In the boys schoolyard, we had all kinds of ball players.
We had good outside shooters. We had good defenders. Ferocious rebounders and slick passers.
Some players were more athletic than others. Some were good team guys; some were a cancer. Some were winners and some, well some you just didn’t want to be stuck on their team.
Yesterday, while watching some kids try to dunk on a low rim, I thought about the description we used to tag people with if a guy couldn’t jump very high (which was most guys that played in the yard) we’d call them a “rock.”
I’m not going to throw anyone under the bus for their lack of jumping ability but it was more of a comical exchange if someone playing ball in the yard had a vertical of less than three inches. We played games like Around-The-World, Taps, 21, Horse, one-on-one, three-on-three but the one thing you never saw in the yard was a slam-dunk contest unless it was on the taps court.
“You’re a rock!” we would say to someone who couldn’t get up. Guys tried ankle weights, they jumped rope and the best of all, whenever you walked past a street sign or store awning, you jumped as high as you could to touch it.
Guys like Curtis Walker and Timmy Kemp could strut their stuff “talking to the Lord” at times. We also had Willie Lanzisera who could throw it down from time to time. For a smaller guy, the late Michael Rauthier had some hops too. My guys Jackie Ryan from East fifth street could jump as well as Jimmy Parker from St. Saviour. It was always a treat as a kid going up to Bishop Ford to watch guys like Tommy Walsh and Warren Whitlock show their “hops” on the warm-up lines before the game.
I don’t recall many high jumpers from the yard. When God was giving out jumping ability back in the day, I think he skipped right over the kids in our neighborhood.