The Stickball Hall of Fame's 2003 Inductees
This year six players were inducted to the Stickball Hall of Fame. They include:
"We go down there a lot," Bobby said, "but the tournaments are the best. I get to see so many old friends who I grew up with that now live in Florida, Puerto Rico or San Diego. It's a gathering of the whole community."
Born in Manhattan in the 1934, Bobby's family moved up to Union and 160th in the Bronx by the time he was eight years old. It was here that he started playing with the Cavaliers and later with the Lucky Sevens. "We were just some poor kids out in the streets back then, playing stickball or baseball," he recounts . "We'd make gloves out of cardboard cups and cardboard backing that you got from the Chinese laundry. I remember my father buying me my first real glove father in a pawnshop for $2 so I could go play hardball in Crotona Park."
Bobby continued playing baseball in the service. "I was on the Tenth Division's team in during the mid fifties. We'd play 3 or 4 times a week during the summer months against other teams based in Germany. Each Army division had a team and there were also teams from the other services. There were some good ballplayers, many who played in college, a couple who had even been in the pros."
After the service Bobby connected back with Wally Torres and the other guys from the Luck Sevens. He would occasionally join them for a game of stickball, but his main focus at that point was softball. When they started the Emperors league it was just about the time that Bobby was recuperating from triple bypass surgery. Bobby recalls "At that point I knew my softball days were over but I still wanted to do something. When I attended the Memorial Day Stickball tournament and got to hang out with some of the guys who came in from Florida and Puerto Rico it just felt great. As I recuperated, I got back into the game. Over the next few years I played with different teams in the league including Coors the Emperors, Silver Bullets."
Bobby explains "I finally had to stop playing a couple of years
ago because I really couldn't run. Now I come down, to watch the games,
cheer the kids on and take a couple of swings. Even though I'm not playing
anymore, I still have a good time with it. And it's the people that make
Raul "Cubano" Delgado
After relocating to southern Florida in 1970, Raul and several other expatriate New Yorkers began to hold games in the sunny streets of Miami. He was instrumental in the creation of the Miami USA Stickball Corporation and the Florida Sunshine Stickball League. Raul also helped organize events to benefit local charities in Florida, among them the Spina Bifida Association of Miami for which he organized a stickball competition between the Miami USA Stickball team and the University of Miami Baseball team.
Raul organized the annual springtime Old Timers Stickball Tournament in South Florida, as well an annual mini tournament in the month of November. Known as the "Turkey Bowl," players and their families attend to play some good old-fashioned stickball followed by a good old-fashioned Thanksgiving feast. The sharing of the food and play compliments the sharing of stories by this close-knit community.
Raul left us unexpectedly and perhaps a little too soon at the age of
63 in July 2000. The outpouring of affection at his funeral clearly demonstrated
how many lives he had touched. In addition, Raul succeeded in passing
his love of the game and his interest in continuing the tradition to his
son Gregg who currently plays in the North Miami area.
David Diaz is an easily recognizable and highly regarded figure to many New Yorkers for his work as a writer, correspondent and anchor on the TV news. David has received two Sigma Delta Chi Awards for outstanding documentaries, four Emmy Awards and numerous citations from professional and civic organizations for his reporting. Along with his many notable accomplishments, we are happy to add his induction to the stickball Hall of Fame. While this might not be quite as prestigious as some of his other achievements, it represents an important aspect of his lifetime experience.
"I grew up playing all of the common street games of that period like curball, stoopball, and skelly," he said. "As I became a young teenager I was able to move up to the next level and join the stickball games. Depending on the number of guys and availability of fields we'd decide our game. If we were in the street, we'd play hitting by yourself or single bounce pitching. Sometimes we'd go to the school yard for fast pitch against a box on the wall."
"In the summer we'd play all day. During the school year we'd play after school until it got dark. I still have good night time and peripheral vision and I wonder if it wasn't due to learning to pick out the ball during those evening games."
When David was 12, his family moved up to 172nd street in the Washington Heights area of Manhattan. His father, a serious Giants fan, fit right in with the neighborhood that was just a stone's throw from the Polo Grounds. David recalls "Willie Mays bought a house for his Dad, on 168th street between Amsterdam and Audubon. Every once in awhile Willie would come out on the street where we kids were playing and take some swings. He could kill the ball, but I remember him missing as many as he'd hit. At each swing you'd hear a chorus of ooohs and aaahs. The kids loved it, but the adults were worried that he might hurt his shoulder taking those big cuts against the light rubber ball. We'd beg him to stay, they'd try to get him off the field."
