Dispatches From The Dugout: Season 2024

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Each week, the New Yorker team meets at the softball diamond in Central Park to play against writers, fact-checkers, and cartoonists* who work at other publications like Vanity Fair, Esquire, Rolling Stone, and many others.

This is a tradition that goes back over half a century. I am almost certainly the least valuable member of the team, with the knees of a septuagenarian and the pitching arm of an old chair. Each week on this page, I will document our wins, our losses, and everything in between. So, get your lukewarm light beer out, and get ready for another season of…

*I’m kidding. Nobody else has cartoonists anymore.

The 2024 official team uniform was designed by the inimitable Roz Chast.

Our season for 2024 will be as follows:

05/21: New Yorker vs. New York Magazine (@ James J. Walker Park)

05/28: New Yorker vs. New York Review of Books

06/18: New Yorker vs. Rolling Stone

06/25: New Yorker vs. New York Review of Architecture

07/09: New Yorker vs. Defector+HellGate

07/17: New Yorker vs. Financial Times

07/23: New Yorker vs. Paris Review

07/30: New Yorker vs. Vanity Fair

08/07: New Yorker vs. Slate

08/19: New Yorker vs. New York Public Radio

05/21: The New Yorker vs. New York Magazine

This year, we kick off the season at James J. Walker Park on Hudson Street in the West Village, against our longtime rivals, New York Magazine…

The team huddled after a brief warm-up and suggested we should do a chant to unsettle our rivals, not unlike the Māori Haka. Assistant Cartoon Editor Rachel Perlman suggested we just confuse the hell out of them by chanting “Arsenaaaaal!” We eventually settled on “New Yorker!” on three.

Never has the ER been more important to a game;
Not just because of the number of times the ball (accidentally) struck a player, but because they’re the only two letters distinguishing our teams.

We were hitting home runs like it was nobody’s business— the shorthand between the team in the field was better than ever. Our intrepid captain, Talk of the Town Editor, Zach Helfand, was the MVP.

Here’s the problem: Due to the park being roughly four hundred thousand times smaller than Central Park, the unofficial Softball rules in James J Walker Park are such that you can only have so many home runs before they start counting as “outs”. As it turns out, there is such a thing as “being too good at hitting home runs”, because we maxed out our homers.

We were way ahead, then a roadwork truck parked alongside home plate popped open a sewer cap and started billowing toxic fumes into the park. Barks of disapproval through the fence from our pitcher were met with a stubborn growl and a few expletives as the smoke wafted onto the field. It cost us a few outs, giving the opposition a new edge for the home stretch.

The park was once the Burying Ground for St. John's Chapel of Trinity Church. It was in use from 1799 to 1858, with over 10,000 burials there… and this week there was one more…

…it was New York Magazine! We won, 16-12.
Last year they buried us in the final inning. It was nice to get a win on the board for the first game of the season.

05/28: New Yorker vs. New York Review of Books

05/28:
An Asterisk in Central Park”
The New Yorker VS. New York Review of Books

“I need you to leave the park immediately!” The man in sunglasses and park ranger gear yelled from his little buggy.

“Ah?” Daniel responded (we have seventeen Daniels on our team) “Stop playing, leave the park now.”

You see, we’d started late on account of our rivals showing up on Central time, and the previous game between Johhny’s Muffler Warehouse V. Sid’s Carburetor Repairs running overtime by 20 minutes.

As usual, the cartoonists huddled in a batch behind the dugout. While the clock ticked away, a nice woman walking past asked if we knew the late Ed Koren. As it turns out, she was the aforementioned cartooning legend’s daughter. We had a long chat before finally getting our eye in with some warm-ups and batting practice. The other team was yet to arrive.

We had the feeling an Asterisk might linger over this week’s match. It just had that vibe.

When the opposing team finally showed up, they got a few past us. But we were in pretty good nick. Once Johnny DiNapoli got our first home run, we were off— it was shaping up to be a real game.

Johnny DiNapoli has a Maggie Larson growing out of his neck.

There was a batter on the other team with black gloves. He struck out. The gloves did nothing. Illustrator Jenny Kroik said, “If he was in Columbo he’d definitely be a suspect.”

Just then, our remaining team members had returned from their odyssey through the Upper West Side to locate some cheap beer. Alas, all they found were fancy cans of Whiskey Smash and pre-mixed margaritas. We cracked open the readymade cocktails and trotted onto the field for the fifth inning.

After several groggy fumbles, they had a player on every base. Things were starting to turn…

It was the bottom of the sixth and they were up by three. It was time to get serious. One of their players approached the dugout to ask if they could borrow a left-handed glove. After a swig of whiskey smash and a heavy sigh, someone bellowed, “Who’s got a southpaw for the Review?”

They buried us in record time. We were flailing, but our resolve for a comeback was stronger than ever. The team guzzled some more softball juice and bounded onto the pitch as the sun burst through the storm clouds.

Just then, a small man in a large buggy stopped by the dugout to ask who the permit holder was. We pointed to one of the several dozen Daniels in the field and he hit the gas, screeching around right field to stop right behind a Daniel.

“I need you to stop playing and leave the park immediately!” he barked…

“Ah, How come?” Came the reply little buggy man didn’t want to hear. “You gotta pack it up— if I come back from my lap and you’re here we’re gonna have a problem.”

As it happens, our limit on time for a game had gone from a 9 pm cut-off to an 8 pm cut-off. This is new.

We never had the chance to make our runs back, and had to call the game before the 7th. The small mountain of cheese pizza at the bar afterward was cold, cheesy comfort for the victory that could have been. Theoretically, this week was a loss. But with a huge…

*

06/18: New Yorker vs. Rolling Stone

Stay tuned…

06/25: New Yorker vs. New York Review of Architecture

Stay tuned…

07/09: New Yorker vs. Defector+HellGate

Stay tuned…

07/17: New Yorker vs. Financial Times

Stay tuned…

07/23: New Yorker vs. Paris Review

Stay tuned…

07/30: New Yorker vs. Vanity Fair

Stay tuned…

08/07: New Yorker vs. Slate

Stay tuned…

08/19: New Yorker vs. New York Public Radio

Stay tuned…