Continuing on with our discourse on stickball, or "Yankee Pirate" as it was (is?) known in West New Brighton, we need to define some of the ground rules...both generic and site specific. We are talking here about stickball where the ball is pitched at a strike zone that is painted, chalked or outlined with a piece of coal on a hard wall, preferably concrete...although I've seen stickball strike zones on brick, asphalt shingle (another improvement by TILO?) , wooden fences and in one instance on a chain link fence with a piece of pilfered plywood mounted on it for the strike zone.
The above is a completely different sport than the form of "stickball" played on the streets of B(expletive expunged) and the Big Apple where there are actual teams of players that run the bases and play field positions. When I hear someone with a NY accent boast that they could hit the ball over "two manhole" covers on the fly, I know they are not from SI, but rather from one of the less fortunate boroughs. That is not to say that street stickball was not played on SI, it's just that we are talking here about the purest form of the sport...Yankee Pirate.
Usually, Yankee Pirate was played with two man teams: a pitcher and a fielder. This was the most desirable configuration, because if the field was big enough you could have an outfielder catch flyballs that would otherwise drop in for a hit, the number of bases depending on site specific parameters. Also, when it was one team's turn at bat, the on-deck man could look over the opposing team's pitcher's shoulder and make sure that he wasn't cheating on calling balls and strikes. (This is where chalked strike zones had an advantage, because one could inspect the ball for a chalk mark that proved that the pitcher actually did/did not hit the strike zone)
The outfielder position could be dangerous on some sites...for example, Sacred Heart's parking lot on the corner of Castleton and North Burgher avenues. The outfielder stood outside the fence on North Burgher avenue which was cobblestone and rather steep running down towards Henderson avenue. He had to not only worry about catching flyballs, but be on the lookout for cars that came whizzing around the corner from Castleton. And of course, if he muffed the catch, he would have to chase the ball down the hill quite a ways.
At P.S. 45, playing the outfield was a blind proposition...there is a concrete handball wall that blocks the view of the pitcher and the batter from the outfielder's field of vision. (little kids played Yankee Pirate against this wall, but the field wasn't really big enough for grown (12 and up) players). When someone hit a high fly over the handball wall, the pitcher would try to run around the wall and shout directions to his fielder.
McDonald's playground on the other hand was a piece of cake for the fielder, because there was high chainlink fence separating the field from the street. (Myrtle ave.?). If the ball got hit over that fence, it was a home run, period. The problem was then finding the ball, because there was an empty lot across the street covered with "weeds": those green bamboo-like shoots that covered most lots like a jungle. Anybody know what the real name of them is?
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