The weekend of Aug. 18-19 will sport two popular events here — the Artists and Writers Softball Game at East Hampton’s Herrick Park on Saturday, the 18th, and Ellen’s Run the next morning in Southampton.
It’s the 64th year for the Artists-Writers Game, according to its impresario, Leif Hope, and it’s the 17th year for Ellen’s Run, which has underwritten Southampton Hospital’s state-of-the-art breast cancer center, named after Julie Ratner’s late sister, Ellen P. Hermanson.
Ratner, Ellen’s Run’s founder, said during a conversation Friday that “we’ve given well over a million dollars to the hospital. Our goal was to have a facility with the rigor of a teaching hospital, but with the warmth of a community, and that’s what we’ve achieved.”
The Artists-Writers Game, which has been a dead heat record-wise in the post-modern era, which is to say since 1988 (though the Writers are ahead 28-15-1 since the Game began to be played as a benefit in 1967), will benefit the East Hampton Day Care Learning Center, Phoenix House of Long Island, East End Hospice, and the Retreat.
Hope said Monday that he plans this year to have a former member of the Wounded Warriors amputee touring softball team, William (Spanky) Gibson, pitch the first three innings for the Artists.
The Wounded Warriors amputee team, which tours the country, played in — and won — a slow-pitch softball game at Sag Harbor’s Mashashimuet Park Saturday, impressing Hope, who was one of the spectators, immensely. “They hit the hell out of the ball,” he said. “It was remarkable to watch these guys. I would have loved it if they could have played in our game, but they’re booked. Maybe next year. They’re playing next in Panama City, Fla.”
Hope said he would also present plaques before the Game begins to the widows of Roy Scheider, Barney Rosset, and Bert Sugar, longtime participants. Scheider always kept the Artists’ hopes alive with his pitching, Rosset, whose Grove Press broke new ground in American publishing, also was a groundbreaker softball-wise inasmuch as he was the first literary type to play in what had begun as an annual madcap artists’ romp. Sugar, the colorful boxing commentator and writer, announced the Game in recent years and was a flawless scorekeeper, no mean feat given the teams’ frequent brouhahas and juggled lineups.
Ratner said she always worried about the turnouts — the race is now based at Southampton Hospital — though invariably they have been huge. “There’s a great spirit among the volunteers, the participants, and the spectators — everyone’s so supportive,” she said. “It’s a beautiful course, with two water stops, one overseen by the Boy Scouts and one overseen by the Shinnecock Reservation.”
As far as getting to Southampton from East Hampton on a Sunday morning — initially seen as an impediment — “everyone’s asleep,” she said.
The battle against breast cancer has been frustrating, she continued. Despite the advances in research and in targeted treatments, “the numbers haven’t changed that much over all. Well over 200,000 will be diagnosed in this calendar year, and probably 40,000 women will die. Even 20,000 would be too many. We have to stop this rampage.”
Ratner said she expected Representative Tim Bishop and State Senator Ken LaValle would be there, though she would ask them to “just speak a word or two — not too much. The runners are all looking at their watches and are ready to push off from the starting line.” Once the gun sounded, she said, she would “walk quickly back to the finish line, hoping that I’ll make it before the first runner comes in.”
Hope said that the Artists, despite their post-modern breakthrough, were less discomfited by losing than the Writers. It was a nine-inning game, he reminded when asked if it were seven, the usual length of a slow-pitch game. Then he added, “If the Writers are winning, it’s seven — if they’re losing, it’s nine.”