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Curtis Sliwa, the 'Commissioner of Stickball'
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Commissioner Curtis Sliwa
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Origin of the Stickball Classic

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Curtis Sliwa performing his customary street clean-up after a Stickball Classic game

Curtis Sliwa is one of New York’s most vocal and well known personalities. He began his career helping clean the City’s streets of crime and refuse and now shares the limelight on WABC with Ron Kuby as a popular radio talk show host. As many of his listeners know, Curtis also devotes a considerable amount of time and energy to another one of his passions: promoting New York's traditional game of stickball.

Curtis’ official role as a stickball advocate dates back to 1993. At that time the New York Daily News launched a tough marketing campaign aimed at Newsday, a new entrant into the NYC market. Battling to hold on to their large daily readership the News highlighted its deep roots in the boroughs. In one of their most successful TV ads, the News' co-owner, Fred Drasner was shown swinging a stickball bat and hitting a ball 2 1/2 sewers (now that’s NY!). After the campaign, Curtis suggested to the News leadership that they continue with this theme and sponsor an annual stickball competition to determine the best team in the city. This gave rise to the Daily News Stickball Classic, one of stickball’s most popular events.

In 1993, another local notable, Rudolph Guiliani also successfully completed a media campaign; this one was for the position of mayor. Rudy also used the symbol of the stickball bat and his familiarity with the game to demonstrate his neighborhood roots. Curtis suggested that the mayor continue his support of the game after the election. Happy to oblige, Hizzoner suggested that Curtis accept the title as the “Commissioner of Stickball.” Perks included enabling him to speak about the game (as if Curtis needed permission) and full transportation to and from events on the NYC transit system, which Curtis refers to as the “Chug a Mug,” for $1.50, the normal cost of fare at the time. While the bennies might have a bit underwhelming, Curtis loved the official title and has used it to actively champion the virtue of the game.


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