Point of View: Here’s to the Show

Originally an artists’ madcap romp, the Annual Agon turned serious when hordes of play-for-keeps writers elbowed their way in in the modern era. . . .

   Sherrye Henry recently announced by way of e-mail that the $40,000 needed to underwrite the Artists-Writers Game exhibition at Guild Hall next summer had been raised, and from only three sources — Mort Zuckerman ($20,000), who reportedly bought U.S. News and World Report so he could have a column and pitch for the Writers, Barnes & Noble ($15,000), and the Shana Alexander Foundation ($5,000).
    Thus it’s a go, and there’s even talk now about a Hall of Fame. I put myself in it when I appended a modern-day all-star team to a history of The Game that I wrote in 1991, and was chided by Helen Rattray for it, but facts were facts, I told her. Of course I’m older and less humble now.
    Originally an artists’ madcap romp, the Annual Agon turned serious when hordes of play-for-keeps writers elbowed their way in in the modern era. . . . My wife fondly remembers making Mort, who had cut in front at the players’ T-shirt table one year, go to the end of the line and wait his turn.
    But the purpose of this piece is to recall Leif Hope’s inimitable managerial stroke, the famous “Battery Show” of 1977 that he staged after the Writers had the year before, when the bona fides of two lawyer ringers were questioned, said in their defense, “They write legal briefs.”
    In the off-season he chanced to read in Sports Illustrated of the Connecticut Falcons’ phenomenal pitch­er, Joan Joyce, and while he couldn’t persuade the Falcons’ manager to part with her for a day, he did agree to send over (in Tom Twomey’s plane) his number-two, Kathy Neal, and her battery mate, C.B. Tom­asiewicz.
    The Game’s Impresario introduced them as “two folk singers from Omaha.” But it soon became evident they weren’t.
    Bowing to authorial angst, Hope played his recruits in the outfield from the second until the ninth inning, “when, as I recall, they had runners on first and third and were about to tie. I was pitching. I turned around and said, ‘Girls, come back in.’ A barbaric yawp welled up from the Writers. A popup, a strikeout, and a popup, and that was it — we won 13-7. Some guys didn’t talk to me for five years after that.”
    Presumably, the works of art he had Neal and Tomasiewicz submit before they took the field will be in the Guild Hall show.
    To think, it’s been 24 years since Chevy Chase ran down the third-base line to wrestle the Writers’ third baseman, Ed Tivnan, for the pop fly he’d hit his way.
    So, here’s to the show, and to the Hall of Fame, and also to the not so good old days.