For more than a half century, a group of writers and artists have met in East Hampton to duke it out for supremacy on a softball diamond. Some of the most vaunted names in American arts and letters have participated, making it an almost sacred ritual in some circles.
Yet, as in all homegrown events that began casually and humbly, the Hamptons could not leave the game alone. For many years now, the “artists” have been infiltrated by celebrity actors and the writers, mostly journalists now, appear to be rounded out by a mixed bag of broadcasters, publishers, and producers. Further, the game appears to have more corporate sponsors than some major league baseball teams.
It’s all for local charity, so it serves a higher purpose, and more glitz always equals more money on the South Fork. Still, it gives plenty of fodder for curmudgeons who bemoan the loss of the “old days.” An exhibit at Guild Hall last year, put together by some of the game’s longest participants, directed attention back to the game’s roots and meaning.
Taking up the reins this year, Glenn Horowitz Bookseller has joined with Leif Hope, who guided the game into the modern era and was one of the Guild Hall show’s organizers, to help foster a new tradition that allows some of the spotlight from the game to shine on practicing and historical South Fork artists and writers.
Lauren Miller Walsh, who coordinated the books and manuscripts for the show for Glenn Horowitz, said Mr. Hope approached them a couple of years ago around the time the Guild Hall show was being planned. The idea was to have a show where the objects on view could be sold to further benefit the local charities the game supports.
“What I had in mind,” Mr. Hope said, “was a show of artists and writers working full time, their minds not occupied doing something else.” He said the artists he chose, who include Eric Ernst, Randall Rosenthal, and Walter Bernard, may have had a long involvement with the game or merely passing participation. Audrey Flack, who is in the show, told him she played one year and was surprised she actually hit the ball. Dan Rizzie, John Alexander, Dan Christiansen, and Jim McMullen are some of the many other artists on view.
Glenn Horowitz will have a number of impressive writers represented in the literary pieces on view, which include many signed first editions. Among them are Joseph Heller, Kurt Vonnegut, Roger Rosenblatt, Jay McInerney, E.L. Doctorow, Ken Auletta, Abbie Hoffman, and Walter Isaacson, some of whom still play in the game.
They also have a trove of art-related books and manuscripts, such as a collection of Franz Kline’s letters from the 1940s to 1958 to a friend who lived in Massachusetts. There are 12 in all, a rare find, Ms. Walsh said. “Letters by him don’t really come by that often.” They discuss his struggles to sell work, among other things.
In addition, rare monographs and catalogues raisonne by artists such as Elaine de Kooning and Jackson Pollock link the historical to the contemporary art. A Vonnegut lithograph with a baseball theme will round out the mix.
Another initiative for this year is a charity auction on Paddle8 that features a number of artists, some with affiliations to the game and others who just wanted to participate. The auction opened on Aug. 1 and will continue through tomorrow. The exhibition will have a reception tonight from 6 to 8 and continue through Sunday.
This year’s charities are: Eleanor Whitmore Early Childhood Center, Phoenix House Academy, and the Retreat, which will receive 20 percent of the proceeds from the gallery sales and at least 50 percent from the auction. The link for the auction is paddle8.com/auctions/artistsandwriters/.