By Thomas Pryor
â€œMy life as a boy growing up in Yorkville was stickball, said Ron Weiss, a 73-year-old baseball player, who knocked in the first RBI of the pre-season for his senior team this spring.
I met Ron for a neighborhood walk, and he knew almost every person we passed along the crowded sidewalk. He grew up on 82nd Street between Second and Third avenues and still lives close to where his grandmother, Anuka, called him in for dinner. She lived two buildings up from Ron"s house and did much of the cooking for her extended family.
â€œAll my waking hours were spent on the street in front of my house. I reluctantly went in to eat, but came right back out and played until we either lost the ball or I was dragged away by our family, he said.
Ron"s father owned Weiss"s Candy Store at 1566 Second Ave.
â€œI was in comic book heaven, read every one of them, made myself malted milkshakes, and sampled all the candy. I was also able to talk my father into giving us Spauldeens, he said
Ron primarily plays hardball these days, but a Yorkville stickball game still pops up now and then.
â€œA few years ago, I played stickball with a guy named â€˜Fast Eddie," on the handball courts on 90th Street between Second and Third Avenue, he said.
â€œBaseball is my peace, Ron told me. â€œThe proving grounds for my life were developed on the asphalt streets of Yorkville. Baseball helped me develop a sense of belonging in my neighborhood.
Baseball also helped Ron navigate through personal tragedy when his son took his own life at 22 in 1998. Devastated by the loss, Ron sough solace in the passion he shared with his boy: baseball. That November, he returned to the redemptive repetition that is inherent in the game.
Ron"s gift of gab helped him meet his wife in 1972. Walking along the promenade in Carl Schulz Park on a balmy Sunday, he approached a young woman reading The New York Times on a bench facing the East River and asked, â€œMay I borrow your Sports Section?
She had it, he borrowed it and Patricia and Ron built their life off that newspaper. They have 16-year-old twin daughters, Serena and Vinica, and split time between Yorkville and an upstate home.
To keep in shape, Ron works out two days a week at the 92nd Street Y, where he"s been a member most of his life. Ron taught public school and coached in East Harlem for most of his 30-year teaching career. He retired in 1991.
On his old block, Ron grabbed a broom and unscrewed the bottom, forming a perfect stickball bat.
I took a couple of photos of Ron in the same spot he stood as a boy at home plate, the sewer cover in the street.
While Ron talked during our Yorkville walkabout, I kept thinking of Mr. Cub, Ernie Banks, whose catchphrase was â€œLet"s Play Two!
My impression of Ron: two games are never enough. He would press on for the rubber match, the third game, and so on, until his grandmother came out of the house and pulled him all the way home.
Thomas Pryor has recently completed his first book and curates a show at Cornelia Street Cafe. Read his blog at YorkvilleStoopstoNuts.blogspot.com.
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