Roger Angell has died at age 101
May 20, 2022 5:43 PM   Subscribe

NYT obituary. From a remembrance by New Yorker editor David Remnick: He was not only the greatest of baseball writers; he had also lived long enough to see Babe Ruth, of the Yankees, at one end of his life and Shohei Ohtani, of the Angels, at the other. Age conferred authority. When Roger covered the Yanks in their late-nineties heyday, Joe Torre, the team’s heavy-lidded chief, would sometimes interrupt one of his avuncular soliloquies to a clutch of young reporters and look to him for affirmation: “Roger, am I getting that right?” Sitting in his office, Roger, much like Torre, held court, telling stories about playing Ping-Pong with James Thurber, editing William Trevor and Donald Barthelme, and watching ballgames with the Romanian-born artist Saul Steinberg, . . .

. . . who would put on a flannel Milwaukee Braves uniform before sitting down in front of the TV. I once came to him complaining about how hard it was to find writing that was truly funny, and Roger, as if recalling a recent Tuesday, replied, “Harold Ross said the same thing.”
posted by beagle (22 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
I found this passage about the value of fandom quite moving.

It is foolish and childish, on the face of it, to affiliate ourselves with anything so insignificant and patently contrived and commercially exploitative as a professional sports team, and the amused superiority and icy scorn that the non-fan directs at the sports nut (I know this look—I know it by heart) is understandable and almost unanswerable. Almost. What is left out of this calculation, it seems to me, is the business of caring—caring deeply and passionately, really caring—which is a capacity or an emotion that has almost gone out of our lives. And so it seems possible that we have come to a time when it no longer matters so much what the caring is about, how frail or foolish is the object of that concern, as long as the feeling itself can be saved. Naïveté—the infantile and ignoble joy that sends a grown man or woman to dancing and shouting with joy in the middle of the night over the haphazardous flight of a distant ball—seems a small price to pay for such a gift.

posted by Horace Rumpole at 5:57 PM on May 20, 2022 [21 favorites]

I don’t know what Roger Angell sounded like but I hear him in the voice of Vin Scully.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 6:06 PM on May 20, 2022

posted by ursus_comiter at 6:34 PM on May 20, 2022 [6 favorites]

I read so many pieces by him over the years. Such elegant, thoughtful writing, with never a word wasted.

What a life he led.

posted by Phlegmco(tm) at 8:17 PM on May 20, 2022 [3 favorites]

posted by bryon at 8:59 PM on May 20, 2022

posted by vrakatar at 9:21 PM on May 20, 2022

posted by gwint at 9:31 PM on May 20, 2022

posted by riverlife at 11:12 PM on May 20, 2022

posted by virago at 1:45 AM on May 21, 2022

Roger Angell's Been Keeping Score

A bright little essay about Angell's famous scorecards.

He played a full game, with some extra innings.
posted by chavenet at 1:55 AM on May 21, 2022 [3 favorites]

I read a ton of Angell while in college, and the other great baseball writers, and it convinced me that I wasn't going to be a writer. His great passion for the game and his deft, strong writing made me pretty sure that I didn't have what it takes. :7)

(Older me thinks that maybe I picked too high a standard to measure myself against.)
posted by wenestvedt at 6:37 AM on May 21, 2022 [5 favorites]

You don't have to care about baseball to read and enjoy Roger Angell's writing, but I am a bit envious of baseball nerds for the extra pleasure.

posted by theora55 at 9:56 AM on May 21, 2022 [2 favorites]

As usual, Joe Posnanski is worth a read
posted by patternocker at 10:25 AM on May 21, 2022 [2 favorites]

posted by /\/\/\/ at 11:32 AM on May 21, 2022

Roger Angell: This Old Man is a wonderful essay on aging and life/death.

I count on jokes, even jokes about death.

Teacher: Good morning, class. This is the first day of school and we’re going to introduce ourselves. I’ll call on you, one by one, and you can tell us your name and maybe what your dad or your mom does for a living. You, please, over at this end.

