What is Stickball? And is it Played at Grandma’s House?

Stickball is a quintessential New York City street game. A version of baseball, it’s played with a skinny bat and a rubber ball.

In the Depression of the 1930s, talked about in our show, bats were often broom or mop handles. But by the 1960s, local toy stores sold manufactured stickball bats that had tape on the grips much as baseball bats once did.

The rubber balls used carried one of two brands, Pensy Pinky, which were the cheaper balls that could be bought for a nickel or dime in the early 1960s, and Spaulding, pronounced Spall-dean in Brooklyn, which were the exclusive balls that cost 25 cents in the early 1960s.

A typical (circa 1960) New York City stickball game.

A typical (circa 1960) New York City stickball game.

Bases were drawn with chalk or sometimes painted on streets a car’s width away from curbs because most streets always were full of parked cars. Second base was usually about two manhole covers up the street from home plate. Sometimes teams used pitchers, in which case the game was called “pitchin’ in” but if there weren’t enough kids around for full teams, games often were played with batters simply tossing the ball into the air and hitting it before it hit the ground.

Balls hit onto rooftops were automatic outs, balls that hit cars before being caught were ground rule doubles and anything hit four sewers away was a home run.

Why all this detail about stickball? Because a stickball bat has a very prominent role in New Year’s Eve at Grandma’s House. How can that be? Come see our show to find out.

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