Stanley Feld M.D.,FACP,MACE
One of my favorite street games while growing up in the Bronx was "Strikeouts." Strikeouts is not a well know game nor has it been well described in the "literature." It was difficult to play on most neighborhood streets. It needed a wide field such as a concrete softball field to be played properly.
(Inaccurate photo because the guys were older than 10-12 years old, pitcher is throwing a tennis ball rather than a spaldeen, and the strike zone is painted on the wall. We had none of this. However photo gives you the idea.
I lived across the street from Claremont Park. It had a large softball field. In Strikeouts a pitcher pitches to a batter and tries to strike the batter out. It can be played by 2 to 20 kids with one on a side to 10 on a side including a short centerfielder.
The only equipment needed is a Spaulding (Spaldeen) and a broomstick as a bat. The Spaldeens were never perfectly round. The pitcher could try a vicious curve ball with a Spaldeen. The ball can produce a natural curve when thrown more that 50 feet. If the ball had a slight rubber seam, a ten year old could throw a successful curve ball, slider, cutter, or sinking ball will a slight twist of the wrist.
I had a friend we “nicknamed” Glue. He could catch a Spaldeen by sticking his hand in the air. The Spaldeen just stuck like glue to his hand. Hence, the nickname Glue.
Glue had a wicked curve ball and a phenomenal knuckle ball. His knuckleball danced in front of your eyes until you were dizzy. He was impossible to hit.
The game was about pitching and hitting. All the rest of the guys were fielders. The more guys you had the more positions you filled.
With one on a side, a strikeout was a strikeout. The ump calling balls and strikes was the pitcher. It was not exactly fair but we tried to be honest. A home run was a shot over the fence. A triple was hitting the fence. A double was a one bounce to the fence. A single was anything hit past the pitcher.
Most of the outs were the result of a strikeout. This was the reason for the game’s name. The broomstick could not be more than an inch in diameter. I remember finding a one-inch diameter stick in the sewer on my cousin Albee’s block while playing stickball in his neighborhood. I took that stick everywhere.
Pitching a Spaldeen did not hurt a young kid’s arm. The ball was light and it took more skill than force to throw an effective pitch.
A pitcher could pitch 20 innings easily. There was usually no reason to stop the game at 9 inning.
We played until it was dark or our mothers called us in to eat.
The most memorable Strikeout game of my career was the time my friends needed an extra guy for a six on a side game. I walked home late from school that day. Everyone was home already, had milk and cookies and changed into their sneakers and jeans. They were outside ready to play.
They spotted me walking home. They asked me to join their game.
I told them I have to go home and change my new shoes. I had just gotten a pair of “Miles leather shoes.” I did not want to ruin the shoes. The usual brand of shoes my parent bought my brother and me was Tom McCan Shoes. Miles shoes(Does not exist anymore) were supposed to be really special. I was not allowed to play ball in my school shoes in any case.
My mother was working. No one was home. My friends convinced me to play now. They said my parents would not notice that I played ball in my school shoes.
In the middle of the third inning it started to rain. It didn’t just rain. It poured. We continued the game in the rain. I hit a ball into the outfield. In a six-man Strikeouts game you had to run the bases.
After running to first in my new drenched Miles shoes, the shoes fell apart. They fell off my feet. Obviously, the shoes were not leather. They were made out of cardboard. So much for the quality of Miles shoes. I ran the bases in my socks.
The only thing left was to explain my predicament to my mother and father. It was not an easy task. Thank god I didn’t get killed.
That particular Strikeouts game lives vividly in my memory.
The opinions expressed in the blog “Repairing The Healthcare System” are, mine and mine alone.