For Father’s Day, SC Featured will tell a story described by its producer as being about fathers, sons and a game for generations. “Stickball Boulevard” will debut in the 10 a.m. ET edition of SportsCenter on Sunday, June 17, and will re-air in other editions of the program throughout the day.
Steve Mercado was president of the New York Emperors Stickball League and a New York City firefighter. He was killed alongside 11 others from his firehouse on 9/11. Nearly 17 years later, his sons, Skylar and Austin, carry on their father’s legacy by playing the game he loved.
Michael O’Connor, who produced the piece for ESPN Features, discovered the Mercado story while researching another topic.
“I was looking into a story about stickball because I personally found it an interesting subculture, a slice of Americana in New York City that not a lot of people know about,” he said. “People think this game is dead and gone but it’s not. It lives and breathes in The Bronx.”
O’Connor found video of the Emperors League.
“Watching some old footage online, I realized the president of this league had died on 9/11,” he said. “Not only that, the street they play on had been renamed Steve Mercado Stickball Boulevard. There’s a mural of Steve and a poem he wrote about stickball. From there I tracked down the oldest boy, Skylar Mercado.”
O’Connor conducted all of the interviews and then Tom Rinaldi wrote and narrated the piece.
“It’s interesting because the question we all asked as we started to do this is what is this story?” O’Connor said. “Is it a Father’s Day story? Is it a stickball story? Or is it a 9/11 story? It’s all those things but the main thing we came to is that this is a story about fathers and sons and a generational game.
“Stickball is the ultimate generational game. It’s taught from father to son, generation to generation, which is what makes it so fascinating to me. I feel a lot of things for this family,” he said. “These are fantastic kids. Through this game and trying to carry on their father’s legacy, I feel that they’ve become their father in a lot of ways.”