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Rookies edge out Sun Devils to take 2004 Stickball World Series

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The Puerto Rico Rookies, winners of the 2004 Stickball World Series
The Puerto Rico Rookies won the 2004 Stickball World Series, defeating the Sun Devils 3-2 in the final game. While many of the players were important contributors to the Rookies victory, Ruben Garcia was named as the tournament’s most valuable player for his overall play both in the field and at the plate. At the age of 14, Garcia was the youngest player ever to be awarded the MVP at a major stickball tournament.

The World Series, a full three-day affair, was held during the July 4th weekend in the Pleasantville section of Manhattan. With the exception of a brief shower on the final day, the holiday weekend was warm and clear, perfect stickball weather. Ten teams participated, spirits were high and the games were marked by strong and competitive play.

Moe Marrero, the commissioner of the East Harlem Stickball League and one of the organizers of the tournament was impressed with the Rookies' spirit. "The Rookies really came to play," he said. "They brought a full team and had dozens of fans cheering for them on the sidelines too. The players were sharp and were all over the ball at bat and in the field. I give them a lot of credit."

Pitching In

The Stickball World Series is perhaps the only major stickball event that relies solely on the ‘pitching in” format. While the game is generally similar to the “hitting by yourself” style, there are some important differences. Balls are pitched in on a bounce to the hitter, who gets only one swing in which to put it in play. Pitchers are supposed to simply toss the ball, but they invariably try to add a spin to it to make it more difficult to hit. A hitter can choose to wait for the perfect pitch and let a number of pitches go by. While most will hit the ball after several throws, some batters wait it out as long as possible in order to disrupt the attention of the opponents. This tends to make the game take longer, a negative consequence in the opinion of some of the game's detractors.

However, pitching in is the main style of play for the Manhattan league and the favorite style for most of the old timers. Proponents like the fact that players can take leads off the bag, run on the pitch or be picked off if the pitcher or catcher throws to first base. As Charlie Ballard one of the games old timers said, "Pitching in is the true game of stickball. This is the style that the big money games were played in the 1940s and 50s." Charlie and the old timers who played back in stickball’s golden age are known to add a bit of exaggeration to a particular game, but they've got clear memory of the style and intensity of play and they're glad to see it preserved here in East Harlem.

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