESL web site.  A friend of mine sent me a Video of a game on Stickball Boulevard and I am going to refer to that. I believe the game on the video was a championship game since there was a large number of people watching, grandstands on both sides of the street and after the game there was music, dancing and food. From the video, I could not tell much about the fielding, but the overall hitting was not on par with that of years ago. What follows is not meant to be critical of modern day stickball, but since I told you we were better, I will tell you why.

I don’t know if anyone has ever written the Theory-of-Good-Stickball-Hitting, but if they did, it probably goes something like the following.
o  Throw the ball out and walk into it
o  Have the ball at the right height so the bat is level when the ball is hit
o  Place the ball
o  Know how to swing up, straight or slightly down on the ball
Lets take these one at a time

Throw the ball out and walk into it

What I saw on the video was a lot of guys who looked like they had learned to hit by playing baseball or softball. They didn’t walk into the ball and hit the ball too low. Some of them threw the ball up three or four times before they swung at it. They looked like they were standing in a batters box. There is a big difference in hitting in baseball or softball and hitting in stickball. In baseball or softball you hit the ball where it is pitched, you have no control over it. In stickball you hit the ball where you want it to be when you swing, you control it. You do this by throwing the ball out and walking into it. You don’t even have to think about it, you will automatically position yourself so the ball is where you want it to be when you hit it. Those guys that threw the ball up three or four times were trying to get the ball to be where they wanted it. This is not easy to do. In hitting-on-a-pitch stickball, you will see a hitter walking into the ball and at other times running into it. He is positioning himself so the ball is where he wants it to be when he swings at it.

Have the ball at the right height so the bat is level when the ball is hit

When you hit the ball, you want it to be at a height somewhere between the belt and  the letters. If you do this, the bat will be level when you hit the ball and you will cut down on the number of pop-ups, ground balls and strikeouts. In the video, too many of the guys hit the ball too low.

Place the ball

There are times when you have to hit the ball to a certain part of the field. A fly ball to bring in a run, a ground ball to advance a runner etc. It didn’t look like the guys in the video could do this well.

Know how to swing up, straight or slightly down on the ball


Years ago, you had to be able to do this since the type of hitting you did depended on the field you were playing on. If a building was a home run, you swing up. If the hits were over first or third base you swung straight and if there was nothing to hit the ball off of, you swung down and hard. Take those trees away on Stickball Boulevard and those slapped line drives are an easy out. With those trees gone, you would have to place the ball and hit down and hard. I don’t think many of the hitters on the video could do this.

Good hitting in stickball is not as easy as it looks. I know there are guys playing today that could have played on the best teams years ago, but it is in the overall team hitting where we were better. An average hitter on a top tier team would be a star on a second or third tier team. From the video, the two teams looked like a second tier team of years ago.

Summary

Neither of the two teams in the video could have beaten a good South Bronx team of the 1950’s. We were just too good. I guess this write up will probably piss off about half the stickball players in the world, especially after saying the two teams looked like a second tier team of years ago. Remember, you asked for the comparison. It would be interesting  to see a 2010 Theory-of-Good-Stickball-Hitting.
Whether or not we were better makes no difference, stickball is a great game. I am glad you are organized, have a league, have a field, have sponsors, and have a great time on Sundays. When I played, stickball was not only a great game, but it also provided a lot of entertainment for a lot of people who couldn’t afford much. Have a great stickball season. Until the next story, take it easy.

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Not sure about you guys…but that sounds a challenge to me! If you feel like writing a story to reply to Kenny, send an email to bxstickball@gmail.com