By the middle of 1955 the Tigers had become a pretty good stickball team, but were one player away from being in the class of the top teams in the city. In early 1956 we got that player. His name was Biggie. We were practicing in PS 51 when two guys walked into the schoolyard. One of them asked if he could take a couple of swings. He hit the ball exceptionally hard. He didn’t play for any team and agreed to play for us. Now we could go down to Manhattan and play the best teams.
The first team we played was Pleasant Avenue. Home plate was by 120th street and Biggie hit a ball almost to 118th Street. The ball was way over the deep fielders head and he didn’t come close to catching up to it. Pleasant Avenue looks a lot different today than when we played there, but the distance between 120th and 118th street is still the same.
Next, we went down to Little Italy to play the Mott Street team. On the left side of the outfield on Mulberry Street was a tall warehouse with a water tank on it. Biggie hit a ball over the water tank for a home run. When the game was over, the Mott Street players told us that only their best hitters had hit the water tank and no one had ever hit a ball over it. The warehouse was called the Puck Building and I believe it is still there. If anyone is in the area, go to Prince Street where home plate was and look up at that building. If the water tank is not there, add about fifteen feet to its height. Biggie hit the ball over it with a lot to spare. It’s still hard to imagine a ball that high at that distance and going that fast. It’s been a long time, but I’m quite sure that ball was a chop. Only a chop could move like that.
We were playing around 134th Street a few blocks off of Third Avenue. Biggie hit a low ground ball that went over second base, past the two short outfielders, the next fielder and the deep fielder stopped it. The ball had to have a ton of top spin to go that fast. It didn’t start to slow down until it got into the outfield even after bouncing a number of times on the street.
I think Biggie was a softball or baseball player. If he had been a stickball player, someone, somewhere in the stickball world would have known of him, but no one did. He just hit too hard to be unknown. If you could go back to 1956 and see Biggie get all of the ball for the first time, you would say just about what everyone else said. Holy s..t! Can this guy hit hard.
The next story will be on Vinnie Head of Mott Street.