They remembered his lamentations at the plate, the “My Gods!” and “Whys?” and other unholy batter’s box groans.

Rules of Flanders Field: Play ball! And have fun. — Mark Alan Lovewell

They remembered his rollicking post-game blog posts, current events and players cast as metaphors in the language of sandlot softball. They remembered his spirit, his kindness, his humor.

They remembered his glove buried deep in center beneath the Flanders Field grass, his ashes scattered above.

On Sunday, July 4, Chilmark softball began its 84th season, gathering at the Peaked Hill field to honor sometimes short stop, sometimes short-center fielder but always avid Sunday morning softball evangelist and Pulitzer prize-winning West Tisbury writer Tony Horwitz, who died unexpectedly in May 2019.

“I came because of Tony,” said Jerry Murphy, his black socks hiked up to the knees he’s had replaced five times. “I can’t be slipping on the grass. But he was a great guy. Really, a tremendous guy.”

The Sunday morning pickup game, a quasi-religious, quasi-athletic ritual which dates back to the 1930s as a July fourth celebration among the Flanders family, lost its 2020 season due to the Covid-19 pandemic. But festivities were renewed with vim and vigor at the Flanders field of dreams Sunday, introduced by its three spritely commissioners, Sig Van Raan, Hans Solmssen and Caleb Caldwell.

Mr. Van Raan paraphrased Boston Globe sportswriter Dan Shaughnessy in his remarks.

Jim Feiner played a trombone version of Take me Out to the Ballgame. — Mark Alan Lovewell

“We have lived through a horrible 16th-month period,” Mr. Van Raan said. “And now we are in the middle of a cherished summer weekend. And like old best friends, softball is back!”

He added:

“We are gathered here today to celebrate the Fourth, to celebrate the beginning of a post-pandemic future.”

The group dedicated a hand-carved, wooden bench to Mr. Horwitz, emblazoned with his 2011 “Howie Hustle” award, his 2017 “Fake News” award and the words, “Gloves In.”

Sophie Balaban then sang the national anthem, Jim Feiner performed a trombone version of Take Me Out to the Ballgame, and two cellists, Thorpe Karabees and Steve McGhee, played a duet of Ode to Joy before the game began.

“His deed, was indeed . . . one of joy,” Mr. Van Raan said of Mr. Horwitz.

The crowd, 40 strong, made up of rabbis, classical musicians, Ph.Ds and fishermen, cheered in near unison.

Geraldine Brooks, Mr. Horwitz’s wife, threw out the first pitch, launching it to the backstop in a powerful underhand. Longtime catcher Howie Bromberg fetched the ball.

“Geraldine, that’s a lot better than most of the pitches we throw,” he said.

Ms. Brooks laughed, returning to her two sons, Nathaniel and Bizu.

“Play ball!” Mr. Van Raan announced.

The game was started in usual Chilmark softball fashion, gloves tossed in a pile and the youngest participant, traditionally Ms. Balaban, dividing up the teams. After Jonathan Lipnick led off with a smack to right, Ms. Balaban’s father, Jason, quickly involved himself in a rundown, eventually tumbling in the grass as the entire fielding team converged on the third baseline.

“There was no third base coach!” Mr. Balaban explained during his return to the bench.

Bench was dedicated to Tony Horwitz. — Mark Alan Lovewell

Generational talent crowded the base paths and the sidelines. John Jacobs, donning a Jaws hat, first played in 1958. His grandson Cody was a vacuum at second base.

By the time the game ended, the score was either 8-2 or 2-0, entirely dependent on the player or team of inquiry. Pitcher Peter Halperin claimed to have thrown a two-hit shutout. Others thought differently, but they were probably wrong.

Everyone laughed, smiled and hugged — their summer Sunday mornings whole again. There were a few strikeouts, a few errors, a couple moonshots across Pasture Lane and no walks. There were definitely no losers. Many believed they had won. No one said otherwise.

“The best part about it is that nobody takes it seriously,” player Keith Heller said.

Mr. Van Raan reflected on Mr. Horwitz’s absence — or lack thereof.

“He was really one of our most spiritual players,” Mr. Van Raan said. “When he arrived, he brought the league to a whole new level of hilarity.”

Mr. Van Raan looked out to center field.

“If someone misses a pop-up, you’ll know why.”

More pictures.