The thing is that no matter how little cash you had, you always needed rubber
balls. If the whole gang was broke, it didn't matter who owed who, you needed
to work together to get one. If nobody had a reserve ball upstairs, you might
raise cash by scrounging around for empty soda bottles that could be turned in
for their two and five cent deposits. Those of us growing up in buildings
with five or less floors might take the more direct approach and check to see
if any balls had been "roofed" at a recent stickball game. Someone would go up
to the top of the building and scrounge around, looking for something,
anything that still had some life to it.
Roofs were tough environments for rubber balls and any ball that had been up
there for awhile would get that pale sickly look, revealing how long it had
suffered from overexposure to the elements. Still these were desperate times
and we'd be willing to use whatever was available. In fact, if the roofs were
empty or locked, an even more extreme alternative would be employed;
navigating down a known ball snatching sewer, located on the downhill side of
a play field.