Neighborhood games

Recent game of stickball in Queens. I remember playing in the middle of the street, jumping between parked cars to avoid passing traffic.

I grew up on the streets of New York–Manhattan (and briefly Queens)–playing games like stick ball (great explanation here for those who had the advantage of a real ball field in rural or suburban community), wall ball (like hand ball but played against a windowless brick wall, usually found on corner commercial buildings), or stoop ball.

What’s this got to do with anything, you ask? Well, not much, except I stumbled on this article in the NY Times, which says to me: necessity is the mother of invention; or, leave it to young people to come up with creative solutions to old problems.

And, it gives me an opportunity to ask you which game(s) you remember from childhood–particularly those that may have been locally created or adapted to your particular town, neighborhood or rural road…how does “place” shape the games kids play?


6 Comments on “Neighborhood games”

  1. Bob Falesch says:

    Indelibly etched memories: Chicago Softball (16-inch softball). I preferred 12-inch softball or baseball because one could wear a glove. However, if you wanted a game, you’d likely only find one with the the 16-incher. The article claims one of 16-inch’s reason to exist is it can be played barehanded. Well, that’s great if one avoids closing one’s grip too early. That hulking thing can break fingers on a line drive. This is from personal experience. Oh, and I could never really throw the thing either. Other than that, I might have had a good time.

    Place must have shaped this game, as it appears softball (of any kind, including the more standard 12-inch) was first played in Chicago, and of course 16-inch which, apparently, is unheard of outside Chicago.

  2. Bob Falesch says:

    PS: From the Wiki article: “…the 16-inch ball is squishier.” Don’t kid yourself. That thing, just like its smaller cousin, was crisp and hard as a rock until batted around a few times. Without a glove, approach that incoming missile with the utmost of respect :–) 16-incher games were normally played within smaller confines, so it might be on you before you can say “Ernie Banks.”

  3. Ellen Rocco says:

    Pink Spaldines. Our ball of choice. For everything. And, oh, what a luxury when you could buy or get your hands on a brand new one with maximum bounce capacity.

  4. Bob Falesch says:

    Nice. I never knew about the pink spaldine. New Life for an Old Favorite.

  5. Pete Klein says:

    I did play with the 16″ softball when visiting cousins in Chicago.
    How about playing polo on bikes and using crokay mallets and balls? We did that.
    Also played stoop ball, which you could do by yourself or with others.
    There was the summer of pea shooters which caused parents to go up in arms when their lawns started growing peas.
    Of course there were the usual Cowboys and Indians, Civil War when the movie “Red Badge of Courage” was out, snowball fights, Knights where we used the tops of ash cans for shields and made swords from sticks of wood.
    Spent countless hours playing marbles and more hours playing with jackknives. Let me explain. You flip the knife from the top of your head, eyelid, ear, shoulder, etc, to have it stick in the ground. Must stick in the ground to move on to the next round.
    Every kid I ever knew always carried a knife, a dime to call home and matches. Never knew when you might need those things.
    We also played touch football on the street and ice hockey on the street. We could do that because side streets were never plowed.
    And of course, we built forts of scrap wood in empty lots.
    And let’s not forget fishing in the Detroit River and canals going into the river.
    I could go on but this is more than enough.

  6. Bob Falesch says:

    Could’a used more guys like you, Pete, on the block back in the day. It would’ve been livelier and more well-rounded.

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