From the SI Vault, check out Gil Rogin's 1964 story, "Confessions of a Stoop Ball Champion":
When I was growing up in New York, my kid brother and I were, for a short and blessed time, the stoop ball doubles champions of 96th Street, that is, the block between the unrelieved distress of Columbus Avenue and the faintly seedy and demode splendor of Central Park West. In those days, the early '40s, stoop ball was as popular as stick ball or punch ball, but I suspect it is now dying out; there are fewer stoops—the old brownstones that bore them are being torn down—and more cars are crossing the field of play, impeding the game and endangering the players.
The character of the city street determines the street game much in the same way that dedans, grilles and tambours, obscure projections and recesses derived from medieval buildings, establish court tennis. Box ball, for example, is played within boxes formed by the cracks in the sidewalk, and sewers or manhole covers are integral features of stick ball, as are cornices, fire escapes, lampposts, even trees. Cops and robbers is more logically set in the somber and possibly sinister streets than cowboys and Indians—although when I was very young I tethered a string of imaginary horses to one of the poles that supports the frame of the awning of 27 West 96th Street, where I lived—and stoop ball, of course, is wholly dependent upon stoops.
[Photo Credit: Bruce Davidson]