It was a perfect day to pay tribute to a fallen teammate.
The Third Annual Stickball Challenge was held at Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park on Saturday, Sept. 22, featuring a tournament pitting teams from Sheepshead Bay, South Brooklyn and Harlem against each other.
Though, the theme of the day was unity.
While the weather was perfect and the games were fun, the annual competition served as a remembrance for former teammate and Softball Hall of Famer Raymond Francis Goffio who died unexpectedly earlier this summer.
He was 60 years old.
“It went really well and it was the best year yet for this tournament,” Jason Cusato, one of the event’s organizers and the creative force behind the celluloid tribute to the game, “When Broomsticks Were King.” “We had a really good crowd show up for the first time. Usually there are just a few people watching us. This time, we had an actual big crowd.”
Some members of the crowd, he said, were there to honor Goffio.
“All of Ray’s family was there which was really nice,” Cusato said. “There were people watching us. The day was great. It was definitely the best tournament we’ve had to date.”
Cusato spoke of the impact Goffio had on local stickball.
“It made the day extra special,” he added. “You never get closure with people passing away but it felt really good to honor Ray by doing something he loved to do. He loved to play, he loved to talk about it. Whenever we do these events, a lot of times when we were asked, ‘Can we speak to someone from the stickball team,’ Ray was always a good spokesman for the sport.”
Goffio was inducted into the Stickball Hall of Fame in 2007. He talked to this paper in July about his love for the game.
“I’ve been playing since nine years old,” he said. “I play with a guy named John Candelaria. He went on to play 22 years in the major leagues. I played my first game on East 10th Street.”
Candelaria pitched for several Major League Baseball teams from 1975-1993.
At the end of the tournament, the Harlem team was victorious but all attendees and players understood the significance of the game.
“It was very special to have Ray’s family come down,” Cusato said. “He played such a big part in everything that we did. His passing was so shocking and abrupt that having the family down there made the day so much more special.
“It was a beautiful, perfect day. Wasn’t too hot. A nice breeze,” Cusato went on. “It was the perfect day to play and perfect time to honor him.”
Goffio’s family donned shirts with his picture and name on them.
“I thought they’d just come down for a game or two,” he said. “They stayed the entire day and left when we were leaving so they had a really great time.”
It was also special for the teams to play in the historic Brooklyn amusement park.
“It’s always cool to play in Coney Island, period,” Cusato said. “But to play right next to the Wonder Wheel makes it extra special. You’re in the shadow of this old, unique, Brooklyn landmark and we’re playing what I feel is a very traditional Brooklyn game.
“It’s a New York game but I feel strong ties to stickball in Brooklyn,” he concluded. “It felt good to be there but because of Ray, it felt that much more special.”