It was simply a nine-inning game of pitching, hitting and keeping score with disputed calls settled by the loudest and largest players. Hitting the ball over Mrs. Mazza's five-foot hedge was an undisputed home run. A minimalist and inexpensive sport, the game required only a homemade ball and a broomstick.
So as I struggled to resolve the problem and to avoid bodily harm, I was struck by an idea so novel that I was confident I had the perfect solution. Sneaking into the kitchen of my Aunt Notie's apartment, I opened the small freezer compartment of the old Kelvinator and extracted the perfectly cylindrical answer to my problem.
Aunt Notie was a gifted cook whose meatballs were the stuff of culinary legend. It was said, she could make a garlic clove sing. Surely she would not miss one frozen meatball, I thought, and sacrilegiously snatched the circular little treasure that had sealed my aunt's reputation in our neighborhood as the "meatball queen."
It felt just right and, as I wrapped the white adhesive tape around the frozen meatball, I realized that with stealth, cunning and courage I could provide our gang with an endless supply of tape ball cores. Proudly, I returned to the game where the new tape ball was an immediate and literal hit. For an hour, we pounded it, smacked it and sent it soaring through the air, and it performed flawlessly.
But then fate stepped in. Standing at the plate, I whacked a hanging curve (meat) ball with a tremendous stroke and lofted it at least 100 feet in the air. At the apex of its trajectory, the ball began a rapid descent toward earth. Like some miniature asteroid with my future etched on it, the small round object streaked into a vat of fermenting red wine.
My grandfather, who was stirring and punching down the cap of the fermenting grapes, was startled by the impact, which immediately splashed and stained his upper torso purple. Reaching into the vat, he fished out the broken, meatball-oozing tape ball, sniffed it and said in his broken English:
"Eat-sa rain meat-a-balls!"
The rest is history.
For more on the art and craft of wine, visit John Brown's Vines & Vittles blog at thegazz.com.