The Artists and Writers Game is going on its 65th year, but this summer marks the first exhibition showcasing the talent for which the ball players are really known. “Artists & Writers: They Played In The Game” will open to the public at Guild Hall in East Hampton on June 15 and remain on view until July 28, just two weeks before the big game at Herrick Park on August 17.
What began as informal backyard softball games among artists in Springs, including Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline, Jackson Pollock, Philip Pavia, Howard Kanovitz, Wilfred Zogbaum, Syd Solomon, Joan Mitchell and art critic Harold Rosenberg, grew to include writers Terry Southern, Arthur Blaustein, David Myers and Jerry Leiber, who were among the firsts, and eventually politicians, actors, filmmakers, editors and celebs of all sorts. In 2005, Mort Zuckerman pitched for the Writers while Mayor Giuliani called the balls and strikes. Dan Rattiner himself played and umpired in many games over the years. Deb McEneaney, President of Artists & Writers, upholds one criterion: they must know how to play. It’s a real softball game and, while it’s a lot of fun, it’s competitive.
It’s also a fundraiser benefiting East Hampton Day Care Learning Center, East End Hospice, Phoenix House and The Retreat. This year’s Pre-Game Party, to be held for the first time at LTV Studio in Wainscott, will further aid these charities through the auction, which will include 200 signed books by current and past-participating authors, including George Plimpton, James Lipton, Lynn Sherr, Roger Rosenblatt, Carl Bernstein, Avery Corman, former President Bill Clinton, Richard Reeves, Ben Bradlee and John Leo.
The highlight of the auction is a special commemorative quilt, created and crafted by Lynne Corwith Fraas, in celebration of the 65th anniversary of the game. Fraas stitched together cutouts from the shirts and hats of games-past, which were designed by notable graphic designer Walter Bernard, on a bright blue background with a variegated stitch running throughout.
Curated by Elena Prohaska Glinn and Christina Mossaides Strassfield, the exhibition at Guild Hall will allow visitors an up-and-close viewing of the quilt and of the signed and dedicated books, many of which they will be able to flip through. Other auction items and ephemera, such as manuscripts, scripts, and signed photographs, such as that of Bill Clinton, then-Governor of Arkansas and umpire at the 1988 game, will be viewable under glass.
Side-by-side with landscape architectural drawings and signed movie posters will be original works of art from prestigious alums and current members of the Artists’ team. Willem de Kooning’s large Untitled, 1974, oil on paper mounted on canvas, bathed in oranges, yellows, reds, and that quintessentially de Kooning flesh-tone as well as Jackson Pollock’s Untitled, 1951, in black ink on Howell paper, an unusual Pollock that hints to recognizable subject matter, and Adolph Gottleib’s painted aluminum sculpture, Wall, 1968, are among works from Guild Hall’s permanent collection. Standout gems from the show also include works by Franz Kline, Harold Kanovitz, Ross Bleckner and Eric Fischl.
The show will also feature two slideshows, on view in the back gallery and to be shown at LTV Studio, and an extensive timeline, compiled by information gathered from archival sources, including Dan’s Papers, with amusing antidotes: “A group of East End Artists play in Wilfrid Zogbaum’s front yard. First grapefruit thrown, actually two and a coconut. Philip Pavia goes 3 for 2 on the unusual objects,” (1954), “Word spreads that PEOPLE magazine has a reporter in the crowd. Leif Hope, the Artists’ manager ushers in the ringer era by secretly flying in 2 national-caliber women’s softball players from the Hartford Falcons,” (1977). Here’s a good one: In 1983, “No one remembers to line up umpires or bring homeplates and bases: sections of the NY Times are used instead.”
In conjunction with the show, Guild Hall will be hosting book signings with Ken Auletta, Roger Rosenblatt and Eric Fischl, and a panel discussion, moderated by Ed Bleier, with writers Mort Zuckerman, Mike Lupica, Juliet Papa and Carl Bernstein, and artists Leif Hope, Ed Hollander, Walter Bernard, Eric Ernst and Lori Singer.