The entire Barclay’s Center/Flatbush neighborhood is up for sale, actually, as all the mom and pop store owners swoon at the sight of restaurateurs and boutique owners waving fistfuls of dollars at these aging entrepreneurs, who bravely stuck it out in Brooklyn through the lean years.
Triangle Sports has been in business for 96 years. It is an anomaly in today’s big-box world. It is a creaky, multi-level, place with a sagging staircase and dusty shelves, where you can still buy a fishing license. Or get fitted for Red Wing work boots.
Or buy a kid’s first baseball glove.
Was it really 20 years ago that I eagerly climbed Triangle’s stairs to their baseball department, to inspect their rows of Rawlings, Wilsons, Mizunos and MacGregors? My quest: a first baseball glove for my five year old son, who suddenly, unexpectedly and happily professed a love of all things baseball and, specifically, all things Yankees.
I asked the clerk to see his offerings for a righthanded little kid and, understandably, he showed me a collection of little plastic gloves. Toy gloves.
These would not do. “What do you have that’s a little, uh, better?” I asked. He drew me aside. “Why spend the money until you know your kid is really into baseball?” he said, not unreasonably.
I wanted the good stuff. He walked over to another row of gloves. They were Rawlings, tiny little butter-soft Rawlings fielder’s gloves. They looked like miniature pro models.
I suppose it was an extravagance, but this was the only one that would do. “I’ll take it,” I said.
My son was overjoyed. He rarely took it off. We played catch with a real hard ball (under-handed) for hour after hour in Prospect Park and, in years to come, he and his friends joined the 78th Pct. Little League. His second team (age 7): The Wormy Pizzerias. Don’t ask. They had a “real” name, but the goofy little kids on the team re-named it Wormy Pizzerias. Those first years there were errors aplenty, lots of laughter, and parental bonding. And, in congruence with those Park Slope years, his teams were made up of rich kids, poor kids, and kids in-between.
Over time, the kids grew and got better and stronger. Their tiny little baseball bats were shelved for bigger, sleeker models and they hit the ball with real pop.
And, of course, their gloves got bigger too. But I still kept that first Rawlings, along with his first pair of little rubber cleats, no bigger than the palm of my hand. Did he really scoot ’round the bases in these tiny Nikes? I have them, to this day, in a red plastic shopping bag from Eagle Provisions, the old Polish supermarket on Fifth Avenue and 17th Street, in the South Slope.
So Triangle Sports is selling their store, after 96 years. Maybe it will be to one of the high-profile celebrity chefs reportedly sniffing out locations across from the new sports arena. Maybe it will be to the owner of a new mega screen sports bar, who hope to catch the pre- and post-game crowds that will mill about and spend money. Maybe it will be to a high-rise condo developer.
Freddy’s bar is gone, moved to a new location in the South Slope. City Lighting is gone. The tile and flooring store is gone. The Pintchik family, who own the paint and hardware stores of the same name, are landlords for many desirable, nearby, Flatbush area properties and are supposedly wheeling and dealing. It’s a new land rush. The old makes way for the new. And, as every Real New Yorker knows, the City is always a work-in-progress. “Change” is the only constant.
And yet. Some things do not change, some things are perennial. Again, there are buds on the trees, kids in the Park and carefree laughter. They practice their fielding, in advance of the new Little League season.
Once upon a time, in just such a springtime, a young father bought his little boy his first real Rawlings at a creaky little mom-and-pop store on Flatbush Avenue, and there was sweetness in the air.