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2020 East Hampton Artists & Writers Charity Softball Game Postponed And Switched To Online Fundraising

Gabrielle Topping

President Bill Clinton served as 71st Annual East Hampton Artists & Writers Charity Softball Game umpire. (Photo: Lisa Tamburini/www.hamptonsphotog.com)

The East Hampton Artists & Writers Charity Softball Game board unanimously decided to postpone its 2020 game in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Board president and PleaseKillMe.com writer Benito Vila said, "We're postponing until next year. Maybe then, we'll play two. Not being able to assure the health and safety of fans and players made the decision an obvious one for us. The board had been planning on having the 2020 game take on the socially distanced, picnic-like feel of the original 1948 game, but recent events locally and nationally caused everyone involved to reconsider that approach."

The Game's most recent beneficiaries have been four local non-profits who provide vital human services to the community: East End Hospice, which has been finding new ways to ease grief for its families; The Eleanor Whitmore Early Childhood Center, which assures essential workers have a safe place for their kids; Phoenix House Academy, which has seen an increase in caseload; and The Retreat, which has been responding to an increase in outreach as incidences of domestic violence increase. Those essential providers have each seen an uptick in demand for services, as the East End copes with the immediacy of child care, domestic violence, drug abuse and death during the pandemic.

To sustain The Game's fundraising this year, the board has launched a GoFundMe page with the goal of raising $30,000 for its beneficiaries. The site allows online donors to pick a team to make a donation. "We can't play but we can still help our neighbors," explained David Brandman, board treasurer and game videographer. "The need for the charities we support has never been greater. We've set up this donation link so our players and fans, so our whole community, can help us help them, while cheering on their team. The side bringing in the most money will be the home team at next year's game."

The "first game" was played in Springs — the East Hampton hamlet that became known as a haven for artists — featured artists Franz Kline, Willem de Kooning, Philip Pavia, Jackson Pollock and Joan Mitchell. In the 1950s, writers were added to the lineup as the game became a social, summer weekend destination. "The Game" was established as a charity event in the early 1970s with fans supporting celebrities such as Dustin Hoffman, Eli Wallach, Bill King, Anne Jackson, Paul Simon, Christopher Reeve and Roy Scheider for the Artists side and Carl Bernstein, George Plimpton, John Irving, Peter Matthieson, Mort Zuckerman, Mike Lupica and Ken Auletta for the Writers.

Last year, President Bill Clinton was an umpire and CBS 2 News This Morning host Chris Wragge won the MVP award. Also taking the field in 2019 were actress Lori Singer, model/photographer Rebecca Underdown, street artist Zak Meers, talent agent Robert Tuchman, biographer Walter Isaacson, essayist Andy Friedman, explorer Richard Weise, screenwriter Alec Sokolow, weatherman Bill Evans and reporters Rick Leventhal and Diane McInerney. The artists were victorious 10-8, with artist Leif Hope and architect Ronnette Riley leading the winners, and Ken Auletta captaining the Writers. Musicians GE Smith and Caroline Doctorow provided in-game performances of Take Me Out to the Ballgame and This Land is Your Land, and 1010 WINS' Juliet Papa served as master of ceremonies.

Sportswriter and novelist Mike Lupica, who served as the Writer second baseman and lead-off hitter, was disappointed in the postponement. "No one will miss the 2020 Artists Vs. Writers Game more than Ken Auletta and I will. Each of us has been a part of it for 40 years. We love the whole day, from the time we show up for batting practice until the first postgame beer at Dopo, and even our annual Sunday morning phone call replaying the game over the phone. We love the money we've raised over the years for our charities and the friends of the game who keep coming back year after year. We've never once taken for granted the place we held in East End summers, on our traditional middle Saturday in August. So we come back bigger and better in 2021. And when we do come back...let's play two. There's an expression Captain Auletta remembers well from his Brooklyn childhood: Wait 'Till Next Year."

To donate to these charities visit gofundme.com.

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