Under gray skies and a threat of rain, the 70th Annual Artists and Writers Celebrity Softball Game managed to go the full nine innings in Herrick Park in East Hampton on Saturday, August 18. In a close and exciting match, the Writers pulled ahead to beat the Artists by a 12–8 score. Great efforts by both sides entertained spectators and included some memorable diving efforts to catch fly balls.
The full day of events began with a softball clinic for future artists and writers, with a home run challenge and batting practice to allow the players to warm up for the game. The player roster was filled with celebrities on both sides and included names such as Lonnie Quinn on the Artists side and Carl Bernstein on the opposing Writers team.
This year’s game was played to benefit four local charities: East End Hospice, the Eleanor Whitmore Early Childhood Center, Phoenix House Academy of Long Island, and The Retreat. “Proceeds from admission tickets, food sales, and merchandise like t-shirts and hats, as well as any donations received during the event will all go to the four charities,” said Pauline Nicholls, one of the main organizers of the event this year.
The Artists and Writers game began in 1948 as a picnic on Sundays. Everyone brought food and drinks and they met at artist Wilfrid Zogbaum’s home to play softball in his front yard. Franz Kline, Willem de Kooning, Philip Pavia, Jackson Pollock, and Joan Mitchell were some of the first artists to participate. The picnics gave them a chance to discuss their work. Many had moved to Springs for its affordability and the prospect of being able to have larger studios.
According to Nicholls, “The game turned into a fundraising event during the civil rights movement when there was an artist arrested 70 years ago for campaigning for civil rights. They didn’t have enough money to bail their friend out of jail, so they started the game to raise the bail out money. There lies the origins of the game and Leif Hope has been organizing it for more than 50 years. He’s an amazing 92-year-old gentleman. Leif Hope and Ronnette Riley are the co-captains of the Artists team. Riley was the first woman to ever build a skyscraper in New York City.”
Syndicated Daily News sports writer Mike Lupica, and The New Yorker writer and author, Ken Auletta, were the co-captains for the Writers team.