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Stick in the past: Doc honors Brooklyn’s forgotten street game

Play ball!: Filmmaker Jay Cusato’s short documentary about stickball “When Broomsticks Were King” will screen at MCU Park on July 10.
Brooklyn Paper
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Stickball meets baseball!

A documentary that pays tribute to the once-popular Brooklyn street game of stickball will screen at MCU Park, as part of the Brooklyn Cyclones’ “Old Timers Day” on July 10. The director of “When Broomsticks Were King” wants his film to preserve the love and appreciation for the legendary game, because it is in danger of being forgotten, he said.

“My father and his groups of friends would talk about how they played stickball growing up and how great it was, and I wanted to honor them and honor the sport,” said Jay Cusato. “Young kids barely go out and play anything in the street, it’s really kind of a dying sport.”

When 40-year-old Cusato was a kid growing up in Park Slope, the game — like baseball, but played in the street with a broomstick and a rubber ball — had already started to fade out of popularity, he said.

“We did play stickball, but we played every other sport as well. For us there was so many sports that we had access to — we played wiffle-ball, roller hockey, softball,” said Cusato. “My father’s generation, that’s all they did. It was stickball, stickball, stickball.”

But for Cusato and his buddies, stickball brought everyone together, he said.

“It was kind of like a unique thing, we’re New York, it was our thing, like it belonged to us. It was always special. It really played such a huge hand in shaping the city and bringing the city to where it is now,” he said. “It brought communities together, different neighborhoods would challenge each other, and it was just a way to bring everyone together.”

The game was open to everyone because it required no special equipment to play, said the Sunset Park filmmaker.

“It was kind of the poor man’s baseball. New York City kids couldn’t afford to go out and buy bats, balls, gloves to go play baseball in the park,” he said. “You’d take your mom’s broom stick — she’d yell at you when you’d take it. And if you could afford chalk, you’d draw out the bases, and you just pretty much play in the street.”

The 26-minute film will follow a stickball demonstration from Cusato’s father and members of the Stick Ball Hall of Fame. The Cyclones will take on the Hudson Valley Renegades after the screening.

“When Broomsticks Were King” at MCU Park [1904 Surf Ave. at W. 17th Street in Coney Island, (917) 572–2727, www.groupmatics.events/#/event/stickball]. July 10 at 11:30 am. $15.

Reach reporter Julianne Cuba at (718) 260–4577 or by e-mail at jcuba@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @julcuba.
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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