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Location: Greenpoint USA

Saturday, October 09, 2004

TD Marlo remembers The Greenpoint Little League

My pop gave me the bunt sign even though the bases were loaded. I knew that he knew nothing about baseball, or any sports for that matter - the only reason that he took the job as manager of Mickeys Toyland was because Mister Goddard quit under the pressure of all the parents complaining about how he would only play the good kids, and put us scrubs in for the minimum 2 1/2 innings. Now my pop was at the helm giving me the bunt sign with the bases loaded - we were doomed!

So we don't see the old Mickey's Toyland, Leviton, or McCallisters Electric, teams strutting their cool high sock look anymore at the Little League. And I sure do miss the flavor of that ice cold Kirsch club soda and a knish after a tough game against the likes of Stobierski's and their Konzelman brothers. I didn't know it at the time but for a while, the coffee that was served at the Little League was donated from a worker at the old Greenpoint Terminal Warehouse, where his donation was collected "after hours style" with the old slight of hand "swag" move.

And then there was the time when King & His Court, sort of the Harlem Globe Trotters of softball, came to town and graced the "majors" field with their moves. "Pop Moss" worked real hard prepping the field for that event. But even Pop Moss couldn't get rid of the "Diamond Needles" (dragon fly's) out in left field. Even the "scar brothers" and Danny the ump (now Danny the PostMan), re-consulted their umpire rules and regulations book before the big King and His court game that special season. No chance of calling the game for darkness that day.

We bought our gloves at Triangle on Grand Street, juiced them up and tied a ball inside to ready them for play. We creased our hat in the middle for the cool look, and the tighter and higher you could get your baseball socks made the look even smoother. You had to be smooth lookin' for the girls playing volleyball past the outfield fence of the "minors" field - that was years before they got to join us in the dugout.

Early rise for the big parade all the way down from Manhattan Avenue to the white lined field of the Little League on Vandervoort Avenue. It was the only time of the season when they painted the base lines and installed the public address system. We even got to sing the National Anthem on opening day.

Little League was all about fun. I suppose that's why during one game when we were losing 31 to 2 in the 3rd inning, my pop walked out onto the field, waved the team in - called time out - and informed the ump that "we quit". The umpire was totally confused, and even accused my pop of setting a bad example for the kids - teaching us to be "quitters". Pop insisted that we had already learned a good lesson about humiliation (he could probably tell by the way a few of us were crying in the outfield for the last hour) - he then bought all of us soda and knish's as if we just won the game.

Being a "big kid", I also learned the humility of being the only one in the league to have to wear a different looking uniform. I was the only kid to sport "old league" pin stripes. Like it wasn't bad enough that when I walked out to the pitchers mound and had to hear the other teams entire dug out roster sing "..I feel the earth move under my feet...." But when everyone realized that my uniform was once worn by one of the biggest home run hitters in Little League history - they called him "Legs" - and after I whacked a few long ones out into the T-shirt field, I was once again in pretty good standings with my peers. Hanging out "on the block" after the game in my very unique Greenpoint Pointers uniform made me very proud - although it was probably a foolish move to not have removed my rubber cleats while hanging out on the block.

By the way - Turns out that pop's stradegy to bunt with the bases loaded took everyone by surprise - especially that Joe Harrigan manager guy and his big time winners, Rite Beer and their big yellow patches. My bunt turned into an inside the park Grand Slam, game winner! Welcome to The Greenpoint Little League.

Friday, October 08, 2004

God Bless The Greenpoint 70's

"......we polished the eagle on our Trans-Am's, and humped in the back seat of our Firebird's under the Kosciusko Bridge......."

I gazed at a photograph taken by the Gazette, of a Greenpoint block party, circa 1970's. Although many of the faces have passed, even more of the faces have grown. Myself included. In 1970 I was ten years old. I had already seen a man walk on the moon. I had watched as world leaders were assassinated. I had read my brothers homesick letters sent from across the world in Viet Nam. I had watched my cousins' eyes fade from the heroin in his blood. The days of free love and Woodstock were nearing their end. A new moment was upon us. A new age of sex, drugs and rock & roll. The Seventies!

