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Player: Ray Murray   Team: The Ionas

Ray Murray in recent shot with Ionas
Click for bigger picture
Ray Murray in recent shot with Ionas
The Ionas are one of the city's longest continuing stickball teams. Ray Murray, remembered as one of the area's best power hitters, explains about the Iona's began and how the tradition continues.

Ray Murray fondly recalls the birth of the Ionas nearly seventy years ago. "We started back in early '30s. My brother Bunny (John) was in the grocery store and noticed the Iona Indian label on a can of tomatoes. He decided to use that as the name for his team and we've kept it to this day. It was the name of our stickball team, our club and later our softball team as well."

The club which originated on West 46th street took pride in having one of the strangest ballfields in the city. "Our street was all cobblestone back then," explained Ray. "You couldn't pitch in on those stones cause they'd cause funny bounces. We played with the pitcher and batter up on the sidewalk. The pitcher was located near first base and the batter had only a couple of feet between him and a building on his right side. It was definitely a disadvantage for left handed players, but you adapted your style to fit the game."

The Iona club's current location is in Woodside and their field on Queens Blvd and 34th street is more typical in layout. The club moved out to Queens back in 1970 as large numbers of people left the old neighborhood. In addition to gaining a more traditional field, the Iona's gained some new members. Ray commented "All these guys like the Rufos and Burneys who used to be our adversaries back then are with us now. Its really everyone from the old neighborhood"

Ray now in his late 60s, is a former NYC cop. Still tall and thin, he looks like the power hitter that people remember, but he likes talking about more recent events. You know, we play together almost every Sunday from March through November. You'd be surprised how good some of the guys still are."

The Iona's won New York City's Stickball Championship (now called the Stickball Classic) back in 1995 and a picture of the Mayor and the team is proudly displayed on the club's wall. Ray said "That was the last year the citywide competition played pitching in, the way stickball should be played." However, the members were not impressed with the mayor's stickball acumen. "I'll tell you one thing and I don't mean this with any disrespect," Ray said. "If Curtis Sliwa and the Mayor came to our neighborhood back then to play a game of stickball, they'd leave with empty pockets."

On a final note - The Iona's have made a challenge to other stickball teams. If you have a good cause you are supporting and are interested in playing a charity stickball game, original style (pitching in), you can contact Ray at (718) 446-4281

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