The Stickball Hall of Fame's 2001 Inductees
This year seven players were inducted to the Stickball Hall of Fame. They include:
Angel's main game was fast pitch. He and his friends often played this game when he was a boy in San Tuce Puero Rico. If there were many players, they'd field a full team and play like baseball. With a few players they'd reduce the numbers in the field, or use the wall as a catcher and strike zone. Any way you sliced it, with just a tennis ball and one of their mother's broomsticks they could play for hours.
Now when talking about Angel's friends and the San Tuce stickball games, it is important to note that one of the more notable players was the one and only Orlando Cepeda. As you would imagine, Orlando was as good in stickball as in baseball. If you were choosing sides, you would definitely pick Orlando first (sorry Angel).
Like many other stickball players Angel later got involved with softball and was a regular in the teams that formed from workers at the racetrack. You were allowed to bring one friend to play at a game and Angel once brought Orlando without letting on who he was (Orlando was already a professional ballplayer). The first time up, Orlando struck out, something he really hated to do. The second time up, he hit the ball out of the racetrack. Somebody then recognized him and made sure he was kicked off the team.
Being the baby of the team had some advantages. "We'd play these big money games all over Brooklyn and Manhattan where everyone was betting, except for me," Nunsy said. "When we'd win, each of the guys would give me a buck or two. That was great money for a kid, and I didn't owe anything when we lost!"
The Panthers became the Falcons and continued to play in the Sunset Park area of Brooklyn. Nunsy recalls "We had a beautiful stickball field on 51st street between 1st and 2nd Avenues. The street was lined with factories, no trees, no cars, nothing; just big walls surrounding a big field with no interruptions. Most of the money games were on Sunday or the evening after 6:00 when the drivers would leave and the streets were ours."
The Falcons represented the diverse mix of the Sunset Park neighborhood with Italian, Irish, Puerto Rico, Polish and Scandinavian players on the same team. Nunsy is hoping to re-ignite that spirit and get the team back together once again.
Arturo credits stickball as being the key experience in helping him develop his baseball skills. The following exerpts were taken from the Streetplay article on Arturo from the summer of 2000 (see full article).
Arturo recalls stickball being his main sport "I grew up playing all three kinds of stickball; pitching in, hitting by yourself and fast pitch," he said. "We even had some other interesting stickball related sports down in Puerto Rico as well."
Even simple toys were often scarce. "We didn’t have a ball most of the time, so we used other materials," Arturo said. "Sometimes we’d play with a bottle cap which would make all kinds of crazy spins. We made a game up where we crushed a can and used it as the ball. The batter would hit is and if you caught it
on a fly or a bounce, it was an out. This was a tough game because the 'balls' would get these sharp edges and cut up your hands. When I came to NY and started playing with a rubber ball, I thought, wow this is easy.”
Cherokee grew up in the Bronx on Wales Ave and 152nd st. He played with the Puerto Rican Dukes, the Sevens, and guys at PS 60 before they were called the 60 boys. Cherokee recalls "Lots of times the teams didn't have a name. You would get a group of guys who were good players together and play for money, maybe 200 to 300 a game. Once in awhile someone would run away with the money, but most of the time you got paid."
During the 70s Cherokee was part of the best pickup team in the Bronx, the Lucky 7s. He was respected as a solid line drive hitter and good fielder who was comfortable playing either hitting by yourself or pitching in. Games could be intense, Cherokee recalls. "When we played the guys from from Mott St and Paladino it would often go to $600 - 700 per game. Let me tell you, those games were rough. When you were tagged, you knew you were tagged. You'd get a real black and blue mark."
When asked about his greatest stickball moment, Cherokee recounted a game in PS 60. "We had a rule that in 9th inning, you could let anyone bat as many times as possible after two outs, even if the player just batted. One time in the 60s we were down by about 8 runs in a big money game against Sonny Lee's team from Kelly Street. I got up and placed a hit, got up again, another hit. Again, again, they had to let me keep going and I was on a total streak. All in all, I must have hit 10 times that inning. Well, we won the game and the money. Every year when I go to Old Timers day in the Bronx, the guys will still bring it up."
The Stickball Hall of Fame is sorry to inform the stickball community that Chibie Santiago recently passed away. We extend our condolences to the Santiago family and all Chibie's loved ones. The following notes capture Chibie's love of the game.
Back in the 1940s on Dawson Street in the Bronx, Chibie Santiago then a young teenager began his stickball career. Right off the top, Chibie was playing big money games; 10 cents a player. As Chibie and his friends grew so did the pot they' be playing for. And like many of the other players in the Hall of Fame, hundreds of dollars were regularly placed on a match.
Chibie was one of the games great competitors. He had power and speed. Still Chibie remains particularly proud of his fielding. In the 1980s Charlie Ballard presented Chibie with an award for being the league's the best fielding outfielder.
Chibie's biggest stickball memory occurred in Puerto Rico during the 1985 Stickball World Series. He had been scheduled to start, but unfortunately his Dad's car broke down, delaying their arrival at the game. When Chibie finally appeared it was the last inning and NY team was down 1-0. As soon as he came over to the sidelines the team manager, Pete Velez, turned to him and said, "you're up." Chibie protested, "I just got here," but Pete insisted. Pete must have known his stuff because Chibie whacked a three run homer that won the game and the World Series.
John Michael Stephens
John has continued playing with Minton's Playhouse and the Bronx Oldtimers team. Although he might not quite have the lightning speed he was known for, his outfielding is still excellent as is his hitting. His qualities as a ballplayer and support for the sport have earned him a place in the Stickball Hall of Fame.
Given the family's stickball tradition, we'll ask John if he will teach stickball to his son and make this a three generation sport?
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