This stickball league is making people across cultures and generations feel like kings.
True
DICK'S Sporting Goods

Pick a Sunday afternoon in the spring or summer, and on one stretch of road in the Bronx, you can be sure the sidewalks will be lined with men and women watching an exciting game of stickball.

Those who turn their back to the action, perhaps to scoop some rice and beans or chicken wings out of a deep baking pan onto a paper plate, must stay alert for the thwack of a rubber ball — and be prepared to duck.

Because here on Stickball Boulevard, the players do their hitting, running, and catching in the street with lightning-quick speed.


A stickball player steps up to the "plate" on Stickball Boulevard. Photo courtesy of Jennifer Lippold.

Stickball is a street version of baseball that was popularized in post-World War II New York City.

Traditionally you just needed a broomstick, a rubber ball, and some imagination to play.

Immigrant children from across Europe and Latin America, as well as those born in the U.S., played both alongside and against each other in the city streets. A clan from one block would challenge those from a rival block, playing for bragging rights and sometimes a little bit of money.

Field boundaries varied greatly, depending on the features of the street on which a game was being played. It wasn't uncommon to have a batter slam a ball off the side of a building only to see it ricochet off a lamppost into a fielder's hands for an out. Once a ball was hit, and if a fielder failed to corral it on a fly, the batter ran the bases as fast as they could. Bases could be a car bumper, a fire hydrant, or a chalk outline on the asphalt. In some areas, home runs would be awarded if a batter shot the ball beyond a certain sewer.

Setting up T-ball for a newbie. Photo courtesy of Jennifer Lippold.

Respected power hitters were sometimes known as "three-sewer guys," those who hit the ball past a trio of sewers, planted across multiple blocks. Mythologically, Major League Baseball stars of the city — like Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle, who in the 1950s would sometimes play with the kids on the streets — were "four-sewer guys."

As decades passed, stickball play waned in New York City.

The emergence of basketball — which quickly became a more dominant street sport because it required fewer players — and increased car traffic both contributed to its decline as did the prevalence of TV sets, computers, and video game consoles.

But on Stickball Boulevard in the Bronx, the game is alive and well.

It's there that the nine teams of the New York Emperors Stickball League rule, welcoming players from their teens to late 70s from any background or gender.

Teams seeking championship trophies battle each other in league games and tournaments, with fans cheering and heckling players, just like at a professional game.

Three competing stickball teams from the 1970s. Photo courtesy of Jennifer Lippold.

Two of the finest players in this league today are a talented father-son duo who play on the same team.

They're also both named Ricardo Torres, with the senior Ricardo aged 45 and the junior, Ricky, 23.

Ricardo was living on the Lower East Side of Manhattan when he was introduced to stickball in his early 20s by a co-worker who invited him to the Bronx for a friendly game. "I thought, 'All right I'll give this a shot.'"

"One or two tries later, I'm hitting these balls deep, and my teammates were like, 'Perfect, this is the guy we need,'" he recalls. And before long, he was hooked, playing on Stickball Boulevard, and he soon coaxed his son Ricky into playing.

"My dad knew I was serious was when I was about 13 years old, I would always hit the ball against our house in the backyard," Ricky says. "I would do this at like seven in the morning, and I would wake up my dad."

Ricardo, excited to have Ricky involved in stickball, remembers telling him, "Spread your wings." Ricky has since earned a reputation as one of the league's best fielders and fastest runners.

Ricky Torres at a tournament in May 2013. Photo by Kyria Abrahams/Narratively, used with permission.

Like many players in the Emperors Stickball League, he's molded great friendships with other players.

Sometimes, they become especially close during stickball tours that have given Ricky and others the opportunity to play as far away as San Diego, across Florida, and Puerto Rico.

But for Ricky, it's the relationship with his father that has been strengthened the most by stickball.

"I love playing with my father," Ricky says. "It definitely gives us more time to hang out, and to share a hobby is cool. We talk about the sport a lot." Ricky also fondly recalls his father championing his all-out style of play early on.

"He's the core of our team," Ricardo says of his son. "I'm just proud of him, how he's developed and been able to bring respect and enjoyment to the game." But Ricardo also notes that, more importantly, stickball has given him the opportunity to spend every Sunday with his son. "As a young man, to have people in our circle constantly come up to me and speak on how good of a person he is, it's a great feeling," he adds.

Members of the Emperors Stickball League are working to unify stickball organizations from France to Puerto Rico and throughout the U.S. under one governing body.

Kids waiting to play. Photo courtesy of Jennifer Lippold.

That means even more kids and adults — fathers and mothers with their sons and daughters — from numerous backgrounds can coexist and compete on the field, between two curbs.

