The Artists played their annual game of softball against the Writers last Saturday afternoon in Herrick Park, East Hampton. Many famous people have played in this game since its founding in 1948.
In this year’s Artists and Writers Charity Softball Game, former President Bill Clinton umpired balls and strikes from behind the mound. This was his fourth appearance at the game. In his first appearance in 1988, I happened to be the umpire. In the second inning, Leif Hope, the game’s organizer told me the Governor of Arkansas was in the crowd and they wanted him to umpire. Clinton trotted out on the field and I handed him the ball.
“You know the rules?” I asked. He said he did. I trotted off. I went to Leif and asked, “What is the g=overnor of Arkansas doing at our game?”
The second time he came was five years ago as a spectator. Then, in 2019, he came out to umpire. The game stopped upon his arrival and people went over to shake his hand.
Here just prior to the beginning of this game, security people from the former president’s detail arrived to say that Bill Clinton was on his way and again wanted to umpire. We dusted off the pitcher’s mound. Upon arrival, he stood on it and spoke to the crowd.
“Nobody needs my opinion on important things anymore,” he said. “So I get to do what I want. So here I am. I love the game.”
State Supreme Court Judge Richard B. Lowe, III, who usually umpires the later innings, handed the president a bright yellow shirt that said UMPIRE on the back and he put it on.
And so we all settled in for the game, which was so much fun.
Sportswriter Mike Lupica started off for the Writers with a sharp single to left, but then took second on a fielder’s error. Two batters later, essayist and musician Andy Friedman hit a towering three-run home run over the left field wall and into the tennis court beyond.
After the homer, a 7-foot piping plover bird named Piper, the field’s first official mascot, was supposed to run out onto the field and flap his wings with happiness. But it didn’t happen.
Then comedian Peter Cestaro and musician Eddie McCarthy hit home runs in the bottom of the first. More home runs were hit by Artists later in the game, one by actor Adam Pally and the other by Brian Pfund. Still no piping plover bird. What was wrong with that bird?
Turned out because it was a hot, muggy day, nobody would put on this heavy bird costume. So that was that.
The game went along with first one team in the lead and then the other. Amidst the spectacular diving catches and dropped fly balls, there were numerous other interesting plays. For example, musician Taylor Hanson hit a ground ball to short, but then, to beat the throw, threw himself into a dusty headfirst slide for first base hoping to beat the tag. It didn’t do him any good. Nobody tags you coming to first base.
In another interesting play at first base, landscape artist Ed Hollander bobbled the ball well ahead of the arriving runner, then threw himself on the ground, squirmed over and reached out with the ball to tap the bag for the out.
In the bottom of the eighth, the Artists scored 4 runs, to take back the lead, 11–9.
The weather was quickly closing in. Hurricane Henri was on its way. Much of the town’s stores had been boarded up. It was getting dark two hours before sunset.
“I hope this doesn’t go into extra innings,” actor Jerry O’Connell announced over the sound system.
It didn’t. In the ninth, with one out and two men on, Jerry Xie, a spectator who had won his at-bat in a raffle, flew out to left and writer Zack O’Malley Greenburg was caught in a rundown between first and second. Double play. Game over.
What a wonderful day, all for charity.
After the game, driving east in the dark toward home and the expected arrival of this supposedly spectacular hurricane, I watched a full moon rise ominously into a dark sky of angry black clouds. Heading toward me was an endless traffic jam of cars with their headlights on heading west toward New York City, its occupants hysterically fleeing the Hamptons. The next day, Henri, to everyone’s surprise, veered away from the Hamptons, and instead flooded these people in New York with 8 inches of driving rain.
These I believe were the same people who, a year before, had fled the city for the Hamptons to escape COVID.
WRITERS 3 0 0 1 1 1 2 1 – 9
ARTISTS 2 1 2 0 1 1 4 – – 11