There are other summer traditions in the Hamptons. The Artists vs. Writers Annual Softball Game is ours. And it is a tradition that has lasted, for so many fine reasons, starting with this one: The fellowship that those of us who have played in the game for a long time, those for whom this Saturday in August is the highlight of our summers, feel from the time we show up at Herrick Park for the longest batting practice on the planet.
One Saturday every August, we have a town meeting of softball in the middle of East Hampton. We raise money for our charities – the Eleanor Whitmore Early Childhood Center and the East End Hospice and the Retreat and Phoenix House – and know how important that money is.
But it is almost as if those charities are doing us the favor, because they help bring us back every year. They put us together on that field, and for a few hours we are all reminded – the ones who play the game and the ones who watch – why we were drawn to this part of the world in the first place.
We celebrate each other and shake our heads in wonder that people still make donations to watch us play. We remember the time Paul Simon drove home the late Christopher Reeve with the winning run; remember the Ben Bradlee being out at second base for the Writers when he was 75 years old. We laugh about the ringers Leif Hope, the godfather of the whole thing, has brought in over the years – all the “landscape architects” who can hit the ball all the way to the tennis courts.
We remember how funny the late John Scanlon was doing commentary. We remember, boy do we, how the last time George Plimpton played, I was supposed to run for him if he got a basehit. George did get a hit, a clean single to center. And if you were there that day, maybe you also remember the two of us running parallel courses towards first base.
We remember our dear friend Roy Scheider, so ill the last time he played, showing up to pitch on a day when we didn’t know if he would show up at all; how he pitched eight innings that day and how when we called him later to tell him he was the first unanimous MVP in the history of the game, he heard us all chant his name from the patio bar at Race Lane.
This is our game, run by Leif and the great Deb McEneaney. It is the fun Capt. Ken Auletta and I have on the sidelines, for 30 years, trying to make some order out of all the people who want to get into the game for our team. Somehow Auletta makes it work, every time. Then on Sunday morning, win or lose, the two of us are going over the game pitch by pitch, and talking about next year.
We all look forward to next year. Already it is closer than any of us can believe. There are other important summer days and nights in the Hamptons. That Saturday in August, that is ours. See you there.