The annual East Hampton Artists & Writers Charity Softball Game is back for another summer of celebrity competition and raising money for local non-profits at Herrick Park in East Hampton Village next Saturday, August 20 at 2 p.m.
Now entering its 74th year, the game which today attracts everyone from world famous artists and musicians to actors and authors, came from humble beginnings. In 1948, a handful of painters, such as Jackson Pollock, Franz Kline, Willem de Kooning and Joan Mitchell, among others, gathered at artist Wilfrid Zogbaum’s home in Springs for picnicking and pickup baseball.
Winners and losers didn’t matter as much as the fun of the game, and no one kept score.
But competition and rivalry may have come soon after the writers joined the fray, first with New York Times art critic Harold Rosenberg, book publisher Barney Rosset and some of the great local novelists of the day, including George Plimpton, Peter Matthiessen, Joseph Heller, James Jones and Irwin Shaw.
As our very own Dan’s Papers founder, longtime chronicler of the game, and esteemed umpire Dan Rattiner tells this origin story, it was the writers who first insisted on tallying runs and naming winners and losers each year.
So today this annual event, one of the longest running on the East End, has become something different — though none can deny the great joy derived from the (usually) good-natured clash between our artists and masters of the written word.
The pantheon of players over nearly three quarters of a century has included household names and local heroes with standouts like former president Bill Clinton, Alec Baldwin, Lori Singer, Martha Stewart, Abbie Hoffman, Larry Rivers, Bianca Jagger, Mercedes Ruehl, Neil Simon, Kurt Vonnegut, Tom Wolfe, Paul Simon, Woody Allen and so many others. You really never know who will show up, but a good time is had by all.
Artists & Writers Game 2022
For this year’s Artists & Writers Game, event planner Abby Friedman says much will remain the same, according to longstanding traditions, but some new activities will be added to the mix. In an effort to make the day more family friendly — though kids have always had plenty of fun — children will be invited to catch fly balls during batting practice, which begins at 12:30 p.m., and the youngsters will be invited to race around the bases during the actual game.
A Charity Buzz auction for an array of luxury lots will also run from August 15–30 this year to raise extra money for the assorted charities the game supports. A link is not yet in place, but Friedman says anyone interested in participating can find the information at the Artists & Writers Game website, awgame.org, by the time the auctions begin on Monday.
Artists & Writers Board President Ronnette Riley noted earlier this year that they are taking steps to expand the brand to raise money year-round with events like the Charity Buzz auction and the Spring Training 2022 art exhibition that brought in nearly $15,000 for various charities in March.
As they say on the website, the organization is now “dedicated to building a community around the game and building a better game to serve the community,” and a big part of that effort is benefiting local charities that provide vital human services. “We ask your help in hitting it out of the park for the community we share and love,” the organizers write.
Charities the game supports cover the full circle of life — from early childhood learning to hospice assistance for patients and families. They reach out to those trying to overcome addictions and to those who need to get beyond an abusive environment.
Among them are The Retreat, which provides services for women suffering from domestic violence; The Eleanor Whitmore Early Childhood Center, offering a safe and engaging learning environment for young children from the ages of 18 months to 5 years old; Phoenix House Academy to help recovery from substance abuse; and East End Hospice, which gives important, compassionate end-of-life care to local families.
Along with helping good causes and watching a unique celebrity sporting event unlike anything anywhere else, attendees of the game will enjoy hot dogs, hamburgers and ice cream, and can shop for commemorative hats and T-shirts. There will also be a step-and-repeat area for “red carpet” photos — all for a suggested donation of $10!
“It’s going to be great, it’s a lot of fun,” Riley says. “It’s going to be a beautiful day in the Hamptons.”
For more info, visit awgame.org. Raindate for the game is Saturday, August 27.