By Joseph Santoliquito

The routine would always be the same those summer mornings when an alarm clock wasn’t waking you up and there wasn’t always a deadline to meet, a business meeting to attend, or a conference call that you needed to catch. They were great carefree times, filled with unforgettable slice-of-life moments all teenage kids embrace. The times you may sometimes reminisce about today when you’re daydreaming. No responsibilities. Absolute freedom. No concerns or worries. Just lifting weights, skulking for girls at the local mall or a beach (when you weren’t too embarrassed to be seen shirtless), eating whatever junk you wanted and playing games.

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We always had our games. Stickball, stepball, halfball, wiffleball every morning around 10:30 (still very ripe from lifting the night before), and then summer hoops later that night under dingy lights when the asphalt cooled. And you were always somebody. I, like many, many others in the Delaware Valley, happened to be fortunate enough to grow up with the Phillies of Schmitty, Carlton, The Bull, Maddox, Bowa, Booney and Pete Rose. We had the Flyers of Clarkie, Reggie Leach, Bill Barber and Bernie. The Eagles were emerging under Dick Vermeil and this exciting new running back, Wilbert Montgomery. And then the amazing Sixers of Doc, Doug Collins and Darryl “Chocolate Thunder” Dawkins.

We had a great selection to choose from who we wanted to be.

I was a tri-fan, having a favorite National League team (the Phillies) and two favorite American League teams (the Baltimore Orioles and New York Yankees). You’d imitate batting stances. My guys were Tony Taylor (why, I don’t know to this day), Bowa, and Eddie Murray from the right side of the plate in wiffleball. I was also the Yankees’ Willie Randolph (please don’t hold that against me), for the slick way he fielded the ball. I was Duane Kuiper, diving across neighbor’s lawns into trees, so I could make the kind of incredible acrobatic catches Kuiper made from clips I saw on This Week In Baseball.

Marc Farzetta, for example, was Nails (Now I’m Broke) Dykstra and Inky–and when he played the infield, Cal Ripken Jr. Rob Ellis, another Philly-area native like myself, was Rose hitting in the crouched stance, and Schmidt, with the butt wag. In street hockey, he could be Bobby Clarke, in basketball Dr. J and in pick-up football games after school, imitate Wilbert dashing through Dallas’s Doomsday Defense.

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How can you forget those times?

This coming Monday at FDR Park, August 16th, WIP is offering a rare treat to the inner child in all of us–a chance to go back. Sure, there’s bound to be some leftover high school star reaching for a past glory who’s probably going to pull or strain something in trying to prove they still have it. But that’s not what it’s about. It will be about truly enjoying yourself and reliving a tension-free time, with the only argument stemming from an innocuous disagreement as to who’s playing shortstop and whether or not someone was safe at second.

So my challenge to you, and you, and you, to all of you who plan to attend is who were you growing up and why? What was it about that player that inspired you to imitate them, whether it was their batting stance, or a certain signature move they had on the basketball court, or the way they snapped a wrist shot, or how they ran with the football.

Tell us who you were and why when you were growing up during that golden time when you weren’t waking to an alarm clock each morning, weren’t up against a deadline, or weren’t running through an airport trying to make a flight.

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Welcome to the first annual Play Day. Here’s your chance to be Schmitty, Clarkie, Wilbert and Doc again.