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Mineola Memories

Stickball Flashbacks

Magnet Fingers. It sounds like the title of a bad 1950s horror movie, but it was actually describing a horror of a ballplayer. In our daily ritual of stickball, it was common knowledge that any ball that was hit or thrown in my direction would land anywhere but in my glove. Many of us had nicknames. Steve Wolf was “Weiner,” Don Fleischhauer was “Flash” and Bob Zukowski was “Z.” For me it was “Magnet Fingers.” I really didn’t like the name or the sarcasm, but I understood that it was fitting, funny, and used in a good-nature.

 

From the time we were first allowed to play in the street until our early 20s, stickball was an evening way of life in the neighborhood. We batted from the intersection of Droesch Place and Wisteria Avenue, and thus had the advantage of a home on Berkley Road serving as a center field barrier. 

 

True to the name, our bat was usually a retired broomstick. The batter was his own pitcher; he would give the ball a little toss into the air “fungo” style and swing. The event was always open to all participants, but we could get a decent game going with as few as six players. In that case, the field positions would be outfield, infield, and first base. I was always assigned first base where I could cause the least damage. If the infielder caught the ball, he would run towards first base and hand it to me for the tag. 

 

My skills at bat were no better than those in the field, but I rationalized that perhaps I was just a good pitcher. With Billy Maier, however, it was a different story. In addition to being older and bigger than the rest of us, he was a good athlete and an extremely powerful young man. At least once each season, he would step up to the plate and shatter the stick or the ball. On one occasion, I had bought a brand new pink Spalding Hi-Bounce ball, wrote my initials on it, and placed it into service. In the first inning, Billy came to bat, connected, and the ball went out of sight. After a thorough search of the yard and gardens at center field, we were resigned to the fact that the ball and the game were history. The next day, while delivering newspapers, I spotted the ball in the front yard of a home on Kenilworth Road, some 450 feet downrange of home plate.

 

There was no set rule regarding the length of our games. The number of innings we played was usually determined by the time we ran out of daylight. As darkness fell, we would proceed with the second part of our tradition—the post-game sessions by the outfield lamppost on Berkley Road. These “clubhouse” gatherings would often last longer than the games. As we sat on the curb, we would light up cigarettes and discuss cars, girls, Hi-Fi equipment, sports, eccentric teachers, and politics. Yes, politics. During the 1960 presidential campaign, we engaged in many scholarly debates about whom we would rather see on TV for the next four years, Kennedy’s wife or Nixon’s daughters. 

 

As 11 p.m. approached, even good lamppost sessions had to come to an end. My parents and I had worked out an effective paging system. When the outside light of my house went on, it was their discreet signal that I was expected to be indoors in ten minutes and the countdown had begun. One of our buddies, Danny, was not so fortunate. One night, during our macho teen gathering, his mother stood at the front door of their house and called out in her melodious, southern drawl, “Peaches, time to come home!” A red-faced Danny sheepishly walked home amidst a standing ovation from the rest of us. In order to save this individual any further anguish, I have not used his real name. It probably makes no difference; after that night, we rarely addressed him by his real name anyway.

From that moment on, as far as I was concerned, Magnet Fingers didn’t sound all that bad. 


News

The Mineola School Board will hold a public hearing on the much-debated New York State veterans exemption on Thursday, Nov. 6 at 6:30 p.m. in the Willis Avenue School. It is expected the board will either approve or disapprove the tax exemption during its regular meeting at 7 p.m.

When votes go to the polls next week on Tuesday, Nov. 4 to vote on the Town of North Hempstead’s 2nd Council District seat, candidate Bonnie Parente feels her stance on the building department is what voters will remember when casting their choice. The 2nd council district post is currently held by Peter Zuckerman, a former East Hills trustee. He was appointed to the seat in January to replace Thomas Dwyer, who resigned last year.

 

“That’s the major issue I heard about when I knocked on doors,” she said. “No matter where I am, I could be at the Herricks Community Center or the Albertson Pasta Dinner and

predominately what people ask about is how to fix the building department.”


Sports

Samantha Pastore

Samantha Pastore, senior and third-year varsity player, is also co-captain of the currently undefeated (11-0) Mineola Girls Varsity Volleyball team. She is an outside hitter and is often recognized in games by starting rallies with her quick thinking and nimble feet. She earns 20 percent of the team’s points and averages four aces per match.

The Mineola Mustangs varsity football team fell to the Seaford Vikings last week 27-21, missing their chance to tie the top seeds Locust Valley and Roosevelt’s 6-1 Nassau conference IV record.

 

After tying the game in the second half and having the opportunity to capitalize on Seaford’s failed extra-point kick on their final touchdown, the Viking’s senior wide receiver/defensive back Bobby Buell knocked away a pass from Mineola senior quarterback James Gerstner to senior wide receiver Brian Smith in the end-zone with 57 seconds left


Calendar

International Night - October 30

Halloween Parade - October 31

Cultural Arts Series - November 1 


Columns

1959: The Year The Music Stopped Playing
Written by Michael A. Miller, mmillercolumn@gmail.com

The Eccentric Heiress Of ‘Empty Mansions’
Written by Mike Barry, MFBarry@optonline.net

Yellow Margarine And A Pitch For The Ages
Written by Michael A. Miller, mmillercolumn@gmail.com