What’s old is almost always new again, but for a group of Brooklynites, summer staples like stickball have always been a constant.
The sport will make an official comeback on Sunday, July 8 at the third annual Stickball Hall of Fame Game at Coney Island’s MCU Park, an occasion that, in 2016, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams proclaimed Stickball Day in Brooklyn.
The Cyclones-sponsored day will feature a screening of local filmmaker, avid stickballer and game-day organizer Jay Cusato’s “When Broomsticks Were King,” a 27-minute, 2001 documentary which tells the story of Cusato’s father and family, and the locals who played among them in the ‘40s and ‘50s.
But that’s not all.
Now, the game – to be played by both Hall of Famers and enthusiasts as young as eight – will feature a special appearance by “the man who brought John Travolta back to Brooklyn.”
Gravesend native and “Gotti” star Will DeMeo has joined the Brooklyn Stickball Team, headed by Cusato, as it prepares to take on the Staten Island Stickball Team, headed by soon-to-be Hall of Famer Bobby Kerns.
Kearns will play on the heels of his induction, slated for July 6.
“It’s a really important game not only to Brooklyn but throughout all of New York,” Cusato said of the sport. “It’s like Junior’s Cheesecake or the Brooklyn Bridge. It’s very much part of the fabric of New York and to see it totally go away would be an absolute shame. Keeping the sport alive and going is one of the reasons for the film and it’s the big reason behind this day that the Cyclones put together.”
DeMeo — who will also be throwing the first pitch at the Cyclones game to follow — shared similar sentiments.
“I wish I could drive down the block and still see people playing it,” he said. “It’s something in the past that these guys are still doing that I wish would come back and that I wish we could see kids doing these days.”
Nevertheless, he said, he looks forward to playing ball.
“I have so much respect for these guys who’re doing this,” DeMeo said. “I’m so happy to be part of it.”
As for the new addition to the roster, Cusato said, “The Brooklyn Stickball Team is honored to have William DeMeo, the man who brought John Travolta back to Brooklyn, playing on our stickball team!”
Last year, the Brooklyn team came out on top, defeating the Staten Island team 7-4, a victory celebrated as far away as Florida, where a group of Brooklyn stickballers have battered up and started their own league, according to Brooklyn Eagle articles from last year.
Gates open at 2:30 p.m. Sunday. The game will take place at 3 p.m., followed by the screening. The event will conclude with a Brooklyn Cyclones game starting at 4 p.m. For tickets, visit www.groupmatics.events/event/Stickball2018.
The Cyclones, like the stickball league, will take on their Staten Island rivals.
On throwing the first pitch, DeMeo said, “it’s just so cool.”
Additional reporting was contributed by Jaime DeJesus.