The uniquely American sport of football did not escape us on West 83rd Street. Football was played in the street and on the sidewalk. The day in question found us on the sidewalk. We played from the hardware store to the fire alarm box on the southwest corner of 83rd and Amsterdam. It was, by the way, only another half block to the firehouse, the quarters of Engine Company 56.
This part of the block was diverse in every way. After the hardware store, working East was the Holy Trinity School (now the Manhattan Children’s Museum), several walk ups (apartment buildings of four or five stories) and then the corner on which stood the red fire alarm pull box.
On the North side of West 83rd stood next to the movie theatre’s blank wall another large apartment building, 215 West 83rd, where I would live briefly in my twenties, and adjacent to that some businesses long forgotten. These storefronts, up a few steps were the first floor of some smaller building/buildings (not sure here).
That fall afternoon I was the quarterback for my side, only four of us were playing. The sidewalk could get awful crowded when everyone from 222 played or when we had friends over.
I had quite an arm in those days. I could nail someone at the fire alarm box from the western most entrance of Holy Trinity (I don’t remember if that was the boys’ or girls’ entrance).
We were playing our usual touch game, after all the sidewalk was cement, when a group of four Holy Trinity high schoolers came out on the school steps. They watched for a minute or two, impressed I think by both the throwing and the catching and unfortunately by my football, a special white one with a black ring around each end.
I know this because as they worked their way up the block I was intercepted. Neither the first nor last time this happened, but certainly more of a surprise given who was doing the intercepting.
They were all bigger than us. We would never have had a chance to retrieve the ball by asking or threatening. My answer was a tantrum; I threw what must have been a heck of a screaming fit. Cursing up a storm, running at them, yelling and screaming to give my ball back, ‘cause they dropped the ball and took off up the block to get away from the crazy one.
Once again a tantrum had gotten me what I wanted.
Today, I am no fan of the game. I think I gave it up when Joe Bellino, 1960 Heisman Trophy winner, went into the Navy or perhaps when Y.A.Tittle (NY Giants QB) retired (1964). I don’t know if I spelled either of their names correctly but they were both pretty special. Or perhaps it was when my father died (1970), the Annapolis team and the Giants were things we shared when I was younger and he was well.