BRAGGING RIGHTS is an hour-long video
documentary that chronicles the vibrant history of the urban game of
stickball through its colorful players.
Stickball has been played in the streets of New York City since the
early 1920’s and is known as “the poor man’s baseball.” Stickball is
the ultimate in improvising much with very little. Up until the
1960’s, hydrants, cars and sometimes old men sunning in chairs were
bases. During that time, many ethnic communities that would fight
each other any other day of the week, would compete on the stickball
field on Sundays. Over time, racial barriers were broken and many of
the players became lifelong friends.
Through the persistence and the passion of a tight-knit community
brought together by tradition, the documentary chronicles what has
become a national game of all family members. BRAGGING RIGHTS
underscores the struggle to overcome and embrace difference and
triumph over adversity.
HALL OF FAME 2002 INDUCTION CEREMONY
"A DAY OF PRIDE AND JOY"
Memorial Day weekend, is the first long
weekend that marks the beginning of Summer. Everyone starts leaving
work early, and starts buying last minute things to enjoy the first days
of Summer. This past Friday May 24, at the Museum of the City of New
York, the annual
Stickball Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony took place. Carlos
Diaz, who is President of the Stickball Hall of Fame, gave a good
explanation for this activity. "The truth is the Hall of Fame has
been around for almost twenty years. What happened was we needed a
place to show the importance of this sport. In the last three years
the museum has been very instrumental in providing space for us."
Diaz would add, "The importance of this activity is that it brings people
of all nationalities in one room." Father Skelly, pastor of Saint
Cecila's church located at 106th Street between Lexington and Park
Avenues gave his feelings on stickball. "It's a sport which brings
peace and harmony to the community of East Harlem."
Besides being a day of honoring, it was also a day of remembering.
The day was dedicated to Steve Mercado,
New York City Firefighter /
the NYESL (New York Emperors Stickball League) who lost his life
saving lives on September 11th. Mercado stated, how important
stickball was to him, which was written in a program handout. "I
like to thank Stickball for this tale I tell. I've vowed that my
children will have much more than I for I will teach them to reach for the
sky." Charles Ballard an Afro-American who is in his early 80's and
still playing Stickball, would add, "What's good about this sport is that
it is safe to play. You don't spend any money on buying equipment
like shoes or clothing." He goes on to add, "Parents should be well
aware that they could spend less on stickball than in those video games
which kids play."
Another individual of which this reporter had the honor of talking to is
John Aromi his nickname is "Ñoci."
What is amazing about this person is that he is a physically challenged
individual. You see "Ñoci"
has one hand, the other hand has no fingers, then again that hasn't
stopped Aromi from being the fierce competitor that he is. "Hey I
can still swing the bat sometimes better than a thirty-year old."
When asked how old he is, with pride he stated, "Hey I'm sixty-seven years
old! "I'm still good, and still having a good time with these
fellas." Standing next to him was Charles Candelaria, President of
the 111th Street Oldtimers Stickball Organization, he would add "We are
all good. It's the one sport where you can argue and have fun at the
The night of the induction, all of the inductees:
Sabas "Sonny" Hernandez, Sam Marquez, Edwin Matos, Steve Mercado, Andres
"Andy" Rivera and Rosendo "Rusty" Torres, stated
in their speeches, "We always looked forward to Sundays." "We loved the
challenge." "Most importantly, we all maintained good friendships
which to this day still exist." Sonia Gonzalez, a filmmaker whose
documentary entitled "Bragging Rights" is scheduled to come out on PBS by early
2003 stated, "The way they talked about life in the neighborhood, and
putting differences aside while playing (teamwork), inspired me so much,
that I had to make this film." Lavinia Mancuso who is Deputy
Director of Learning at the Museum said it best, "Stickball is not just a
game where you see good skill and sportsmanship, it's a sport where you
see role models for the commuity." After what was seen in the museum
with the Stickball Hall of Fame, and the documentary being made, the dream
of this NYC street game being an Olympic sport and having a Hall of Fame,
will slowly but surely become a reality.