It supposedly dates you if you admit to playing stickball as a kid. I don’t know why. It just means that when you were nine or ten or eleven you pitched some kind of rubber ball at a batter who stood in front of a concrete wall that had a batter’s box drawn in chalk, and sometimes with another guy (i.e., the pitcher’s teammate) fielding occasional flyballs and grounders. I’m bringing this up because I’m wondering if anyone else ever had a dispute over what my friends and I used to call the “splatter effect.”

When the batter didn’t swing there were always disputes about whether the pitcher had thrown a strike. I hit upon an idea one day that involved dipping the worn-down, next-to-no-fuzz tennis ball that we used into a nearby puddle, or just pouring water over it. The ball would then make a mark when it hit the wall, making it indisputable whether or not a strike had been thrown.

Nonetheless, disputes arose. They happened when the ball had been soaked in too much water and would every so often hit exactly on the chalk line. If it was wet enough, the charge went, it would leave a splatter mark in the strike area even though it hadn’t really hit inside the box. Huge arguments would come of this. 50-50 splatter (a toss-up?) vs. 70-30 splatter (i.e., favoring one or the other). It was even claimed that the ball could theoretically hit completely outside the box and still splatter into the strike zone.