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NY Daily News Stickball Classic - Finals
The Gold Repeat as Stickball Classic Champions
The competitors in this year’s Stickball Classic Finals had to face more than the usual share of obstacles. As usual, the Brooklyn Dodger Sym-phony band was there, but they sounded particularly bad on this autumn day. The weather was rough, with the wind blowing in from the outfield, making it impossible to get distance on the ball. The sun was directly behind the hitter, glaring down into the fielders’s eyes, turning high flies into blinding experiences. Finally, the street was littered with piles of trash too bulky for an ad-hoc clean and removal attempt. Combined with the cars in the outfield and the barbed wire fence along the sides, this was without a doubt the worst conditioned field we’ve seen in the entire history of the Stickball Classic.
Aside from these distractions, the level of play was fairly high. While it came as no surprise that The Gold, the sports best team, walked away with the championship, it was noteworthy that two other teams, the Fourth Street Boys and the Ozone Park Warriors were able to battle toe to toe, against their more established competitors (see photos from the Finals)..
Rocking the microphone, Curtis Sliwa, played up the team rivalries throughout the first game, emphasing the grudge match feature of the match-up between the Ozone Park Warriors and Fourth Street Boys. Back in late August the Fourth Street Boys had easily defeated the Warriors in Ozone Park (the team was called Hush-Hush on that occasion) to take the Queens title. However, instead of feeling despondent at their whooping, the group had gathered together some additional young talent and continued practicing. A month after their initial defeat, the Warriors played competitively in the Brooklyn competition and moved into the finals (officially the Warriors represented Staten Island and the Brooklyn Knights were awarded the Brooklyn Borough Title).
The Fourth Street Boys, a close knit group of friends who grew up in the Lower East Side of Manhattan were relaxed and excited to play. They’ve appeared in the Stickball Classic in the past, winning the Queens competition and seemed poised to move into the semi-finals after taking 2-0 lead with a fifth inning rally. However, in the sixth inning, combining several sharply hit balls and aggressive base-running, the Warriors exploded for three runs to take a 3-2 lead. They held on, avenging their earlier defeat and advancing in the competition.
With five teams entering the playoffs, the top seeds, the Gold and Brooklyn Knights, flipped a coin to determine who would get the initial bye. Losing the toss, the Gold had to play the other established team, the Manhattan Old Timers. Taking advantage of the ‘no man’s zone” in left field and the blinding sun, the Gold put up three runs which was more than they would need to move into the finals with a 3-0 victory.
The big surprise of the day was clearly in the match between Ozone Park and the Brooklyn Knights. The Knights had handily beaten the Warriors in the Brooklyn competition less than a month. Team captain, Albert Colon Sr’s antics, which resulted in Curtis referring to him as “Mr. Dementia,” probably encouraged his players to consider their opponents lightly. However, this was an improving Warrior team. After scoring a run to take the lead in the third inning, the Warriors stingy defense did not allow the Knights to mount a threat. With their offense stymied and opposition captain John Francesi counting down the number of outs remaining, the Brooklyn Knights chances ticked away. The Ozone Park Warriors surprised all and advanced to play the Gold in the Finals.
Fresh from their Columbus Day tournament victory and their repeat as
winners in the NY Emperors League season, the Gold were confident of their
abilities. However, they were not apt to make the same mistake that the
Knights had just done. With sharp hitting, aggressive baserunning and
the ability to opportunistically exploit the Warriors confusion in the
field, the Gold quickly chalked up three runs. It was all that would be
needed for the Gold to hand in a 3-1 victory in the 2003 finals and repeat
as champions in the NYC Stickball Classic.
Click for bigger picture
A special thanks to the Daily News
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