David played on his high school's baseball and football team and continued participating in various sports in college and beyond. But when he returned to stickball in the early 80s, it was in his role as a reporter, not a player.
"I did a program about the 111th street Old Timers Day while working on 'Visiones,' a show on Channel 4 oriented to the Latino community. In addition to featuring the stickball game, we discussed the role the sport played in bringing people together and building community. This was a very popular piece and it helped focus additional media coverage on the sport."
David knew Carlos Diaz, president of the Stickball Hall of Fame and a community activist in East Harlem and was kept informed about the major tournaments regularly held throughout the country. "Charlie asked me to do a video about the 2000 Stickball World Series in order to help publicize the event and draw sponsorship. We did a good piece and even used some of the footage of Mays playing out in the street. I think it was the same block we used to play on when we were kids."
Sometimes it just seems to work out that a long journey brings us back to where we began. David, welcome to the Stickball Hall of Fame.
John Franco - "Johnny Power House"
He began playing ball at an early age. "I started playing at 10 and being big for my age, within a couple of years I was playing for the Junior Puerto Rican Dukes. Later I played for the senior team and was privileged to be teammates with some of the legends of the time like Big Cherokee, Baron, Little Cherokee, Indio and my brother Hector. During this period I earned my nickname Johnny Power House."
John kept playing stickball with the Dukes until he went to the Army during the Korean conflict. He recalls "I didn't play much stickball again until the 80s, instead facing a more difficult challenge, the war against substance abuse. In 1986, I joined the Emperors stickball league and later became a co-founder of the Latin Dukes, a great team and one of the pillars of the game."
John hasn't played stickball in the last couple of years, though he is still active in managing softball and basketball teams that play throughout the city. "I will always consider my experiences of stickball to have helped me to succeed. It is an important part of my life and culture, something I have always been proud of."
Carlos 'Speedy' Lopez
"We were good and would mainly play against other teams in the neighborhood," Carlos recalls." I'd usually bat first or second because I got on base a lot. I'd always be moving full speed and would try to stretch things out. If I hit a single, I'd go for two, a double, I'd be ready to go to third. That's how I got my nickname 'Speedy'."
"One time back in the 60s when we were playing a game on 106th street, I hit a ground ball to the pitcher Candido. I hustled down the line at full speed and slammed into a no parking sign located right behind 1st base. I was in a daze, but I remember Candido picking me up and helping me into the ambulance. I broke my collarbone, but after it healed, I was able to play and I still hustled."
In 1989 Carlos relocated with his wife and daughter to Florida and played with the Deltona Rockets and Florida Kings. He has participated in some of the great tournaments on the stickball circuit, recently joining his son Carlos Jr., as a member of the Repo Men in the 2003 Memorial Day tournament.
Carlos continues to take pride in his stickball prowess. "I play as a member of the Orlando Sunshine Boys," he said. Believe it or not, sometimes I come in to run for some guys and I'm 65 years old! But I must admit the best part is the people. Just think that here are a bunch of guys who grew up together as kids and are still playing together. It's amazing!"
Back then Tony might have been too young to play, but he and his other eight-year-old friends would help chase down balls in the outfield or go up on the roofs to retrieve them. He believes this extensive stickball education served him well when he was old enough to join in the big money games.
Tony recalls, "We played different neighborhood teams with all kinds of action on the game by both the players and the people on the block. A big game might have $500 riding on it, so there was a lot of pressure." In addition he lived near PS 51, the setting for some of the more legendary games from that era, including the matches against teams from Mott Street Manhattan.
Tony moved to Puerto Rico in 1970 and with his friend Erwin Rivera organized a weekly stickball competition. "We got some of the other ex Bronx players, and played a regular game in the Plaza Las America in San Juan every Sunday for a number of years." When the Latin New Yorkers were formed in the early 80s he became a member then continued his involvement in the Florida league.
Tony, respectfully recalls some of the people he's known. "I had the privilege of playing with some truly great players like Bouncer and Mike Sciaca. There's one other guy whose first name I remember, Chago, wow what a player. He was fast and boy could he hit. I remember how he would often come to the game late, but then be brought in at a crucial moment and totally change everything. Back then a player could bat several times in a row, so he was allowed to bat in succession and knock in the winning runs. He was the best player I ever saw, but he died in the Attica uprising. I'd appreciate if you'd mention his name."
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