Biggest Ball in the World


Location Upper West Side

Rent $1,023.76 (rent-stabilized)

Square feet 300 (studio in pre-war, elevator building)

Occupant Zack Hample (writer)

Your walls are all covered with magazine pages. Every inch! Almost every page is the same size. I’ve cut my pictures perfectly to fit around doorknobs and light switches while I keep them in even rows. Everything either has a face or a person.

You’re waving a mysterious red light. I always use a laser pointer when I’m pointing stuff out. There are maybe a thousand people in here. We could count the rows and columns and multiply—26l are probably just on that wall, more than 1,000 total. I do have some naked ones, a lot of pictures of people that some would find offensive.

I can’t see any, just Jack Nicholson. Oh, I see one. She’s holding his . . . Here’s my rubber-band ball. It’s 129 pounds, about 21 inches in diameter. I’ve done it since I was four, about 22 years. I add to it when I have to. See, rubber bands rot and break from being exposed to the elements and being constantly stretched to capacity. I do see a broken one every now and then. I put on a fresh layer when I have to. There will come a day when I won’t be able to get the ball out my apartment door.

Do you have rules—only new bands, or same-color bands? Color or not is fine. As time goes by, you need larger and larger bands to fit around the ball. [He holds up a very long rubber band.] This is probably bigger than any rubber band you’ve even seen. Without being stretched, it’s about a foot long.

When was the first moment that you knew you had a ball? Show-and-tell at school. It was already basketball size. It was too big to fit in my locker. My teachers let me carry it around all day. It was a famous ball even then.

Is yours the largest in the world? I’ve heard there is one much bigger than mine. I contacted Guinness World Records in the mid ’90s to inquire. They once decided to have either a string ball or rubber-band ball and they decided the string ball was more popular. I’m already trying to get in my baseball collection. They’re at my parents’ place. I wrote a book, How to Snag Major League Baseballs. See the fridge door.

“2,131 BALLS IS A LOT OF BALLS” spelled out in alphabet refrigerator magnets. Every time I come back from a game, I update my magnets and my website. Almost every day I used to go to games in high school, Columbia Prep. I went to Friends Seminary for a few years. There’s my grandfather on the wall [The laser pointer flashes on the grandfather]. On the cover of Newsday Magazine, 1990. He started Argosy books in 1925. Now my mother is part-owner. Baseball was once my only interest.

You’re whistling as we look at your website. I always have a song in my head. My grandfather taught me how to play the violin. My grandmother still lives on Park Avenue. Is the apartment great? I think my parents’ is better. They bought it in the late ’70s. [We look at the screen as a camera tracks through a huge, beautiful apartment on the Upper West Side.] My aunt’s boyfriend owns this building I’m in. I got the apartment over a year ago—I got a little bit of a rent break. The rent would be $1,574.34.

Is there the smell of ether or something? No, here’s video of my baseball collection. Are you ready? There they are. [Every can, drawer is full of baseballs.] Here’s a video of my dad carving a turkey using a screwdriver. He’s a writer—you know Children’s Letters to God? [His father speaks on the video: “Ciao bambino, sayonara, shalom shalom.” Then he sings like Jimmy Durante.”Do I do, adieu.”] There’s a lot of laughs if you’re a Hample.