My Baseball Career
by Bob Stonehill
When my brother was in the sixth or possibly the seventh grade, some of the boys he knew at school were forming a baseball team. My brother was asked to try out for the team and I tagged along to watch, possibly with a baseball glove of my own. After throwing ground balls to Lee and possibly fly balls in the air of those narrow lanes, someone said, “Give the kid a chance.” I was scrappy, and I wanted to prove my capabilities and receive compliments as a kid two years younger than my brother. I was proud of myself, and have never forgotten the experience.
A few years later, I joined a team called the Sunnyside Royals which played hardball on dirt lots around the area, often near LaGuardia Airport. The team called the lot across from the Celtic Apartments on 43rd Street south of Greenpoint Avenue, its home field. Primarily, I played first base. We were a mediocre team but Simon Strum of 45th Street was our shortstop, and he went on to play for Bryant High School.
One year, my batting average was around 300, but when the opposition discovered the curve ball, my fortunes sank. I still have the article from the Long Island Press, which reads, "Matika throws No Hitter against the Royals." In that game, Stonehill struck out as the last batter to seal the no hitter. To add to my misery, the only time my father ever came to see me play baseball was when he arrived shortly before that strike-out, the absolute low point of my amateur career.
The worst baseball memory of mine, however, was when I was playing first base and got distracted in a conversation and didn't see the ball coming towards my face. I was driven either by car or by ambulance to St. John's Hospital for the nose straightening operation. What pain. Blood everywhere.
Bobby at bat on 39th Avenue in 1950, Eugene Turitz, behind the catcher's mitt