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Stickball Hall of Fame  230 East 123rd Street

Stickball Hall of Fame 230 East 123rd Street

By on Aug 13, 2013 | 0 comments

In 2013,  Carlos Diaz, a lifelong East Harlem resident, inaugurated The Stickball Community Gallery and Hall of Fame.  This unique storefront museum contains mememorobilia and documentary photos relating to the history of Stickball in New York.

Stickball is a modified version of baseball that is played on the streets.  The equipment consists of a broom handle and a rubber ball;  instead of three strikes, each batter gets one swing to hit the ball off the bounce; and instead of a baseball diamond, the field is determined by street lamps, hydrants, manhole covers and parked cars. Diaz and his volunteers hold stickball clinics in gym classes at public schools including PS 101 on E. 111th St., PS 117 on E. 109th St.

El Barrio is known “Stickball territory,” due to the many great players, teams and annual events that have emerged in this neighborhood since the 1930s. During its heyday in 40s and 50s, nearly every block in East Harlem had a team with colorful names,  notably: the Madison Flashes on 110th St.; the Falcons on 111th; Viceroys on 112th; the Minotaurs on 113th;  Young Devils on 114th, Home Relief on 115th, Copens on 117th and Minton’s Playhouse on 118th.   The community’s continued enthusiasm for stickball is self-evident. In addition to the Stickball Community Gallery,  East Harlem hosts an annual World Series of Stickball , An Old Timers Weekend,  and maintains four stickball teams. Games are played every Sunday during the Spring and Summer on East 109th Street between Second and Third Avenues.






El Barrio’s stickball tradition dates from the 1930s

El Barrio’s stickball tradition dates from the 1930s and the neighborhood’s
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Stickball is a street game related to baseball, usually formed as a pick-up game played in large cities in the Northeastern United States, especially New York City and Philadelphia. typically a spaldeenpensy pinky, high bouncer or tennis ball. The rules come from baseball and are modified to fit the situation, for example, a . The game is a variation of stick and ball games dating back to at least the 1750s. This game was widely popular among youths growing up from the 19th century until the 1980s.

While well known for its cultural influence on Latin music and dance forms, El Barrio is also “Stickball territory,” giving rise to some of New York’s great players and teams.El Barrio’s stickball tradition dates from the 1930s

but this year is special as the neighborhood will host both the annual the East 111th Street Old Timers Weekend and the World Series of Stickball. This month Streetplay focuses on some of El Barrio’s most well known Stickball personalities.

Stickball,  an urban street game, is spin off of baseball  — is being celebrated in a storefront gallery in East Harlem where broomstick-swinging, spaldeen-smashing masters are bucking the odds to keep the sport alive and pass it on to the next generation.

In an era of cyber-games and smartphone-socializing, the boosters of the new Stickball Community Gallery are seeking to revive an old-fashioned pastime where the street serves as classroom, backyard, social center — and even the great outdoors for the urban kid.

The colorful gallery at 230 E. 123rd St. is the brainchild of resident who works as a part-time hospital administrator and runs the shrine as an unpaid labor of love, three days per week.

The gallery doubles as the first permanent home of the Stickball Hall of Fame, launched informally in the 1950s in a dozen neighborhood clubhouses scattered around Harlem, Brooklyn and the Bronx.

Its exhibits include a sawed-off broomstick stolen in 1950 from the back of a Sanitation Department truck for use as a bat — and the original banners flown in the 1940s by such legendary Harlem teams as tand Minton’s Playhouse.

With its collection of spaldeens — also known as “hairless tennis balls” — and bats made out of mop handles, curtain rods and bamboo sticks, the gallery traces the history of a sport that typically used sewers, manhole covers, parked cars and fire hydrants as bases.

The 1,000-square-foot gallery overflows with gritty relics: Con Ed donated a 500-pound manhole cover, and the city Department of Environmental Protection loaned a 100-pound fire pump.

“If you want to keep kids off drugs, out of gangs and out of trouble, teach them stickball,” says Diaz, the gallery founder and Hall of Fame president, who played his first game on E. 111th St. for the Young Legends as a 12-year-old in 1963.

Diaz, 63, launched the endeavor as a nonprofit organization and collected modest contributions from Con Edison, Verizon, ARCO Management and SCAN Inc., a Bronx-based youth program, and other nonprofits including the East Harlem Council for Community Improvements. He is working to create a budget to make sure the gallery and Hall of Fame can stay afloat.


“Stickball was always a low-income sport — all you needed to play was a ball and a broomstick — and it kept a great many people in my district on the straight and narrow,” said Assemblyman Robert J. Rodriguez (D-East Harlem).

He points to top local teams like the Ravens, who recruit reformed gang members, and the Clean Machine, whose players are rehabilitated drug addicts.

One stickball tutor, Alfred Jackson, 77, knows every uptown team that ever hit a three-sewer home run:

“There were the ” he recalls. “The list goes on and on.”

Those glory days may be gone, but Jackson — who has pitched stickball since 1950 — says the lessons for kids remain unchanged:

“We old-timers can use the gallery and the schools to teach kids to become better people, to keep them occupied and out of trouble — and to give them a chance to figure out what they want to do with the rest of their lives,” he says.

Inductees into the Stickball Hall of Fame include street kids-turned-New York Yankees like Phil Rizzuto, Joe Torre, Joe Pepitone, Willie Randolph, Rusty Torres and Mickey Rivers.

The induction ceremony takes place every July at the Museum of the City of New York, and the plaques honoring the hall’s 172 members, once scattered in the city’s old clubhouses, will eventually be installed in the gallery.

The gallery and Hall of Fame is open Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. Admission is free.


Let’s go, baby,” someone shouts, the words floating into a clear blue sky.

It is Sunday morning in East Harlem, the time when East 109th Street between Second and Third Avenues becomes a stickball field with chalk-drawn bases, bounded by school buildings and parked cars. These days, much of the old neighborhood has disappeared, transformed by higher rents and unfamiliar faces. But for a few hours on Sunday mornings, the pride in this poor man’s game is on full display.

“It’s all about tradition,” said Carlos Diaz, stout in his baby-blue uniform, his gray hair belying the pace at which he can charge around the bases.

Four stickball teams compete in the East Harlem League here on Sundays, two on each end of the street. It is the midpoint of the 12-week season, and the game is still drawing fathers, sons and grandsons, brothers, uncles and cousins, old classmates and neighbors, mostly from outside the neighborhood.

“A lot of these guys don’t live here anymore,” said Marcus Ortiz, one of the coaches. “But they come back on Sundays.”

Every block once boasted a team: Young Devils. Home Relief. Sharks. Acelets. Minotaurs. Viceroys. Roaches. Dandy’s. Minton’s Playhouse. El Barrio. While some in Upper Manhattan enjoyed watching the old New York Giants at the Polo Grounds, “this was our baseball,” said the former Clean Machine first baseman Eric Gonzalez, 56, watching the team from a beach chair at the curb.

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