A last-minute addition to the roster, former Mets relief pitcher John Franco, delighted the crowd at an annual charity softball game when he hit the famous “turnip” ball during one at bat.
The handcrafted turnip disguised as a baseball exploded on impact as Franco and his writers team defeated the artists 9-6 at the 68th annual Artists & Writers Charity Softball Game in East Hampton on Saturday.
Dozens of people came to Herrick Park to watch New York Daily News writer Mike Lupica, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Carl Bernstein, Franco and other celebrities play for fun and to raise money for organizations that serve the East End.
Former Yankees manager Joe Torre threw out the ceremonial first pitch and actor Alec Baldwin also attended, organizers said.
Franco, who said Lupica invited him to join the writers team, was all smiles afterward.
“It was a lot of fun and for a good cause,” Franco said. “If I’m around next year, I’d be happy to come back.”
Nico Martin, 39, and Holly Mae, 30, who attended the game for the first time, said the fun they were having made the trip from their home in New York City worth it.
“It feels like a real game, you can almost reach out and touch the players,” Martin said. “It’s better than Yankee Stadium.”
“It’s been a lot of fun,” said Maeve St. Murphy, 28, of Harlem, who was visiting family in East Hampton and taking in the game. “I was really surprised, the players are very well put together.”
Proceeds from the game — with a suggested donation of $10 — went to East End Hospice, the Eleanor Whitmore Early Childhood Center, Phoenix House Academy of Long Island and The Retreat, an East Hampton-based domestic violence services agency.
Last year’s game raised more than $100,000 for local charities. Though organizers said it was still too early to tell, they thought this year’s event would probably match the proceeds garnered last year.
David Brandman, 54, a Kings Park resident and a game organizer, said of event volunteers, “It’s a labor of love for a lot of people.”