My official home address was 228A Prospect Park West. But, I grew up in the boys schoolyard at Holy Name; it was my second home.
Didn’t matter if it was after school Monday through Friday, early Saturday morning or right after the last mass let out on Sunday. I recall one time they actually locked the fence on Howard Place on Sunday’s just to keep us out.
And of course, watching the summer league at night.
Observing the older guys battle every night was an education in the game itself.
The afternoons showcased ballplayers like Gerard Trapp, Jimmy Rauthier, Brian Keating, Richie Deere, John Corrar and many others. When they played three-on-three, the games were intense. You did not want to lose because you found yourself on the side waiting for the next run which could be a while.
The money-league was always competitive. I used to like watching players from other neighborhoods show up from all over; they walked, rode their bikes, took the train or bus and some showed up in cars.
I often talk with friends on a daily basis and we discuss the schoolyard; we all agree that it will never be the same. The same as back in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s when we spent so much time on the concrete jungle.
Stepping out of my apartment on the corner of Windsor and Ninth I would cross the avenue and head down Windsor Place. Hanging a right on Howard Place I would make my way up to the yard walking alongside of my grammar school Holy Name. I’d glance across the street and see families outside on their front porch watching me head to the only place I felt comfortable. I’d listen for the bouncing balls and the voices. It wasn’t hard, because if you were an athlete, you could be found playing ball in the boys schoolyard. Once inside, I found my paradise; paved paradise.
A few guys that I miss playing against and with from the yard:
The Cullen’s; Jimmy, Frankie and Dave.
Sean and Mickey Reilly
Michael Scotto Di-Clemente
CJ, Chris and Carlos Robinson
Tito and Jose Martinez
Richie and Bobby Dixon
As young kids we showed up early on a Saturday morning. Played until noon, went home for lunch, came back and played some more before dinner.
After we ate we’d hustle back and play some more.
At night, usually around ten, we would get tossed out by the brothers from over in the rectory. It was scary because you would hear this loud voice but not see anyone
“HEY YOU KIDS, GET OUTTA THE SCHOOLYARD!”
Holy shit, was that God? I often thought to myself.
The people who lived on Howard Place were cool, they never complained about us dribbling into the night. Maybe they did but just tolerated all the noise?
Besides one-on-one, two-on-two and three-on-three, we would play games like Taps, Around the World, Twenty-One and H.O.R.S.E
There were countless nights between the ages of 13 and 17, things weren’t going right at home. I’d take my ball and head over to the yard to sit down on the cold concrete on the middle court and stare up at the stars dreaming of playing in the NBA.
When I go back to Brooklyn, I make it a point to stop by the yard. And every time I’m there, its empty.
I’m looking forward to this coming November; I’m making a special trip. The weather should be decent. I’m going to make sure I get a few jump shots up at the baskets in the yard. If I don’t have a basketball handy, I will walk across the street to the Trapp’s house and peek down their basement stairs for one.