Old time fun! Stickball still a neighborhood sensation

Old time fun! Stickball still a neighborhood sensation
Photo by Steve Solomonson

The Ragamuffin Parade wasn’t the only game in town on Sept. 29 — a group of friends and family members gathered in Bay Ridge to keep another great Brooklyn tradition alive.

With police barricades up for the kids’ costume contest, old buddies from the neighborhood gathered on 80th Street between Third and Fourth avenues to take part in the hallowed rite of stickball.

Coordinator Peter Syrdahl said the annual gathering of the Stickball Old Timers started in 1968, as a generation of Bay Ridge friends graduated from college.

“I realized that something that we did as kids, we should come back and do again, once a year, in the place where we were from,” said Syrdahl, who today resides in Dyker Heights.

Syrdahl lives a lot closer to the block where he and his pals played in the street as youngsters than anybody else from the old gang: Stickball Old Timers had to fly in from California, Texas, Pennsylvania, and Florida for the mini-reunion — and Syrdahl’s younger brother even crossed the sea from his adopted home in Norway to swing a bat and run the bases once again. The friends brought their children and grandchildren with them to pass the urban institution on to a new generation.

“It’s great for the kids, because they get outside and run and play,” said Syrdahl, noting that today’s youth spend too much time in front of the television. “Then they want to come back next year, and they bring their friends.”

Some Ridge teens even got in on the act, as they watched the Old Timers play on their street with growing curiosity.

“When the game was over, these junior high school kids asked us what we were doing. They didn’t even know what stickball was,” said the 66-year-old Syrdahl, who lent the boys a few bats to try out. “I’m not going to be able to do this much more, and so we try to continue the process.”

The man known as “The Commissioner” said that the annual stickball game is the highlight of the year for him and his buddies — and that he hopes it will continue far into the future.

“Everybody tells me this is the greatest thing in their life. They get to come back and see their old friends, and be part of this great Brooklyn tradition,” said the 66-year-old Syrdahl, adding that he hoped everyone would make it for the 45th anniversary games next year. “When you’re 65, 66 years old there won’t be another big anniversary till you’re in your 70s, and who knows who’ll still be around for that.”

The event was pretty perfect except for when a player got struck in the head with a bat and had to be taken away by Bay Ridge’s ambulance corps.

Reach reporter Will Bredderman at (718) 260–4507 or e-mail him at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/WillBredderman