Today's featured member is Michael Stein. He was born and raised in New York. In his formative years, he spent many summers at his family’s home in Amagansett, New York. He lives in Arlington, VA and is a consummate advocate for The Writer’s Center bringing up its brilliance, oftentimes too frequently during conversation. One of Michael’s favorite pastimes is having a cold beer on a hot Long Island day. His reviews can be found on his beer-blog at www.beermadeclear.blogspot.com.
The Writers, The Artists and Me—1993
Beads of sweat trickled off of my nose, collecting at the bottom of my pinstripe nylon jersey. Stepping outside the brown '82 Volvo, it was clear today would be another August scorcher on the East End of Long Island. I grabbed my Louisville bat bag from the trunk. I wasn't sure what to expect when I stepped onto the field but what I saw was definitely not what I had expected.
I came to play ball at the Annual Artists vs. Writers Softball Game. My dad had come to participate in the affair which started 46 years before in Wilfred Zogbaum's Springs neighborhood yard. The air reeked, a dusty dingy smell, a combination of Bengay and baseball bags that had been sitting in the shed all year. As I took a quick glimpse around it occured to me there were more braces here than an orthopedist's office. "This is going to be cake," I thought. As a nine year old I was sure these old timers were going to be a cinch to beat.
We headed towards the right bench where writers, strapping on their armor, prepared for battle. To the left, the artists and actors practiced their diction and enunciation. Their warm-up was not physical, but audible "the Mongolian man moved his massive money from Manhattan to Martha's Vineyard." This was how they warmed up? "You have to be kidding me," I said to myself, and sure enough, they were. But this kind of revelry was lost on a nine year old, especially one who had one purpose: to get to the plate.
My father pulled out his off-white brace, placing his left elbow into the holster. The brace's jaundiced color was the result of too many doubles matches and too much sunscreen. However, today's game would not be played on the clay courts of Amagansett but rather on the dirt lot behind the East Hampton A & P.
"Stein, you no-good weasely hack, how the hell are ya?" it was Bill Fiegelman, an old friend of my father's. As the game progressed, this teasing introduction seemed tame as the artists and writers continued to toss out insults. "Zuckerman you old codger you couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn with a t-bird!” The writers had the wittier lines as the artists and actors stuck to profanities, at the plate and in the outfield.
Finally, in the fifth inning I got to the batter's box. The actors complained that the writers were playing by the rules too closely, but to a nine year old, even the lack of a consistent batting order was baffling. Here I was, ready to take a crack at the mean right-hander Roy Scheider. He had been retiring the writer's team all afternoon, but I was ready for him.
The Jaws star wound up and the lob dropped in as the umpire called a strike. I took another pitch for a ball and got the timing down. The slow-pitch was much different than I was used to. As the third pitch rolled in my eyes were glued to the softball. With a swing I made contact and sent the ball into the outfield. I hustled around the bases, almost passing Mike Lupica as he headed for third. I had to hold up at second--I could have gone for three, but my triple was cut short. In front of all of the East End's well known writers, I was content to have a run batted in.