Out of the Park: Third-annual Coney Stickball Challenge honors late legend of the game

Out of the Park: Third-annual Coney Stickball Challenge honors late legend of the game
Photo by Trey Pentecost

This wasn’t just any old ball game.

Brooklynites of the past and present headed to Coney Island on Sept. 22 for the third-annual Stickball Challenge to pay tribute to a legend of the game who passed away last month. The game honored the memory of Brooklyn stickball impresario Raymond Francis Goffio, whose friend of 20 years said he was a fixture of the games and is deeply missed.

“He loved to play the sport,” said Sunset Park resident Jay Cusato, director of the award-winning stickball documentary “When Broomsticks Were King,” in which Stickball-Hall-of-Famer Goffio starred. “He was friendly with everybody, he was a real Brooklyn character. He loved the gathering of like-minded people, so when he passed, we automatically thought of doing this.”

About 30 players joined the old-timey pastime — which took place next to Deno’s Wonder Wheel, on W. 12th Street between Surf Avenue and the Riegelmann Boardwalk — playing on three teams representing Brooklyn, Sheepshead Bay, and the distant isle of Manhattan’s Harlem, which took the broomstick tournament crown.

Some of Goffio’s siblings also attended the game, including his brother, Joe, who was in town from Florida, and added that his late brother started the Wall of Remembrance at MCU Park and volunteered to work in the Ground Zero cleanup.

“It would take me half my lifetime to tell you all the things he’s done,” Goffio said. “I love him and I miss him.”

Goffio added that the tournament made him remember the good old days of playing the game as a kid on E. 10th Street between Church and Caton avenues in Flatbush.

“I grew up playing that game,” Goffio said. “We loved to go out and play — all of us, even my sisters. That’s what we did every day. We went out to play after school.”

Reach reporter Julianne McShane at (718) 260–2523 or by e-mail at jmcshane@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @juliannemcshane.