Since I was about 12 years old I have been interested in collecting stamps (philatelic) for the countries of Canada and Germany. My collection has quite a few stamps, but the holes in my collection of missing stamps will probably never be filled because they are the most rare and expensive stamps. I don’t do much collecting now because the lion’s share of my free time is spent on writing and research. However, philately still interests me and sometimes I find myself on eBay, trawling through the stamps, covers and postcards for sale. In fact, I found myself doing this the other day when I found a listing that was the perfect blend for me: a stamp that had to do with my research. It was a cover of a letter mailed in Brooklyn in 1947. The stamp was cancelled with a message that says: “Baseball Combats Juvenile Delinquency.”
The letter was mailed from 1 Hanson Place in Brooklyn. A quick look at the map shows that it is in the southern section of Fort Greene, which was an area of the city notorious for crime, juvenile delinquency and youth gangs such as the Mau Maus and Fort Greene Chaplains. As for the message of baseball combating juvenile delinquency, the city of New York certainly felt this way ever since 1914, when the Police Athletic League (P.A.L.) came into being. P.A.L. was an organization that worked with the NYPD to work in neighborhoods with high crime and give the kids constructive activities to do while showing the children that the police had their best interest at heart. Policemen would develop and oversee teams of youth interested in sports like baseball and provided equipment and guidance to do so. The time and energy the kids would have to give to the various activities would presumably keep them out of trouble. They also met friends, experienced what team work was about and found interests that they weren’t able to explore before. It was a boredom buster.
The Police Athletic League is still functioning in New York City with activities like baseball, basketball, flag football, volleyball and softball. It’s in it’s 101st year, but budget cuts have reduced it’s effectiveness and scope. If you participated in P.A.L. activities during the 1950s and early 1960s, please don’t hesitate to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to let me know what you thought. Did you find it effective? Was it fun? What activities did you participate in?