Small Boy: My name is Irving and my dad is a mechanic.

Teacher: A mechanic! Thank you, Irving. Next?

Small Girl: My name is Emma and my mom is a lawyer.

Teacher: How nice for you, Emma! Next?

Second Small Boy: My name is Luke and my dad is dead.

Teacher: Oh, Luke, how sad for you. We’re all very sorry about that, aren’t we, class? Luke, do you think you could tell us what Dad did before he died?

Luke (seizes his throat): He went “N’gungghhh! ”

posted by storybored at 12:25 PM on May 21, 2022 [1 favorite]

posted by adekllny at 7:01 PM on May 21, 2022


Bit of trivia: Angell’s Five Seasons: A Baseball Companion is where Yo La Tengo first came across the phrase that became their band name (in “Stories for a rainy afternoon”).
posted by fregoli at 1:18 AM on May 22, 2022 [1 favorite]

Angell’s Five Seasons: A Baseball Companion and Moneyball by Michael Lewis are where I trace my real baseball fandom to. And to think his 'real' job was a fiction editor and his baseball writing was a side gig. His essay about the college baseball duel between Darling and Viola made you feel like you were at the game. I always looked forward to his retrospective in the New Yorker after the World Series.

posted by indianbadger1 at 9:11 AM on May 22, 2022

Despite being a New Yorker subscriber since 1987, I'm not much of a baseball fan so I don't know that I've ever read one of his pieces. Perhaps I'll start with the parody in Snooze: "an essay on bowling by Roger Devill called The Rumbling of the Ball".
posted by neuron at 11:35 AM on May 22, 2022

I grew up (?) in Chicago are, Jerome Holtzman was baseball writer, don't remember now if Suntimes or Tribune but I do remember his writing. Baseball, so much more to it than I (baseball family, baseball fan, then) so much more to baseball than it looks like to the casual fan
posted by dancestoblue at 4:44 PM on May 22, 2022

His piece on the fifth anniversary of 9/11:
Those of us in our eighties or late seventies can still remember when this was called a young country (it was said all the time in school) and, if we lived in New York, retain the vision of earlier iconic towers—the Empire State, the Chanin Building, the George Washington Bridge—going up, week by week, to prove the point. The Depression and Pearl Harbor and Guadalcanal and Dachau and Hiroshima aged and toughened us, to be sure, but perhaps not as much as the History Channel would have it. In the early sixties—in our forties, that is—we suddenly cheered up when some historian noticed that the late, Massachusetts-born, white-mustachioed Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., who had served on the bench into the nineteen-thirties, had in his long lifetime shaken hands with John Quincy Adams and also our new incumbent, John F. Kennedy. How young we were, after all!

None of us, no one in the world, holds such a notion today. Our United States feels as old as Tyre. Also anxious and bloodied; also short of sleep. What’s a shock, as this special September comes along, is that 9/11 is only five years back. Boys and girls born that spring and summer are entering kindergarten this year, and before they leave elementary school will have learned and tucked away the date in about the same place as Antietam and the typewriter and the Great Plague—that is, if they’re paying any attention at all. We worry about them, as elders do, but what we know about them that they don’t is that they are the older generation. Even while this ancient, inescapable irony dawns, we think back more often to a deceased parent or to a friend gone too early, to a favorite teacher or poet or departed doubles partner—anyone who died before September 11th—and wish ourselves that free again, and that young.
posted by borborygmi at 2:42 AM on May 23, 2022 [2 favorites]

That piece from Joe Posnanski -- who is maybe the best baseball writer alive, now-- contains my very favorite Angell quote:
Since baseball time is measured only in outs, all you have to do is succeed utterly; keep hitting, keep the rally alive, and you have defeated time. You remain forever young.
That's what I always thought of when I thought of Angell and his epic life-- that he'd somehow found a way to keep hitting, defeat time, live forever.

No such luck, but his writing-- that'll keep putting extra innings on the board for a long, long time.
posted by martin q blank at 6:32 AM on May 23, 2022

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