Diamonds in the street
Yes, we really went out and played in the streets. Not any street. You
really wouldn't play in a heavily trafficked one, so boulevard and avenue
games were rare, but many a "regular street" served both as a conduit for
motorized vehicles and a play area for a block's kids. Aside from learning to
play with constant interuptions ("car!") and debates about whether or not you
called time because of the car, you also learned to be creative in field
There were two basic street fields, long and narrow, or short and squished.
The narrow fields used the length of the street and looked like an elongated
baseball diamond. First and third were close to each other on opposite sides
of the street, often distinuished by a notable vertical feature like a car
door or lamp post. Home and second were usually manholes or street markings,
and could be stretched far apart. This layout worked well for stickball, and
punch. You got really good at hitting the ball to dead center; distance
placement was also a valuable skill.
Short and wide describes the fields that traversed the width of the street.
This layout lent itself to games that discouraged distance, like slapball or
stoop. It was also well suited, for a three base format, also known as
While there were less cars back then, playing in the street could be
dangerous. A deep stickball drive could send an outfielder into an
intersection, where he'd have to make a snap desicion about which was more
important, his continued life or the possibility of catching the ball. Danger
also lurked from irate neighbors who might not be thrilled that their parked
car had been chosen to represent 3rd base, and be honest, how many of us
actually fessed up to those broken side view mirrors and radio antennas?