Friday, June 7, 2013
“B” as in “Ball”
A Bronx deli in the twenty-first century selling rubber hardballs just struck me as odd. Perhaps I’m missing something here and there is a real demand for them—for some game to be played somewhere unknown. They could also be inventory leftovers from the 1970s and a prior deli owner. I just don’t know. I do know, however, that one, among many things, that we urban youth did to pass the time in my Bronx neighborhood, Kingsbridge, was play pitcher and catcher and games of “errors” in our concrete backyards and elsewhere. Rubber hardballs, which I presume were manufactured for exactly that—playing on rough, synthetic surfaces, provided us with the ideal ball. Gradually, even they would wear out with use. This once versatile and robust orb would eventually be deemed too far-gone—an "egg"—and be put out to pasture.
While growing up in that simpler snapshot in time, my family’s front hallway performed double duty as an equipment room, where our baseball gloves, bats, and balls were placed and plucked from as needed. The ball selection included everything from spaldeens to whiffle balls; hardballs (cowhide and rubber) to tennis balls. When purchasing one of his stickball bats, I'll never forget “Herman” of Bill’s Friendly Spot on W231st Street lecturing me. “Do not use tennis balls with it,” he said, “because the bat will break.” In other words, he would not take back splinters—a broken bat under any circumstances. Of course, I ignored Herman’s counsel and the bat broke upon a second contact with a tennis ball.
(Photo from the personal collection of Nicholas Nigro)