Paul Tavilla

Grape Catching Record Holder - Guiness Book of World Records

How it all started

Many people ask me, "Paul, how did you ever
get into catching grapes in your mouth?"
Before I get into how it all began, I would like to mention that as long as I can remember, as far back as my early teens, I always threw things up in the air, and caught them in my mouth such as peanuts, candy, mints, etc. Being brought up in the wholesale fruit and produce business with my family, and being around all kinds of fruits and vegetables, I used to ask different people to throw me a cherry tomato, a strawberry, pieces of bananas and even small plums and caught them in my mouth at short distances. Everyone always got a big kick out of me doing that. Never did I imagine that someday, I would own a Guinness Book of World Record Title for catching a thrown grape in my mouth thrown from a long distance.

Well, this is how it all began. In the summer of 1977, my friend, Albert Kramer, sent me a clipping from the Boston Globe dated July 9, 1977, and it read as follows: "According to Guinness, the longest distance for catching a thrown grape in the mouth is 204 feet by Arden Chapman at Northeast Louisiana University April 26, 1974." He, Albert Kramer, wrote above the clipping, scotched taped to a piece of white stationery, "Paul, I'll match you with the champ anytime." Well, after seeing that, I said to myself, if I can find someone to throw further than 204 feet, I should have no trouble catching it. My mind began to spin and I thought of asking my very close friend, Larry Glick of WBZ Radio, who hosts a talk show, to mention it over the air, and maybe we can find someone with a good strong arm to throw the grape. Well, it took only a few days and Larry Glick called me at home and said, "Paulo, I have found someone to throw the grape for you." I said "Who"? He replied, "A Dedham Police Officer, Mike Weir.

He plays softball for the Police Department Team and he has a terrific arm. Larry said, on Tuesday, July 19, 1977, the WBZ Radio Personalities are playing a soft-ball game against the Dedham Police Department. It's a charity game and proceeds will go to benefit the Dedham Boosters for Retarded Children. The game will be played at 7 P.M. A week prior to July 19, 1977, I met Mike Weir on a Saturday morning at Memorial Park in Dedham, for the first time to get acquainted and to have a small practice session. We hit it off just great. The following Monday, I called Larry on the air and told him I was all set for July 19.

Larry suggested calling Guinness in London, England to be positively sure of the record of Arden Chapman to date. He made the call while I was still on the air. He reached Guinness and asked to speak to someone in charge of Records. They connected Larry to Mr. Howard Garrard. Larry said, "Hello Sir, my name is Larry Glick, I'm calling from Boston, Massachusetts. I host a live radio talk show here in Boston. Our conversation is now being heard over the air waves. I would like to know if Arden Chapman's record still stands of having caught a thrown grape in his mouth at a distance of 204 feet. I have two friends of mine, Paul Tavilla and Mike Weir, who will attempt to surpass the current record this coming week and we want to know just what to shoot for." Mr. Garrard asked Larry, to hold the line for a moment while he checked.

We waited patiently for about two minutes, which seemed like two hours. Finally, Mr. Garrard came back on the line and said, "I'm sorry to say but Arden Chapman established a new record of 243 feet." After hearing that, I got a little down, but said to myself, we’ll beat that record. I hope. Larry thanked Mr. Garrard and said, "Cheerio"...we will be in touch with you sir, if we break the record.

So, at last, the big day came. On Tuesday, July 19, 1977, at Memorial Park in Dedham, Massachusetts at approximately 6:45 P.M. Larry Glick announced over the public address system to a crowd of about 500 people that Paul Tavilla will attempt to capture a new Guinness World Record for catching a thrown grape in his mouth. The Thrower will be Mike Weir of the Dedham Police Department. Larry said, "The current record is 243 feet, held by a Louisiana man." Sgt. John Connolly, Mike Weir's brother-in-law, warmed up Mike's arm by playing catch with a softball for about 15 minutes. After Mike got his arm warmed up, Sgt. John Connolly along with John Carey, the Town Clerk. I am- very proud to say that we have made the 1978-1979 Editions.

Well something new just happened. The first week in August 1979, I decided to call Guinness in London, England, to be sure our record was still in-tact. I spoke to Mr. Colin Smith who is the new man in charge of Records. He said to me that Arden Chapman set a new record of 259 feet. He broke my record by 8 feet. I said to myself, I hope I have time to break the record again before they publish the 1980 Edition of Guinness.

I immediately called Mike Weir to advise him that our record had been broken. I asked him how his arm felt and if he was strong enough to throw the grape. He said he felt real good. So we set a date for Thursday, August 9, 1979, at Chelsea, Massachusetts. I decided to use the large area in the back of the Produce Center to catch the grape. I called the Chelsea Police Department to ask Lt. Albert Duggan if he could possibly be present to witness the catch, if I made it, and he consented. The next step was to find some large enough Ribier Grapes. I finally located a box early Monday morning and put them into the cooler to be used on Thursday.

August 9th arrived and so did Mike Weir and John Connolly. The weather was just ideal for the event. We assembled in back of the building and had a small practice session. A crowd of about 30 people looked on with curiosity. Lt. Albert Duggan arrived with the cruiser and we were about all set to go. Sgt. Connolly and I with the walk-a-meter measured off the distance of 260 feet. Anything caught over that distance would set a new record. Lt. Albert Duggan and I re-measured the distance of 260 feet to be positively sure there was no mistake. Mike got set and I was ready. I again rose up my hand to let Mike know I was all set.

He started throwing. The first 2 throws fell about 12 feet short. The next 2 fell over the 260 foot mark to my left and out of my reach. The next one went clear over my head, close to 300 feet. I got a little angry at myself for not standing a little further back. I then positioned myself a little further back and to the center and waited. Finally, Mike threw one my area. I ran forward just a few short steps, and carefully watched that grape come speeding towards me. I cranked back my neck and with my mouth open wide, I snatched that flying grape from the air. Lt. Duggan yelled for me to stand still.

The Lt. carefully measured off the distance from the 260 foot mark to where I was standing and it measured 270 feet 4 inches. I recaptured the record by 11 feet 4 inches. I leaped for joy and again ran and hugged my ace hurler Mike Weir. I really didn't think we could do it, but it seemed the more Mike threw, the stronger his arm got. Mike Paxton, pitcher for the Cleveland Indians was also on hand to witness the event. Mike is a close friend of my brother Ernie. The Red Sox were hosting the Cleveland Indians at Fenway Park and Mike was able to be here for the event. He said to me after the catch, that he was quite impressed.

We called London, England, after the catch to advise them of the new record. I spoke to Mr. Colin Smith who is in charge of Records and asked him if we were in time to be in the 1980 Edition of Guinness. He said that there might be a slim chance because the book al-ready went to press. He said to send in the documents right away and to call him a week later. The following week we called London, England again and to our dismay, we were a few days short and will not be able to enter the 1980 Edition of the Guinness Book of World Records. I'm not happy, but not sad. We are still the new champions according to Guinness and that's what really counts. Mr. Colin Smith said, "I'm quite sure your new record of 270 feet 4 inches will hold for sometime and that we'll have no problem being in the 1981 Edition. I hope you have enjoyed my complete to date story of the Grape Catch!

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