East Hampton Artists & Writers Charity Softball Game veteran Jeff Meizlik, of the Artists team, shares memories from 39 years of playing in this annual East Hampton event.
Meizlik will be back on the field for 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.
How did you come to play in the A&W game?
I’m originally from Brooklyn and became friends with Elaine de Kooning around 1971. About 5 years later I was talking to her about a job teaching bronze casting at a college. She called back and said Willem de Kooning (everyone called him Bill) wanted to make some new sculptures, would I like to come out to the Hamptons and be Bill’s assistant? I said yes.
While working there, word got around that there was a softball game of artists versus writers. I was a pretty good athlete (I think I’m still a good athlete) so I went down and found out when the game was and tried to get myself into it. That was 1976.
Which team do you play on? Tell us about your art.
I’m a sculptor. I work in bronze, which is my main medium. My sculptures deal with primitive shapes and forms that are found in ancient China, Africa, Egypt, etc. They are temples, memorials, altars and totems. They each have a sacrifice. My latest series was based on Viking rune stones.
I also did a series of softball sculptures to be auctioned off at the yearly fund raiser. Each sculpture in the series of “You Gotta Have Balls Too Play This Game” is a different baseball pitch. So, there is a sculpture named “Screwball,” “Sinker,” “Forkball,” etc.
How many times did you win MVP?
At least twice.The first game that stands out I was playing short stop. I hit a home run or two and made some excellent plays on defense. That year, Tag Heuer was awarding a watch to the MVP, so that was nice. The funny thing about that game was that Paul Simon was playing left field. At the time they put up the usual fence of metal poles with a plastic wall. On one of the plays, Paul Simon went way back and caught the ball and chipped his tooth on the metal pole. When I got the write-ups on the game it was all about Paul Simon and his tooth chipping. I was briefly mentioned. But I did win the MVP and got the watch. It was also nice because I had brought my wife to the game for the first time. That was one of the years when they were giving out a nice reward. Paul Simon never came back.
Do you have fond memories of the players in the game—Artists or Writers?
Generally hanging out and getting to meet some of these people you wouldn’t ordinarily meet, especially famous writers like Avery Corman, George Plimpton, John Irving. I was even there when Bill Clinton was the umpire. When I was growing up didn’t get a chance to rub shoulders with people like that. I remember one incident when I was playing third base and Martha Stewart was up and I could tell she wasn’t the greatest ball player. She hit a soft ground ball to me and took two steps and stopped. I held the ball for a few seconds and thought, “she’s here to play ball, so she should have to run like all the other players.” I waited for her to realize she should keep running to first base and then I threw her out. Just meeting these people and having experiences like these is what makes it great. People like Laurie Singer and Alec Baldwin you don’t normally get to meet, especially in Virginia, but on the playing field, they’re nice average people – easy to talk to and great to play with. Roy Schieder was a sweetheart. Leif Hope is the best and has been with the game since before I was born. Mike Lupica is a ball of energy and a great guy.
I have to give extra thanks to Eric Ernst. I had a place in the Hamptons the first couple years I got out there, but after I left for Virginia I would visit and stay with Elaine de Kooning, then Dallas Ernst and for the last 15 years or so I’ve stayed with Eric Ernst. I only come on the weekend of the game so he fills me in on who’s on first and what’s on second and we always have a great time. So I have to give a shout out to Eric for being so generous.
What kept you coming back year after year?
For one thing, it’s the tradition, then there’s the people and of course the game. It’s obviously nice to have a week in the Hamptons and nice to visit old friends. Elaine de Kooning was around for quite a while and it was nice to visit Bill de Kooning after I left to Virginia. Being an athlete draws me back too. I played semi-pro baseball and went to the University of Tennessee on a baseball scholarship. I still play in a senior baseball league. I love baseball. When the game gets rained out, I get to stay out here for about two weeks, see more people and celebrities.