As the last of the Johnny on the pony generation faded, the new genesis began to take form. We closed our Dr. Seuss books and stepped forward with our pensy pinkies, click-clacks, and crayon filled scolsee caps. We readied the streets and painted the bases for punch ball, slap and stoop. Sporting what was to be the last of the vaccination skin craters on our left arm, we suited up into our Keds, Cons and patch pocket pants. We adjusted the fine line of our chinos and laced up our earth shoes. We tuned our air guitars with "Smoke on the water," and invented air keyboard with "Frankenstein." Our mothers prepared instant coffee and our sisters discovered grapefruit and cottage cheese. A new rank had come of age. It was our ten to twenty year 'ole time. The sixties were gone. Man had explored the moon then. Now, adolescents were about to explore themselves.

The seventies were a time for earth day and painting fire hydrants red white and blue. There were ball bearing tops, and yo-yos, and Styrofoam airplanes. There were chips on the ball. Ham and eggs, abandoned cars, and stepping on nails. We satisfied our sweet hunger with the fine mixture of Pixie stix powders, and quenched our thirst with the colored juices held within chewable wax containers. There were sweet tarts, and bottle caps, and buttons. Razzles, candy necklaces, and shoe string licorice. Bites of Bazooka Joe, and bags of gold mine gum. It was a time for smoking cigarettes, avoiding three on a match, and getting saves (don't lip it or steam it). It was a time for drinking quarts, and vomiting through your nose. The girls made love belts from the wrappers of Wrigleys gum. The boys wore the chains of beer can flip-tops. Nine joints to a nickel bag. Streakers running past the tall fences of The Brooklyn Union Gas Company (a.k.a. the army camp). The Greenpoint Ballbusters, and The Satan Madcaps road tall in the saddles of their mini bikes, wielding carpet guns, and pints of Mad Dog 20/20. Then came masturbation and September depression. This was the season of discovery and passing through impressionable times. Sex and love were merely a road on which we were about to embark, through these rights of passage.

In 1973 we sat in circles, and discovered the poetry of the time: *"I play it cool. I dig all jive, that's the reason I stay alive. My motto as I live and learn is dig and be dug in return." We learned our politics through "Ball of confusion," and discovered our passions with "Colour my world.". We learned the power of the crush, and the anatomy of the broken heart. The beginning lessons on the drama of life. We drank Annie Greensprings and Wild Irish Rose. We munched on pretzels sold from Cleos old baby carriage. We arrived drunk at Saint Cecilia and Saint Anthony dances and rocked ourselves free to the neighborhood bands: Tarkus, White Smoke, Harvest, Squadron, Southern Earth, One Way, Nubia, Life, Sidewinder, Lord Urias, and The Rice Miller Band. We had our stomachs pumped. We died in car accidents on Review Avenue and The Greenpoint Avenue Bridge. We learned about sex. The Catholic school curriculum called it "becoming a person." They taught us to keep our underwear clean. Somehow they knew that we would need this knowledge to survive the next seven years. The time was strange, but necessary.

As adolescence changed us into young adults, we learned the patient art of conversation, and manipulation. We carried in our wallets, little black books and little blue rubbers. We felt the painful sting of the penicillin, but we were indestructible. We learned everything, yet, knew nothing. We fell in love, in lust, in boredom, in ego, in chase, in kill. We cared about nothing else. We were hormones in sneakers. The times were changing. Benny and the jets were gone forever. They left in their farmer pants and marshmallow shoes.

Now it was Son of Sam and Saturday Night Fever. It was Rocky Balboa and Saturday Night Live. It was coke and ludes and "The sultans of swing." Disco sucked and leisure suits were for guidos. We drank seven and seven and played under and over. We lurked past our grandparents and shoved rush into our nostrils. We polished the eagle on our Trans-Am's, and humped in the back seat of our Firebird's under the Kosciusko Bridge. We mixed jungle juice in giant coolers down Wayne County, and made frequent reefer runs to Broadway and Lorimer. The end of our salad years was drawing near. The Bonham news was just ahead, and "Glass houses" was just around the corner. It was almost time to pass the quart one last time. The "I, me, my" generation had their hands extended to accept it.

It has been many-some - odd years since last it was 1970. Now, picking up tomatoes is actually a shopping chore. We find that the paper backing of buttons is no longer acceptable to our digestive system. Our knowledge of the joint count of a nickel bag has evolved into the ability to estimate the number of frankfurters in a pound of loose dogs.

Indeed, the photograph has faded. Little Josette, Karen and Joseph are the new mothers and fathers of Greenpoint. Sal, Brian, and Jimmy have children of their own. Joe and Ernie, from wherever they may be, probably look over my shoulder and, hopefully approve of my account of the times. Greenpoint of the 1970's has made me who I am today. It was my ten to twenty year 'ole time. A time that I wouldn't trade a moment of, for all the art in Chelsea.