Hopefully the growing league will encourage more kids to put down their smart devices, come outside, and experience the simple, pure joy of hitting a ball out of the park, or past three sewers, as it were.  It may be a ragtag sport, but when it's bonded family and communities together for generations, you know it's something special.

This story was produced as part of a campaign called "17 Days" with DICK'S Sporting Goods. These stories aim to shine a light on real occurrences of sports bringing people together.

True

This year more than ever, many families are anticipating an empty dinner table. Shawn Kaplan lived this experience when his father passed away, leaving his mother who struggled to provide food for her two children. Shawn is now a dedicated volunteer and donor with Second Harvest Food Bank in Middle Tennessee and encourages everyone to give back this holiday season with Amazon.

Watch the full story:

Over one million people in Tennessee are at risk of hunger every day. And since the outbreak of COVID-19, Second Harvest has seen a 50% increase in need for their services. That's why Amazon is Delivering Smiles and giving back this holiday season by fulfilling hundreds of AmazonSmile Charity Lists, donating essential pantry and food items to help organizations like Second Harvest to feed those hit the hardest this year.

Visit AmazonSmile Charity Lists to donate directly to a local food bank or charity in your community, or simply shop smile.amazon.com and Amazon will donate a portion of the purchase price of eligible products to your selected charity.

File:Pornhub-logo.svg - Wikimedia Commons

A 2015 survey conducted by the National Union of Students found that 60% of respondents turned to porn to fill in the gaps in sex education. While 40% of those people said they learned a little, 75% of respondents said they felt porn created unrealistic expectations when it comes to sex. Some of the unrealistic expectations from porn can be dangerous. A study found that 88% of porn contained violence, and another study found that those who consumed porn were more likely to become sexually aggressive.

But now the thing that breaks those unrealistic expectations… might also be porn? Pornhub has launched a sex education section.

The adult website's first series is simply titled, "Pornhub Sex Ed" and contains 11 videos and is accessible through the Pornhub Sexual Wellness Center. The section also contains articles, some showing real anatomy and examples in order to bust myths people may have picked up on other portions of the website.

Keep Reading Show less
True

A lot of people here are like family to me," Michelle says about Bread for the City — a community nonprofit located in Washington DC that provides local residents with food, clothing, health care, social advocacy, and legal services. And since the pandemic began, the need to support organizations like Bread for the City is greater than ever, which is why Amazon is Delivering Smiles to local charities across the country this holiday season.

Watch the full story:

Amazon is giving back by fulfilling hundreds of AmazonSmile Charity Lists, and donating essential pantry and food items to help organizations like Bread for the City provide to those disproportionately impacted this year.

Visit AmazonSmile Charity Lists to donate directly to a local charity in your community, or simply shop smile.amazon.com and Amazon will donate a portion of the purchase price of eligible products to your charity of choice.

I saw this poster today and I was going to just let it go, but then I kept feeling tugged to say something.

Melanie Cholish/Facebook

While this poster is great to bring attention to the issue of child trafficking, it is a "shocking" picture of a young girl tied up. It has that dark gritty feeling. I picture her in a basement tied to a dripping pipe.

While that sounds awful, it's important to know that trafficking children in the US is not all of that. I can't say it never is—I don't know. What I do know is most young trafficked children aren't sitting in a basement tied up. They have families, and someone—usually in their family—is trafficking them.

Keep Reading Show less

While many of us have understandably let the challenges of 2020 get under our skin and bring us down, a young man from Florida was securing his place in the Guinness Book of World Records. Chris Nikic became the first person with Down syndrome to complete a full triathlon.

For the majority of people, a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike ride or a 26.2 mile run would be difficult on its own. The Ironman competition requires participants to complete them all in one grueling race. In a statement, Special Olympics Florida President and CEO Sherry Wheelock called Chris "an inspiration to all of us." She continued, "We are incredibly proud of Chris and the work he has put in to achieve this monumental goal. He's become a hero to athletes, fans, and people across Florida and around the world."

Nikic's journey to become an Ironman started off as a challenge far less lofty. He and his father, Nik, created the "1 percent better challenge." The idea was to keep Chris motivated during the pandemic and beyond. According to The Washington Post, the idea was for Chris to improve his workouts by one percent each day because he "doesn't like pain" but loves "food, videos games and my couch." The plan was to keep building strength and stamina while keeping his eye on the grand prize of completing a triathlon. Nik told the Panama City News Herald, "I was concerned because after high school and after graduation a lot of kids with Down syndrome become isolated and just start living a life of isolation. I said, 'Look, let's go find him something to get him back into the world and get him involved,' so we started looking around and we were fortunate that at the same time Special Olympics Florida started this triathlon program, and I thought, 'What a great way to get him started, get him in shape and get him to make some friends.'"


Keep Reading Show less