I write a lot about my time spent in the boys school yard on Howard Place but don’t forget about the girls yard.

We hung out a lot in the girls school yard which was located on ninth avenue, across the street from my apartment. We did everything in there besides play basketball; there were no hoop courts, just a ton of space and black tar.


Baseball was my second favorite sport behind basketball and when we couldn’t play baseball we’d play stickball. We played against the red brick school wall where we had three strike zones chalked and colored in.

There were three pitching mounds approximately 30, maybe 40 yards away.  You had one, sometimes two outfielders behind the pitcher. Most times if the yard was empty, you used the middle strike zone. You played balls and strikes and just like major league baseball you got four balls, three strikes and three outs. If the batter ‘took’ a pitch, and it landed in the strike zone, it would be a strike; outside the chalked box, it was a ball. If there was ever a discrepancy as to whether the pitch was in the box or not, all you had to do was show the batter the Spalding ball with the chalk mark. Here’s what a typical conversation sounded like when there was a controversial pitch.

Pitcher: “That was a strike.”
Batter: “Get the fuck outta here, that was a ball.”

If the pink ball had chalk on it, it was a strike.

When the batter made contact with the ball, you played automatics. A ground ball back up the middle could be caught by the fielder for an out. If it got past them, or they dropped it, it was a single. Over the fence and onto 9th avenue before the double yellow line in the street, was a double. If it hit the sidewalk across the street it was a triple. And for the big one, the all-elusive Home Run, you had to hit it over the store signs! There was the Bob’s Hardware Store, Nat’s Dry Cleaners, United Meat Market, Key Food and The Hallmark card shop signs.

One day we had outfielders on the sidewalk in front of the stores trying to catch line drives and fly balls. The shoppers on the avenue had to duck for cover whenever a power hitter came up to bat. It wasn’t often I got the ball out of the yard; I was more of a singles-double guy. We gave no thought to the cars and the buses going by on the avenue either.

No such thing as ‘play safe’ in our time.

The foul poles were the sides of the rectory and convent. If you hit either building, it was ruled foul.

The power guys would hit blasts over the roofs. This would be my cue to head home, up to my apartment, out my kitchen window, climb the fire escape onto the roof and track down the ball.


During the summer, I’d rack up a lot of spaldeen’s.

We argued during games, laugh at guys who struck out, and went at each other like it was game seven of the World Series.

On the mound when we were pitching we emulated major league pitching stars like Tom Seaver, Nolan Ryan, Luis Tiant or if you were a southpaw, you thought you were Jon Matlack.

At the plate with the stick in your hands you were Pete Rose, John Milner, Joe Morgan, Cleon Jones or Ed Kranepool. We watched the players on TV or looked at their baseball card and imitated their batting stance.

Out on the field you went after ground balls like Wayne Garrett at 3rd base or Dave Conception at shortstop.

In the outfield you chased down fly balls like Tommie Agee, Cesear Cedeno or Willie Mayes.

To conclude, we had a lot of fun in the girls schoolyard.

I’ll leave the nighttime activities in the yard for another blog entry…



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  1. jimmyvac says:

    Gotta say it is a toss up which schoolyard I liked better. I favored baseball a little over hoops so I enjoyed both. I probably spent more time from 5-12 in the Girls and 13-18 primarily in the boys…..

    • hoopscoach says:


      we had some memorable stick ball games in the boys schoolyard too.

      Also can’t forget about intramural football too.

  2. Maureen Rice says:

    I just walked through both schoolyards, remembering a straight line is the shortest distance between two points 🙂 Whenever the gates are open, I enter on the corner of Howard and Prospect , and come out on Windsor and 9th..the girls schoolyard is a parking lot now….I am never sure if it is for people from the neighborhood, I imagine it is a lot of teacher’s cars there, but even in the summer there are cars parked in there.

    • hoopscoach says:


      Walking through those schoolyards was walking through “Paved Paradise.”

      They should rent out parking spaces; a good way to generate a few bucks for the school.

  3. Glenn Thomas says:

    Frankie Coles was a fixture playing stickball in the HN Girls Yard. As a youngster there were other guys that I could remember playing stickball in that yard. Guys that come to mind are Kenny Lawson and the late Jim McCarthy Sr. Intramural football was great too. It also brings back memories of using that schoolyard as a meeting place for our HN basketball games where parents would often volunteer and drive us to the various game venues for we were always a “travel team” for we didn’t have a home gym. On nights when the temperature freezing and we had no parents to drive us, we used to wait in the lobby of M.J. Smith’s Funeral Home. The man working there was kind enough to let us wait in the lobby until everyone arrived and then we were off to all points in Brooklyn via mass transit. Good times!

    • hoopscoach says:

      Meeting in the girls schoolyard for parents to drive us to practice down P.S. 10’s. Crazy to think we didn’t just walk. LOL

      But wait, I was on the Bantam B team so that meant I was 8 years old.

      Would a parent today allow their eight-year old to walk from the schoolyard down Prospect Avenue to P.S. 10’s at night?

  4. Maureen Rice says:

    I can’t think of people letting their kids walk those few blocks at night..When I was 8, I lived on Dean St, but still went to Holy Name, my sisters and I would take the B69 to school every day by ourselves, my older sister was 9..and there was a 7 and a 6 yr old..we walked a few blocks to Vanderbilt Ave and went to school by ourselves, I don’t think anyone back then found it odd..but, I don’t see it happening today…

  5. Don Cush says:

    I lived over on 19th street and I must say that I played a lot of stickball in the Girls schoolyard but I always prefered the school yard at Bishop Ford. Same rules but instead of ninth avenue and the stores you had the FORD’s chapel windows. Over the windows Home run, window level Triple, And below the windows double. The only issue was losing the ball over the roof or pulling it into Greenwood cemetary

    • hoopscoach says:


      I had a couple of AB’s in Ford’s yard.

      Remember the getting into the yard? You had to stand on the concrete ledge and almost jump over to the steel staircase before you could make your way down to the schoolyard.

      Also, remember that wooden track they had?


      • Don Cush says:

        Yes that was when they had the gate locked. Usually the yard closer to 10th avenue was open. If not we did the jump to the metal stairs thing too

  6. Glenn Thomas says:

    Frankie Coles always walked around the neighborhood with his little schoolbag or gym bag that had every kind of ball in it so that he was ready at a moment’s notice to play any sport. I played stickball up at Ford with him as well. Frankie used to carry an old fashioned hard covered marble notebook where he kept his personal statisitcs in stickball where he ranked himself against the HR leaders of MLB in that time era. I can remember him showing me his HR totals against the likes of Johnny Bench, Yaz, Stargell etc. It was comical !! He was a true character of the neighborhood.

  7. jimmyvac says:

    Best stickball player ever was Timmy Horan.. he was the Willie Mays of stickball.

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