For almost four decades, the Staten Island Basketball League has been a staple in Great Kills. NY1’s Jared Smith filed the following report.
On a chilly Saturday morning in Great Kills, a group of middle-aged postal workers, lawyers, police officers and men of various other professions meet here, on the hardcourt, to forget about the real world for a few hours and play some ball.
It's one of the longest running pick-up basketball games in town, 38 years, to be exact, and there's only one number higher than that.
"The average age here is 45," said league commissioner Craig Raucher. "Everybody is an ex-college player, high school player, hard-nose schoolyard player, all looking to recapture lost youth."
That's certainly the case for Raucher, a former Brooklyn College baller and now commissioner of the Staten Island Basketball League. They meet twice a week here at P.S. 8 in Great Kills, which, ironically enough, is also one of the oldest public schools in the city.
"As you can see from the gym, it's wooden floors and old wooden backboards. We like it because it's a smaller-size court, and we're old guys who are over the hill," said Raucher.
Allan Kaplan has been playing in the league for 35 years, but this retired accountant shows no signs of slowing down.
"I tore my achilles at 61 and I came back to play ball," said Kaplan. "What I like is the dedication that this game brings and that everyone wants to win. It's the best game in town."
But it's not all fun and games. Back in 2002, a member died of a heart attack right on the court. The league also has a unique connection to September 11th.
"One of our oldest friends died in the World Trade Center," said Raucher.
Joseph Grillo was a risk finance analyst for the Port Authority who played in the league for 15 years. After he died, Grillo's wife asked Craig to give the eulogy at the funeral. They also set up a memorial for Grillo at the Staten Island Botanical Gardens.
"We're not immune to life's tragedies, and it also gave us a tremendous sense of gratitude and relief to do something for Joe and Joe's family by creating that memorial for him," said Raucher.
Keeping their hoop dreams alive, through thick and thin.