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Charities win as artists take on writers in East Hampton softball game

Artist Eric Ernst hits a ball during the

Artist Eric Ernst hits a ball during the 67th Annual Artist & Writers Charity Softball Game at Herrick Park in East Hampton, Aug. 15, 2015. The artists defeated the writers 7-4. Credit: Gordon M. Grant

It was like someone's strange, star-studded dream of a softball game.

"Inside the Actors Studio" host James Lipton was sitting at the announcer's table. Former NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly was the third-base umpire. New Yorker writer Ken Auletta was captain of a team that included sports columnist Mike Lupica.

But such is the reality of the East Hampton Artists & Writers Charity Softball Game, an annual Hamptons tradition that played out for the 67th time on Saturday.

"As many of you know, this game is famous around the world now," Lipton said as the afternoon game began. "It grew from a little game to this."

Kelly, who said he had officiated for several years, called it a "fun experience."

Former New York Rangers player Rod Gilbert, the author of two books, said he had been part of the writers team for about 10 years. Old hockey injuries sidelined him this year, he said, though he still enjoyed supporting his team.

"We're raising money for great causes," said Gilbert, who was wearing a red writers team T-shirt and has a home in Sag Harbor. "I'm proud to be part of it."

This year, the proceeds were donated to four eastern Long Island nonprofits: the Phoenix House Academy of Long Island, an addiction rehabilitation center in Wainscott; the Retreat, a domestic violence service organization; East End Hospice; and the Eleanor Whitmore Early Childhood Center.

The Hamptons tradition started in 1948, in an era when many artists set up studios in the hamlet of Springs. The first players included artists Jackson Pollock, Joan Mitchell and Willem de Kooning. As the game grew over the years, it attracted such figures as filmmaker Woody Allen, actor Alec Baldwin and business magnate Carl Icahn.

Absent from East Hampton's Herrick Park this year were some of the bigger-name celebrities scheduled to play, including journalist Carl Bernstein, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, and actor Edward Burns.

But the assembled screenwriters, authors and sculptors kept the crowd's attention during a fast-moving game filled with home runs, big plays -- and a few errors. The artists dominated for much of the game, winning 7-4.

"We lost," Auletta said afterward. "What do you say? It was a wonderful game. They outhit us."

Lipton called it "one of the best" artists vs. writers games he has witnessed. "I've seen a lot of them," he said. "I've played in some of them, but it was a very, very good year."

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