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Half a Century Later, Brooklyn Stickball Old Timers Day Remains Special

A tradition half a century in the making continues to bring out the competition and camaraderie on a Bay Ridge block.

This year’s Brooklyn Stickball Old Timers Day, once again held on the same day as the Ragamuffin Parade, Saturday, October 13, celebrated its 50th anniversary and brought old and new friends back together for a game they played as youths and still have a passion for to this day.

The beloved and nostalgic tradition, celebrated on 80th Street between Third and Fourth Avenues, brought back not only good, old-fashioned fun, but helped rekindle a long-lasting bond.

“It was really good. We had a great turnout,” said coordinator for the games and long-time Bay Ridgeite Peter Syrdahl.

“We have young guys that come from all over,” he said. “People came from Kentucky, Florida and California. Plus we had our own old-timers from Texas and Virginia, and my brother came from Norway, which was very special.”

The old timers mostly consist of players ages 65-70 years old; the young old timers are around 40.

The night before gametime, a group of stickball aficionados consisting of 57 people went to Sirico’s Caterers, 8023 13th Avenue, for an anniversary dinner.

“I think it was emotional,” said Syrdahl, who no longer plays due to several surgeries. “I gave a little speech Friday evening. I could see some of the people in the audience sobbing. Fifty years is a long time.”

For the occasion, Syrdahl put together a slideshow of photos taken over the years. “People were fascinated,” he said. “When they were not dancing or talking, they were watching the photos from 30, 40 years ago.

“It was a little bittersweet,” he added, with recollections of 13 regular players who had died.

“Everyone loves just getting together,” Syrdahl noted. “For me it was heartwarming because  we’ve been friends for 50 years, more than that.”

The following day, when it was time to play ball, two competitive games were held between the “Old Old Timers” and the “Younger Old Timers.”

During the first game, the elders dominated, winning 25-7. The younger group got their act together in the second game and won 14-12.

“The ballgame was great,” recalled Syrdahl. “It was a brisk day, and we had a great turnout. I would say there were 40 players and about 20 watching us. Everyone was happy and played their hearts out.”

Following the game, the group of pals went to J.J. Bubbles, 7912 Third Ave., for refreshments, and distributed awards for best player (Big Broomstick), furthest hit ball and best fan (Stoop Sitter).

“Even though no one really lives on the block anymore, we’re all good friends,” Syrdahl said.

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