Spring was in the air, and so, evidently, was my head, for I had no idea until the middle of the following day that I had left my camera behind at Mashashimuet Park’s diamond. The day before, in balmy spring weather, I watched the first baseball team Bridgehampton has fielded in four-plus decades play its jayvee peers from Pierson while standing next to my photographer friend Craig Macnaughton, who was sitting, legs crossed and intent off the first-base line.
That I was rendered dreamy may have had something to do with the park’s history. In the late 1800s, carriage and trotting races were held there on a half-mile oval track. In 1893, there was a Great Bicycle Tournament that drew more than 1,000 spectators. A wooden grandstand near the baseball field, which has no outfield fences, looks as if it dates to the dead ball era. . . .
In short, you can feel the rhythm of a small village there. It is palpable, the gift of the beneficent Olivia Sage, the widow and heiress of a Syracuse robber baron. Sag Harbor could just as well be known as Sage Harbor for all the good works she did there in behalf of the village’s children, her abiding interest, before dying in 1918 at the age of 90.
I was reminded of Mrs. Russell Sage and her gift to the village’s children after learning the next day from the park’s genial manager, Jeff Robinson — who had, wonderful to tell, found my camera bag — that the day I saw the baseball game the school district had threatened to take its children and go home if the bucolic park were not modernized posthaste by the park’s board.
Jeff had not only found my camera, he had been given me a story — a front-page story by Christine Sampson, it turned out. Let’s hear it for short-term memory loss.
And for the children of Sag Harbor, who Mrs. Russell Sage hoped would grow into good citizens through engaging in wholesome mental and physical pursuits in Mashashimuet Park.
Surely something can be worked out so that the park’s spirit won’t be sapped.
And if there is to be brand-new fencing at the ball field, please don’t let safety-consciousness so reign that wire cutters will be needed in order for a photographer to get a decent shot, as is the case where I come from.