Nostalgia-fueled 47th annual stickball game a success

A little bit of chilly weather couldn’t stop a nostalgic trip for a group of old friends that have kept a Bay Ridge tradition alive for nearly 50 years.

For the 47th year, these pals, who all lived in Bay Ridge growing up, returned to 80th Street between Third and Fourth Avenues for the 47th Annual Brooklyn Old Timers’ Stickball Game. Although many of the players have moved out of state, they make it a point to get together for one day in October, typically the same day as the Ragamuffin Parade, to play a few games of stickball while friends and family cheer them on.

Peter Syrdahl, who coordinates the games each year, was happy with the results despite the cold. “It turned out just fine for us. It was overcast and gray but it turned out to be fine for playing stickball,” he said, noting that in the 47 years since they started the tradition, they have never cancelled the game. The teams even played twice in the rain.

The players represent a large range of ages and skill sets. “In the late 1960s, my high school friends were going off to college and Vietnam and others went into business,” Syrdahl said. “We knew we wanted to continue playing stickball and have some connections with our youth and the games we played every day.”

Since then, most of the group kept their word to keep playing despite their different lives.

Participants come from Pennsylvania, Kentucky, North Carolina, Connecticut, Long Island and New Jersey to play. Although he couldn’t make it this year, Syrdahl’s brother typically comes in from Norway. Mike Mallett, who came from Seattle, won the Home Plate Award, which goes to the player who traveled the furthest. The award is just one of several that are distributed, including the Stoop Sitter award, which goes to the biggest fan or the Big Broomstick Award.

“Many come back each year for this,” Syrdahl said. “We look forward to it. Many of the guys taught their children and now they’re the ones who are now in thirties and they play with us.”

Each year, the game pits two teams against each other: The Older Old Timers and The Young Old Timers.

Syrdahl states that after the game, the guys go to a local bar and reminisce. “We would play ball from early morning to late at night. The neighbors watched us if our parents weren’t there to make sure we were always safe,” he said. “We would say to each other that we had it great. We had problems in the world. We didn’t even know about it.”

Two games were played during the windy day. The first game, the Older Old Timers won convincingly, 20-9. However, in the second game, the Younger Old Timers got their revenge and eked out a 16-15 victory.

However, the bonding means far more than the final score. “We appreciate getting together each year. We look forward to it,” Syrdahl said.

BROOKLYN MEDIA GROUP/Photos by Corazon Aguirre


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