John Leo

The Artist and Writers Game has many traditions. Perhaps the best-known one is challenging the credentials of players on the opposite team. Is the fellow there at shortshop a true painter, sculptor, actor, journalist or literary figure or is he a mortuary assistant who happens to hit well, and so has been added as a ringer by Ken Auletta of the alleged writers or Leif Hope of the so-called artists? “Your second baseman is a bartender, “a player for the writers might say. “There’s an art to that—and your left-fielder writes nothing but checks,” an artist would reply. When Mort Zuckerman first showed up to pitch for the writers, before he established himself as a well-known editorialist, the artists wondered how he qualified as a writer. “He owns US News,” someone said. Leif’s response: “Well, next year he can buy a paint factory and pitch for the artists.” The late John Scanlon, the play-by-play announcer for several years, had a couple of weaknesses in trying to fill that job: he never bothered to learn the names of the artists, and he had trouble understanding why the game needed any artists at all. When these people worked, if you could call it that, they didn’t even use words!
So if an artist was coming to bat, Scanlon might announce: “Here comes Petrillo the artist (heh, heh). He paints landscapes. No, wait. I think he paints houses. I’ll have to check.” So poor Petrillo, who was probably some sort of master of abstract digital video, had to try concentrating on batting while Scanlon would be cackling away about how many houses Petrillo had painted in the Hamptons, cheap too, and how he is thinking of branching out into Hummel-making, though his wife thinks that might be a bit risky, with a smaller profit-margin and all.
Not that Scanlon treated writers any better. He once introduced screenwriter Alan Trustman as “the author of ‘Crime and Punishment’—maybe you read his book.” And when writer Robert Sam Anson came out with a new book, sold at the game, Scanlon took over the demanding task of signing the books for Anson, inserting heartwarming greetings and offbeat references, for instance “Check page 43—I’m sure you’ll understand.”
But of course the new owner of the book couldn’t understand. Page 43 might deal with well-digging in Vietnam. Scanlon wrote no books, but, of course, on the basis of his creative inscriptions on other people’s book, he clearly qualified to play for the writers.