The annual Artist and Writers Softball Game in the Hamptons is celebrating its 69th year. The game has been joined on a sandlot ball field diamond behind the supermarket (currently Stop & Shop) on Newtown Lane in East Hampton each August for all these generations. The game was founded on the back lawn of the home of Wilfred Zogbaum in Springs in 1948 as part of a picnic for several artists and writers. I’ve been writing about it since 1968.
Things I remember:
Eugene McCarthy, the Senator from Wisconsin and former presidential candidate, playing first base in 1972 with a split in the back of his pants that nobody wanted to tell him about.
I recall singer Paul Simon leaping high up against the left field fence to catch a ball and coming down on the spikes of the fence, fortunately without serious injury.
Writer George Plimpton pitching carefully to Eric Ernst for the Artists.
Superagent Sam Cohn at bat.
Bianca Jagger bidding against a gallery owner from Florida for some paintings made by Eric Fischl on a clothesline behind home plate.
Bill Clinton umpiring several innings in 1986.
The soccer star Pelé from Brazil playing in the game.
Yogi Berra making an appearance, there to watch his son, Dale Berra, a shortstop for the Pittsburgh Pirates, play in the game.
Heavyweight contender Gerry Cooney hitting a single to left.
Hippie Abbie Hoffman in 1971, after watching the first pitch to him called a strike, then watching the second one come in, for a ball, dashing down the base path to “steal” first base. (He trotted back when we told him he could not do that.)
Christie Brinkley getting three strikes and you’re out, and after that missing the next pitch for strike four.
Walter Isaacson playing second base. Carol Channing in the outfield. Alec Baldwin in right. Chevy Chase hitting a single. A host of others over the years—Leo Castelli, Regis Philbin, Ed Burns, John Irving, Sylvia Tennenbaum, Alan Alda, Gail Sheehy, Walter Bernard.
Gallery owner Elaine Benson managing the Artists for 10 years, and “stealing” me from the roster of the Writers to play for the Artists. She said it was a trade, but there were no other players involved, nor was any money paid.
Working as the umpire and declaring a called third strike against billionaire Carl Icahn, standing there with the bat on his shoulder and watching the pitch come in right over the plate.
Towering home runs (into the tennis court beyond left field) by Rick Leventhal, Bill Collage, Richard Weis and, earlier, Marty Lyons (defensive lineman for the New York Jets), and even earlier, sculptor Philip Pavia.
Having the game delayed because the ball field had been reserved and was still being used by a group of 10-years-olds who were now still tied in the top of the fourteenth.
Shaking hands with Barry Commoner, running for president in 1980 as a third party candidate and campaigning at the game. I didn’t care for either major candidate that year. So I voted for Commoner because he’d gone to the trouble of shaking my hand where neither of the others, Reagan or Carter, had.
Actor Roy Scheider pitching with good humor for the Artists for 15 years in the 1990s and on.
Billionaire publisher and real estate man Mort Zuckerman pitching for the Writers for those same 15 years with great ferocity and focus.
The year I was declared one of two Players of the Game. It was in 1970 and I was awarded an enormous jeroboam of Champagne, which I carted home and didn’t use for several years because we never had enough people to drink it all at one sitting.
Guest umpires working several innings that included Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Congressman Charles Rangel.
Betty Friedan, Kathleen Turner and writer Peter Mass playing the outfield. Howard Stringer (recently CEO of Sony) announcing the game. PR genius John Scanlon announcing the game. Boxing commentator Bert Sugar announcing the game. TV personality James Lipton announcing the game. Juliette Papa of
1010 WINS announcing the game.
In the early years, radio personality Ted Brown announcing the game through a bullhorn.
Mayor Paul Rickenbach welcoming fans.
The graceful play for 20 years and more of the beautiful actress Lori Singer.
The tremendous and fiery play of New York Daily News sportswriter Mike Lupica.
The short after-game get-togethers at the Laundry Restaurant on Race Lane directly after the game, where stories were told, steins of beer raised and Leif, standing on a chair, telling us how much money was raised for charity.
Dan Rattiner is the founder and editor-in-chief of Dan’s Papers. Dan’s Papers was founded in 1960.
The program for this year’s Artists & Writers Game is in the August 18, 2017 issue of Dan’s Papers.
See Dan at this year’s game on Saturday, August 20 at Herrick Park in East Hampton. Batting practice starts at noon and the first pitch goes out at 2 p.m.
Visit artistswritersgame.org for more info.