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Stickball on Pleasant Ave

Ever think about getting together with the kids you grew up, introducing them to your families and once again enjoying some of the great old games you grew up playing together? To many of us, this is a fantasy, but it's become a regular event here on Pleasant Ave.

On Sunday September 12 the Tenth Annual Pleasant Ave Father and Son's Stickball Game was held. Michael Lentin, one of the event organizers credits his wife Flo with the idea. "We had an Old-Timers game back in 1988 as a way to get the guys back together," he said. "Flo suggested that we have a game between the fathers and sons so the whole families could get involved. Now our kids are getting to know each other as well as learning about the old neighborhood."

Pleasant Ave is a short street, running several blocks on the eastern most side of Manhattan, but from the 1940s through the 60s, it had the reputation as one of the great sites for stickball in NYC. According to J. R. Elio, each block had its own colors and its own team. "We were the Bisons on 119th street and our colors were Blue & Gold. On the other side of the street were the NightHawks, their colors were Black and White. The Jokers were on 120th, the Outlaws 122nd, the Arrows 117th. There were hundreds of kids in the neighborhood playing all kinds of games and it was an honor to play on your street's stickball team."

J.R continued "We'd play against each other regularly, but we also went throughout the city to compete. These were the real money games, sometimes with as much as $1,000 or $1,500 on the line. We'd take the best players from each team to go out to play. Stickball was a common bond in all the neighborhoods and people from different groups (Black, Italian, Puerto Rican, Irish) would play each other and give each other respect."

You couldn't ask for a more beautiful day for today's event. The weather was perfect for the players and fans. While the men were playing ball the gals had front row seats on the sidewalk catching up on family news, enjoying the food, cheering the teams on, and even playing a little jump rope.

The games commenced at about 10:30 and went through the afternoon. At first, the old timers were able to hold their own and even come out with a win, but as the day went on, the younger team emerged with increasingly lopsided victories. When a bystander commented that "You kids have no mercy," the response was "If we don't beat these guys, we'll never hear the end of it."

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