- On Saturday, Aug. 15, two prominent groups went head to head for the 61st year in a row in a battle of wits, stamina, strategy and hand-eye coordination. It wasn't Real Estate Developers vs. the ZBA, nor was it Ron Baron's lawyers against Larry Penny and the Town Justice Court, no. These two groups in question are far more fearsome, influential and respected around these parts than any hedge fund bigwig or money market tycoon; it all came down to the local artists versus the local writers.
The game wasn't all business: MVP Mike Lupica took time between innings to sign copies of his book "Heat" and pose for photographs with fans.
With the sheer size of the artist community here on the East End, it's no small surprise that these two factions decided to square off once a summer in a contest for bragging rights, but it's nonetheless funny that they chose softball as their arena of battle: one would almost expect a duel at dawn with paintbrushes and fountain pens with the losers ending up summarily splattered with paint or ink, transformed into garish caricatures, hog tied with typewriter ribbon or satirically lampooned in some Swiftian passage, not covered with dust from the infield at Herrick Park in East Hampton.
Perhaps the longest continuously running sporting event in the Hamptons, the origins
of the Artists & Writers Charity Softball game began innocently enough in Wilfrid Zogbaum's
yard in Springs, as fellow artists Willem de Kooning
, Grace Hartigan
and Jackson Pollack
would come by for a friendly game. In the early 1960s, writers began to enter the fray and soon the annual event was born; albeit on a much smaller scale than it is played today.
Now long a true Hamptons event, with corporate sponsors like HBO
and Snapple Iced Tea sharing the billing with local businesses including The Spanierman Gallery and The Lodge Restaurant, (where the post
match celebration was held), the charity aspect of the game has grown with its popularity. This year the battle of wits and agility served to benefit three local charities: East End Hospice
, East Hampton Day Care and The Phoenix House
Catcher for the writers David Bernstein catching a heater during warm ups.
The cast of characters has grown, with the title of "artist" and "writer" being expanded to include local dignitaries, stars of stage and screen, professional athletes and at least one world leader when former President Bill Clinton
joined a recent roster.
So how did this year's game go? "The game was about as tight as you can get it," reported long-time organizer and manager of the artists team Leif Hope
. "I thought it was going to be a runaway for the writers after the first inning, because some teams have a lot of luck, whether it's the artists or the writers, but this year it was fairly tight all the way down. There were a couple of errors and that makes the difference, plus they won in the bottom of the 11th so the artists came back fairly well. I'm always surprised when I see this much character in writers, because they usually don't have any," Hope poked a friendly jab.
Umpire Dan Rattiner with announcers James Lipton, Bert Sugar and Juliet Papa.
Coming off a two year losing streak, the writers really played a strong and consistent game, which went into extra innings. The teams traded runs with a 7-6 score for the writers after the sixth inning. By the eighth, the artists had regained the lead 9 to 7, before increasing their lead to 11-7 by the time the writers returned to bat. After scoring one run in the bottom of the eighth, Michael Pellman
hit big, bringing in two runs followed by Bill Collage
, who popped-up to left field, managing an RBI, tying the game at 11-11.
The writers won the toss at the beginning of the game, which was fortunate for them going into the bottom of the ninth tied at 11-11. Yet, at the bottom of the ninth, with two outs, and two men on first and second, the writers weren't able to clinch it, sending the game into extra innings. A botched play a third brought in a final run for the writers, securing the win at 12 -11.
At the end of what former President Bill Clinton once described as a "mostly friendly game," everyone on both sides congratulated each other one another game well played. After a botched play to third in the bottom of the 11th, the writers brought another run home in a flurry of dust and broken dreams for the artists, leaving the final score at 12-11 writers. This win gave the writers an 11-10 edge with one tie over the artists in the win-loss tally over the past 22 years.
In the end, the somewhat fierce competition ended in smiles and claps on the back all around, as the two teams left the field to celebrate (or drown their sorrows) at the after party at The Lodge Restaurant in East Hampton.