Tournament includes Controversial Calls
Whenever you get stickball aficionados together you have to count on some passionate arguing, as its just part of the game. However, even by stickball standards, there appeared to be more controversy during this tournament than normally. Here's the Streetplay Scoop on that action.
The Great Debate - pitching in vs. hitting by yourself
For most of the old time players, real stickball includes a pitcher standing about 50 feet from the batter, lobbing the ball in on a bounce. This is called "pitching in." However, while this is how the game was generally played right through the 50s, in most locations, it has given way to the style where the batter throws the ball in the air and either hits it on a fly or more commonly on one or two bounces. This is known as "hitting by yourself" or "fungo." In either style, one strike and you are out.
For the old timers pitching in is the real game and it clearly has more nuances to it. While the pitcher is supposed to simply lob the ball on a bounce over the plate, a good pitcher will discretely put spin on the pitch and throw the ball to the sides, high and low in order to frustrate the batter. Batters knowledgeable in the game might also take pitch after pitch, just to get the fielders crazy.
Hitting by yourself is a much quicker game. While a batter might throw the ball up several times waiting for the perfect bounce, most at bats are relatively quick. You can usually assume the game will take ½ to 2/3 the time as a pitching in game.
Since the event organizers reside in Manhattan and participate in the East Harlem Stickball League, they chose to include both styles of play. This decision also makes sense considering that the tournament was linked to Hall of Fame where most of the players played the pitching in game.
The first day of the event each team played 3 games of pitching in, the second day of the event, each team played 3 games hitting by yourself. For the third day, the playoff elimination, the team with the best record during the open tournament got to choose which style of ball to play.
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Multiple locations of fields
The main tournament location included 4 fields near the East Harlem Community Center at 120th street and 1st Ave. However, in order to accommodate the large number of teams, several other neighborhood blocks were also used. The streets were "renamed" during the tournament to honor players who passed away and who made major contributions to the game. For example, 105th street between Madison and Fifth was named in honor of William "Bouncer" Pizarroz, a major stickball figure.
Multiple field locations presented logistical problems for the organizers, players and fans. On hindsight, all the fields were probably required during the open competition but one location (120th street) might have been used on the final day. This would have reduced the time between games and allowed fans to fully enjoy the competition.
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In a controversial call that capped the intense three days of play, the Stickball Word Series ended in a draw, with championship honors split between the Repo Men and the Youngbloods. Carlos Diaz commissioner of the World Series of Stickball explained.
"What happened was that just as the Taianos and the Repo Men completed their semi-finals match, a 16 inning game, it started drizzling. We decided to wait awhile for the rain to stop so we could start the final game but after an hour and a half we realized that there was no way to get the game in tonight. Given that tomorrow is the Fourth of July and many of the players want to spend some time with their families, we decided at this point to award the two finalists with the honor of champions."
Alex Bochino the Repo Men captain was not pleased with the decision. He said "In the event of a rain-out the team with the best record should have been declared the winner. We were undefeated throughout the tournament with 7 wins, no losses and 1 tie. The Youngbloods had a couple of losses, so in my opinion, we won."
While it's hard to disagree with Alex's logic, one can also understand the position of the event organizers. Carlos Diaz and Moe Moerra play in the same league as the Repo Men and clearly did not want to appear biased in favor of their league. Furthermore, Carlos stated "The decision was also done in respect for the two types of games played. The Repo Men are from the East Harlem League which focuses on the classic style of pitching in, while the Youngbloods are in the Emperors Stickball League which plays hitting by yourself.
Carlos summed it up by saying "Given the rainout of the finals, we felt this was the best way to conclude the event. However, we will look into the possibility of setting up a special game sometime over the summer to settle the championship."