"I went to bed at about one and woke up at about three," Mays said. "I couldn't
sleep, because I knew that if I overslept, the kids that are here would be
They weren't. The event featured one game, which was a 9-9 tie, but the
emphasis was on learning the basics and having fun.
Fitted in new shoes and T-shirts from Nike, the children ranged from 7-14 years old. They competed in front of a giant black-and-white photo of Mays playing stickball in Harlem, where the Hall of Famer would sometimes
play with neighborhood children as a member of the New York Giants.
"I think everybody knows that when I came to New York from Alabama, I didn't
know anything about New York City," Mays said. "But New York has treated me so
"When you can, 50 years later, say we're still talking about stickball, I
think it's wonderful."
Before the teams played, they were shown the rules by the coaches, and the
boundary lines were created with chalk on the pavement.
After the lessons, the players were ready to go, huddling to discuss strategy
and concluding it with a team chant that captured the event's theme:
"1-2-3, RBI," the Harlem RBI team shouted. "4-5-6, fun!"
As the game progressed, notable figures showed up, such as U.S. Representative
Charles Rangel, whose district includes Harlem, and Robert Jackson, a Manhattan
"It's about history, it's about teaching [the children] about Major League
Baseball and icons like Willie Mays," said Jackson, who played stickball when
he was younger. "And teaching them that with the game of stickball, you can
grow to be the greatest in the world."
Cy Lippold, 11, of the Emperors Stickball League said she's been playing
stickball for years and typically plays the outfield. She enjoyed herself and
appreciated that her team got to participate in All-Star Week.
"I think it's amazing that kids get to experience it the same way the adults
get to experience it," Lippold said.
Angel Quinones, an assistant director of Stickball for Kids who helped coach
the children, said it's events like Sunday's that help keep children occupied.
And getting a chance to meet Mays, he said, was a bonus.
"I couldn't sleep last night thinking about it," Quinones said. "This is all