Like egg creams and nickel subway rides, stickball is one of those long-gone cultural touchstones that New York City old-timers often wax nostalgic about. But you know, the game sure looks like a lot of fun.
No coaches. No expensive gear. No adults. All you needed was a car-free side street (not hard to find before the 1950s, when few city residents had cars), a broom handle, and a “spaldeen”—a small pink rubber ball made by the Spalding sporting goods company—and you were good to go. Chalk to outline bases or the strike zone was optional.
This photo, by Arthur Leipzig, was taken in Brooklyn in 1950. Bed-Stuy? Brownsville? East New York? The black and white players as well as the kosher market tell us it was an ethnically mixed neighborhood.
Stickball is still played by kids in some neighborhoods; there’s also an adult league, the New York Emperors Stickball League. To commemorate the game, a Bronx street was given the moniker Stickball Boulevard.