Bill Clinton, Paul Simon among stars joining 65th NY charity softball game
By Frank Eltman, APEAST HAMPTON, New York--Its roster of participants over the years is impressive: former U.S. President Bill Clinton, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, three Baldwin brothers, Dustin Hoffman, Paul Simon, Jackson Pollock and Kurt Vonnegut, to name just a few.
August 12, 2013, 12:01 am TWN
Organizers of the annual East Hampton Artists & Writers softball games are a little fuzzy about when they got their start — most peg it to around 1948, when artists including Pollock, Willem de Kooning and others organized casual pickup games on summer afternoons in their yards. Today they have become one of the premier events in the Hamptons, New York's summer resort for the haves and have mores.
“I've played against some of the greatest house painters in the world,” jokes reporter Carl Bernstein, making a common, good-natured accusation that his opponents pepper their rosters with “ringers” to gain a competitive advantage.
This year's game, billed as the 65th and slated for Aug. 17, is expected to draw thousands to watch writers such as Bernstein, Richard Reeves and Mike Lupica play artists including Domingo Zapata and Eric Ernst and actors Josh Charles, Lori Singer and others. With the support of corporate sponsors and deep-pocketed donors, the game is expected to raise US$100,000 for eastern Long Island charities.
“Like professional wrestlers, we pretend we want to kill our opponent,” says author Ken Auletta, the longtime captain of the writer's team. “We mock how the other side cheats. We act like winning is all that matters. Winning does matter. But so does the camaraderie forged over many games and many after-game beers.
“And most of all, so does the money we raise at the game for needy local charities.”
As the game has grown in popularity, celebrities have increasingly clamored to play. Batting practice begins at noon, where competitors are sized up by captains Auletta and Lief Hope, the longtime helmsman of the artists' squad.
Over the years, there have been regular disputes over what constitutes an artist or a writer. Boxer Gerry Cooney once played, organizers recall, because he worked on canvas (in the boxing ring) and a pair of power-hitting attorneys played one year for the writers, qualifying because they wrote “legal briefs.” Another year, the artists squad recruited a couple of semiprofessional women's softball players, including a pitcher who threw laser beams at opposing players.
Paul Simon, who only played a couple of years, is considered among the better competitors. “The line, 'Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?' is self-referential,” Bernstein jokes. And former New York Jets behemoth lineman Marty Lyons is remembered for hitting perhaps the longest home run in the lore of the game. Among the many gags played during the contest is a moment when a cantaloupe or turnip is substituted for a softball and thrown to a batter.