Pickup Basketball, a Venerable Game

That it was Easter had special meaning for Rich Hand
Rich Hand, driving with the ball, was effectively resurrected a few years ago by Doc Katz, far right, Claude Beudert, near right, and Charlie Bateman. Jack Graves

“I’m playing for the Lord today,” Glen Baietta said, with a smile, as he got ready to play pickup basketball with Dr. Alan Katz, Claude Beudert, Charlie Bateman, Tom Herlihy, Jack Chen, Manny Payano, Todd Bishop, George Kneeland, Billy Quigley, Will Shapiro, Jeff Aubry, David Kalman, and Rich Hand Sunday morning at Pierson High School’s gym in Sag Harbor.

That it was Easter had special meaning for Hand, inasmuch as a few years ago he was, after collapsing on the court, effectively resurrected by Dr. Katz, Bateman, who is an emergency medical technician, and Beudert, who as an East Hampton High School coach is also trained in the use of a defibrillator.

With “a couple of stents” now, Hand continues to play, and well too. A deadly 3-point shot (although it counts as 1 point in the pickup games) being his chief offensive weapon.

“He told us, ‘Thanks to you guys I’m a grandfather now,’ ” Beudert, a 64-year-old retired East Hampton special ed teacher, said during a brief respite in the two-hour, pretty-much-nonstop session. 

“We had another save too,” said Beudert. “Dexter Grady, a custodian at the East Hampton Middle School, in 2003. Your paper wrote about it. It was at one of our Tuesday or Thursday night games at the middle school. Charlie and Doc and I brought him back. He later had triple bypass surgery. He’s still working for the district, with Dave Fioriello on the maintenance crew.”

Beudert, East Hampton High’s exceedingly successful varsity golf coach, plays basketball four times a week — in the Sunday games at Pierson, as well as in teacher pickup games at East Hampton High School from 6 to 7 a.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.

Dr. Katz, who’s 70, plays three times a week, and walks two and a half miles to and from work every day, has — as has Beudert — played in these pickup games going on 40 years now, beginning outside on hard courts behind Pierson High.

“If you made a shot from the far side of the dividing line,” Beudert said, pointing out a window to a hard court bordering Pierson’s softball field, “you got 2 points.”

“Doc’s got good hands,” he added of Katz, who is Beudert’s dentist.

Katz is the commissioner, Beudert the vice commissioner. “Self-appointed for life,” Katz said. “Claude will succeed me when I die.”

The games are played year round; though, before the group got access to Pierson’s gym in the late 1980s they were always outside. 

“It’s not just basketball,” Beudert said. “There’s a social aspect to these games too. I never had any brothers, just sisters, three of them. It’s nice to check in with these guys every week to see how things are going with them.”

He agreed that, while all might not say basketball was their number-one sport — Quigley, for example, played semipro hockey in the Philadelphia Flyers organization — all were seriously athletic. 

It was an over-30 group when it began, and it still is, though, like the universe, the age span is expanding, Will Shapiro, at 33, being the baby, and Katz, at 70, the eldest — at least on that day. Another player, Gary Munson, a summer resident, is said to be pushing 73.

“You can see they’re all athletes, by the way they move,” said Beudert. “Charlie was a soccer player first and foremost; I was a golfer, I guess you could say, first and foremost. . . .”

One of the late arrivals, the 6-foot-9- inch Aubry, who played for Cornell, certainly looked like a basketball player first and foremost. 

“He has to cook breakfast, do a load of wash, and do the dishes before he can come over,” Beudert said. “He can control the game if he wants, but he doesn’t.”

“He’s very kind,” Bateman chipped in. 

“He plays a little harder though if his team is down 6-5,” Beudert said.

“He doesn’t lose,” said Bateman, who, in contrast, doesn’t like to lose.

First to 7 points wins, with every shot, no matter from how far out, counting 1 point. If it’s four-on-four, they play crosscourt, full court if it’s five-on-five. 

“Chris Mullin has come a couple of times,” said Kneeland, who assists Kevin Barron in coaching Pierson’s girls varsity. “He made 35 straight from that white line,” almost at midcourt.

Wayne Hopson, a former star on Bridgehampton High School teams that won state and Federation championships in the late 1970s, “used to play,” said Beudert. “A great shooter.”

Kalman, who, with Aubry, formed a good give-and-go combination — Kalman frequently on the receiving end of Aubry’s passes — once ran a 10-team men’s league at the East Hampton Middle School, but tempers tended at times to flare, and thus it eventually died on the vine. When it comes to this group, Katz and Beudert rarely are called upon to make peace. 

Quigley, who played on despite a sore right shoulder, said, when asked, that he painted. He had, in fact, painted a portrait of Donald Trump, “before he ran for president,” which the present president bought. The artist said he donated that money to Guild Hall and to Soldier Ride. 

“You’re a portraitist, then?” 

“They say that. I think I’m an Abstract Expressionist.”

As for these Sunday games, “I love them,” said Quigley, who recently played on the winning team in the men’s hockey league at the Buckskill Winter Club, “the one that Cory [Lillie, the rink’s manager] ran, which is the reason we won.”

“He’s hard to keep up with,” Quigley said admiringly when told that Katz was 70. 

When this writer added that Bateman was an E.M.T., Quigley said, “That’s good to know!”

“What led you to do a story about us?” Katz asked this writer, who told him he’d been inspired after talking to Bateman in front of Mary’s Marvelous in East Hampton the other day, and after asking him if he knew of anything “vaguely athletic” going on, this being the week of spring break in the schools. 

“Vaguely athletic. . . .”

“Well, I’m vague, and you’re athletic, so it seemed like a good story to do.”

Jeff Aubry, who played 16 seasons and won six championship rings in Puerto Rico’s top professional league after graduating from Cornell University and Long Island Lutheran, is said by his pickup mates to be “very kind . . . though he doesn’t lose.” Jack Graves