Pen. Paintbrush. Play Ball.
Before the first pitch, an enthusiastic Mike Lupica ran around the third base line that doubled as the Writers’ dugout, doling out high fives. Announcers Juliet Papa and Fred Graver bantered over the mic, as the lineup cards were finalized. It was the kind of beautiful day that begged a casual but excited crowd to come outside, kick back and revel in the sweet history of friendly competition and heated rivalry.
“It’s the best. Artists and Writers, we know who’s going to win,” said a confident Mark Feuerstein, as he walked up to bat for the Artists in the bottom of the first. With a final score, after 10 innings, of Writers: 12 Artists: 11, the latter statement proved to be wrong, but the first was spot on.
Inviting an unpretentious display of athletic ability that drew sports enthusiasts, sun seekers and a former U.S. President, the 64th Annual Artists and Writers Celebrity Softball Game transformed East Hampton’s Herrick Park into a real Hamptons haven on Saturday. The general consensus: This is one of those East End traditions that has stayed true to its roots. Fun, charitable, family-friendly and sprinkled with star power, it hit all the high points on the perfect way to spend a summer afternoon.
“You may have missed London, but you’re in East Hampton!” announced Papa, of 1010 WINS Radio fame, as the festivities got underway. The coin was tossed. The Artists called it. The Writers were told they’d be batting first, and it was game time.
“It’s a great competition—and we play to win,” said Lupica, a sports writer for the New York Daily News, pitcher for the Writers and, in a departure from the baseball norm, first to bat. Among the other fun absurdities: The home plate umpire called strikes from the pitcher’s mound. There was a raffle between every half inning. And you could actually chat with the players as they sat on the bench.
Lupica added that it’s all in good fun to play with friends, have a postgame celebration at East Hampton’s Race Lane and raise money for charity. The event, which was postponed from its original Aug. 18 date due to weather, benefitted East End Hospice, East Hampton Day Care Learning Center, Phoenix House and The Retreat. The game raised nearly $100,000.
Under the deft guidance of manager and author Ken Auletta, the Writers set the bar high with three runs in the first. The Artists, who were led by Leif Hope and architect Ronette Riley, quickly answered with a three-run homer off the bat of Eddie McCarthy in the bottom of the inning. Fierce competition ensued. The Writers led for the majority of the game, but the Artists were always threatening—with their bats and with their banter. Rumor had it that Anthony from WEHM stirred the pot a bit as he stepped up to home plate for the Artists in the bottom of the sixth, taunting Lupica by saying that he only reads the New York Post.
The game may have had a smattering of unconventional calls—a foul tip caught by the catcher was ruled null, because it was “hit too high” and thus too easy to catch—but the surprises, punctuated by the witty repartee between Papa and Graver, only made the game that much more entertaining. And, though umpire Dan Rattiner had to leave the game a bit early to attend the Dan’s Papers Literary Prize for Nonfiction awards ceremony, a tie at the plate in the bottom of the fifth highlighted his sorely missed style of calling when Papa announced “If Dan Rattiner were here, he would change his mind three of four times!”
But the high point of the game came in the ninth inning, when not only did the Artists tie it at nine all, but Bill Clinton made an appearance. The game was paused, as a noticeably slender Clinton walked around the field, graciously accommodating the crowd with hand shakes and photo ops. Turns out that Clinton umped the 1988 Artists Writers game, and Papa said she invited him back for next year’s competition.
Then it was back to work, as play stretched into extra innings. But not for long. In the top of the tenth, 2011 MVP David Baer of the Writers hit what would be ruled a ground rule double by Southampton Town Board Member turned umpire Bridget Fleming. (“I guess they wanted someone who could be fair,” Fleming nonchalantly laughed of the reason for her selection.) Jay DiPietro brought Baer home, and the Artists couldn’t battle back in the bottom of the inning.
“We’re thrilled for our charities, and a Bill Clinton sighting,” said Papa after the tenth.
For his acrobatic catches, DiPietro was named MVP. “This is the fourth year I’ve played, and I think I just got lucky that the ball was hit to me as much as it was,” he said of his selection.
The game’s sole questionable idiosyncrasy? Yankee tickets were hailed as a premier raffle prize, drawn between the eighth and ninth inning, whereas the Mets were given early inning treatment.
But regardless of the bias, Artists and Writers was Amazin’.
P Mike Lupica
SS David Baer
2B Richard Wiese
LF Jay DiPietro
CF Michael Pellman
3B Brett Shevack
1B Ken Auletta
C Carl Bernstein
SC Mark Green
David Bernstein, Tom Clavin, Jonathan Coleman, Bill Collage, Maria Eftimiades, Rod Gilbert, Jeff Hilford, Harry Javer, Rick Leventhal Jim Leyritz, Chris London, Hugo Lindgren, Ann Ligouri, Kevin McEneaney, Lee Minetree, Juliet Papa, David Rattiner, Michael Safir, Gail Sheehy, Edward Tivnan, Benito Vila, Mark Weinstein
SC Eric Ernst
2B Mark Feuerstein
SS John Longmire
CF Eddie McCarthy
P Joe Sopiak
1B Jeff Meizlik
RF Ron Noy
LF Bill Strong
3B Ed Hollander
C Scott Fithian
Anthony from WEHM, Nancy Atlas, Gregg Bello, Walter Bernard, Russell Blue, Pete Cestaro, Countess LuAnn de Lesseps, Jack Dowd, Dan Gasby, David Geiser, Leif Hope, Dennis Lawrence, Geoff Prisco, Jean Reno, Ronnette Riley, Mercedes Ruehl, Michael Sapraicone, John Slattery, Stu Sleppin, B Smith, Michelle Suna, Kendall Veenema
Justice Richard B. Lowe III
Writers 3 0 3 0 1 0 2 0 0 3 12
Artists 3 0 0 0 2 0 1 3 0 2 11