10/30/08 at the NYC Scrabble club

Now that baseball is done, I have all kinds of (much needed) free time, so I visited the NYC Scrabble club last night and played four games. I used to play regularly there. I used to be pretty good. But now my skills are rusty, so my modest goal was to win half my games and not make a fool of myself in front of Jona. She came along just for fun–just to watch and take it all in.

Sadly, I began my night by getting schooled by an expert named Larry Sherman (brother of former world and national champion Joel Sherman) by the score of 435-397. I thought things were gonna go well when he began the game by playing ULU for 6 points, but then he threw down three consecutive bingos–RELINES for 63 points, SHEARINg for 86, and AGITAbLE for 59–and before I could blink, I was losing, 214-72. (A “bingo” is when a player uses all seven tiles at once, which is good for a 50-point bonus.) So I’m glad I was able to make it close. Here’s a photo of the board after the game:


I played my second game against a guy named Sal Campo (try saying “Campo-Hample” three times fast), and it was another high-scoring affair. I ended up with 394 points and I still lost by 34. Here’s a photo of me picking tiles (the bag is supposed to be kept at or above eye level) in my game against him:


My third game got off to a miserable start when my opponent Jean Lithgow (ex-wife of John Lithgow) opened with TEMpING for 72 points. (The lowercase letter indicates that it was a blank tile.) She later played PUTRIDER for 67 points and ReMAINED for 70. PUTRIDER turned out to be phony, but stupid me…I neglected to challenge. I figured it meant “more putrid.” Final score: Jean 434, Zack 358. Jona was loving it. She was tired of seeing me win all the time.

I finally redeemed myself in Game 4. (If only Game 4 of the World Series could’ve been this good to me.) I played a man named Jim Piazza (no relation to Mike) and won, 441-310. My big move of the game was FAMINEs for 80 points, and I’d just like to point out that that word contained the only blank I got all night. (Poor me.)

I ended up going 1-3 (bleh) with a cumulative spread of -17 points. Here’s a shot of my final score slip:


The photo of the night was taken after the final round when Jona was getting bundled up and put on her pink mohawk hat. Joel Sherman (who runs the club) spotted the odd headgear and shot a rather befuddled glance in her direction:

Ahh, yes…the NYC Scrabble Club. Gotta love it.

Speaking of Scrabble, there’s a little article about me in the new issue of “Scrabble News.” Here’s a shot of the front page…


…and here’s a closer look at the bottom:


One more Scrabble note: There’s a documentary about Scrabble called “Word Wars” and you HAVE TO see it. Even if you don’t like Scrabble, you will enjoy this movie. I promise. It’s more about people than about Scrabble, and Joel Sherman is one of the main characters who was featured in the film. Seriously, watch this movie. Order it on Netflix. Run out and rent it. It’s awesome and hilarious. (When you watch it, look closely and you’ll be able to spot me wearing a yellow shirt right near the end. But that’s not why you should watch it. That’s just a teeny bonus.)

Happy Halloween. I’ll be celebrating by flying to L.A. (third time there in two months) for my half-brother’s wedding.


  1. boodleheimer1@aol.com

    Interesting piece in the Scrabble News. Would be even more interesting if you’d also post the continuation of the article. Can do, dude?

  2. calilion

    I’m not very good at scrabble. My wife usually kicks my ***!..lol Happy Halloween!!!!!!!!!!

  3. padreleigh


    You should just move to California. You know in your heart it’s way better here. Some of your best games ever were out here. Don’t mind the earthquakes and brushfires and you’ll be fine. Have a good time in LA and eat better this time.


  4. acsport79@yahoo.com

    FINAL STATS? Could you put all of the autographs in one picture like you did a couple years ago?

  5. zackhample

    I’m in L.A.

    Thanks, but the article didn’t go much beyond what you saw on the first page, and the questions were mainly about what I do when I’m not playing Scrabble.

    Yeah, that would’ve sucked to go 0-4.

    Yeah, it’s good. I’m the one who played it, and I got 56 points for it because the “Z” was on a double letter score, and the “S” was on a double word score. I forget what it means. That’s one good/bad thing about Scrabble. You don’t have to define the words. As long as you spell ’em right, you’re all set.

    Ya gotta learn the two-letter words. There are only about 100 of them, and most are common words that you know already. If you learn the 2’s (which you can do on a lunch break), you’ll probably start turning the tables on your wife.

    Yeah, but I have a new (as of March) apartment in New York City, and I really like it. By “better” do you mean “healthier” or “more”?

    I might get around to posting my final stats at some point, but I don’t know about doing a photo of my autographs. They aren’t organized in such a way that makes it easy to pull them out and re-scan them. I guess I could comb through all my entries from this year and drag all the “signed stubs” photos into one folder and then photoshop them all together…but ugh.

  6. gjk2212

    long time no comment..too busy applying to college. just wrote the essay about baseball and included you in it zack..for like a sentence lol

    anyway im planning a big march trip where im gonna try to go for 9 days and go to all the wbc games in miami as well as some spring training. still in the works, im trying hard.

  7. Evan.bizzz@gmail.com

    hey Zack
    I recognized G.I. Joel Sherman in that photo from a movie I saw about scrabble but I can’t remember the name of it. It was an interesting/cool movie, those people really devote there lives to scrabble!

  8. alexmcmurray@gmail.com

    Hey Zack,

    Wow, you’re a renowned Scrabble hustler, too? Damn, brother. What else do you? Next thing you know, you’ll be on Food Network hoisting the trophy for the Pillsbury Bake-Off!

    Seriously though, a couple of years ago I caught “Word Wars” on a whim through Netflix. Great flick. Some tough luck stories in the Scrabble world. It’s hard to put bread on the table when you’re playing Scrabble for a living. That Sherman fella sounds cool from how you have him at the NYC Scrabble Club, but just a little off-kilter in the movie.

    The Phillies are going to jack up ticket prices in light of the Series title? Sucks. Who do you think Philly thanks and excuses from the roster before next April?

    My own personal World Series Honor: Jayson Werth is this year’s Byung Hyun Kim Award Winner for being the guy who did all he could to keep his team from winning a title, but despite his best efforts, still gets a ring. Hopefully it’ll be the last one left in the box, and he’ll be awarded the ring next year on Friday, April 10, in Kansas City where he’ll be facing the Yankees with his new team, the Royals. You think?

    And do you think Mitch Williams was finally realeased from the asylum last week when the Phillies won the title? Poor guy and his 15 years of misery and woe are over.

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