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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Angell: Papiness

Big Papi continued to astound, with a run-scoring double on his first pitch of the evening, two singles, and a line-drive out. He is batting .733 for the series—as against a cumulative .151 for the rest of the Boston hitters—and now sometimes gives the impression that he is stopping by to play in these little entertainments, in the manner of a dad joining his daughter’s fifth-grade softball game. When he came up to bat once again in the sixth, Cardinals’ starter Adam Wainwright essayed some uncharacteristic little pauses and stutter steps on the mound, trying to throw off that implacable swing. It was like trying to disconcert winter.

Good cripple hitter Posted: October 29, 2013 at 05:40 PM | 44 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: adam wainwright, cardinals, david ortiz, john lester, red sox, world series

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   1. Perry Posted: October 29, 2013 at 07:04 PM (#4589013)
Someone linked to Angell's Series posts on Posnanski's blog and I was THRILLED -- he almost never appears in the print edition anymore, so I thought he was more or less retired. Made my day to see he's still writing online.
   2. The Clarence Thomas of BBTF (scott) Posted: October 29, 2013 at 07:30 PM (#4589026)
When [Ortiz] came up to bat once again in the sixth, Cardinals’ starter Adam Wainwright essayed some uncharacteristic little pauses and stutter steps on the mound, trying to throw off that implacable swing. It was like trying to disconcert winter.


That's a damned good piece of imagery.
   3. toratoratora Posted: October 29, 2013 at 07:40 PM (#4589030)
From his column a few days ago,discussing Red Sox beards:

Dustin Pedroia’s the weirdest, since it comes with his desert-saint stare and that repeated on-deck or between-pitch mannerism of opening and stretching his mouth into a silent O: a screech owl with laryngitis.


The man's still got it.
   4. Greg K Posted: October 29, 2013 at 07:51 PM (#4589038)
I know a guy whose son played with Angell on The New Yorker baseball club. He said Angell was their star pitcher, so I figured, wow this must have been ages ago. But apparently this happened in the mid to late 90s.
   5. AC Posted: October 29, 2013 at 08:13 PM (#4589046)
Winter is coming...
   6. Foster Posted: October 29, 2013 at 08:21 PM (#4589049)
Thanks for this. I just devoured them and they're great.

http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/bios/roger_angell/search?contributorName=Roger Angell
   7. rufus was here Posted: October 29, 2013 at 08:37 PM (#4589057)
1) He clearly loves the game.
2) He's an incredible writer.
3) His books are just great -- worth owning. "Let me Finish", his memoir, isn't even about baseball, and it's wonderful.
4) He's a Mets fan (disclosed that in writing about 1986).
5) Terrific description of A-Rod in this 2009 New Yorker piece:
"I think A-Rod will always be a bit beyond us. We can get used to his money more easily than his outlandish talent and his physical gifts; standing next to him in the dugout at times, I've had the impression that I'm within touching distance of a new species."

I'll let the others speculate just what that species could be ... (clip, clop).
   8. Non-Youkilidian Geometry Posted: October 29, 2013 at 08:43 PM (#4589059)
I've missed his magazine pieces and had no idea he was contributing online posts. Thanks for alerting me - I now have some catching up to do.
   9. Jarrod HypnerotomachiaPoliphili(Teddy F. Ballgame) Posted: October 29, 2013 at 08:53 PM (#4589063)
The catcher, finding Craig approaching third base—he was slowed by an old ankle injury—fired there, perhaps in time to nail the runner, except that the ball went past the diving third baseman, Will Middlebrooks, and out into left field. Craig, scrambling to his feet again to head home, half-stumbled over the recumbent Middlebrooks before he could resume his gimping trip, and was out there, on the return peg—only he was not. Home-plate ump Dana DeMuth signalled “safe,” then pointed meaningfully to his colleague Jim Joyce, out at third, who had properly called the tangle an obstruction by Middlebrooks.

Shock. Rejoicing. Horror-struck Sox pleading. Game over. Sorry, guys, but the obstruction rule, as entrenched as Marbury v. Madison, does not require evil intent by the obstructionist. Craig, who had reinjured his ankle while sliding and believed himself out, can be forgiven for not quite understanding all the excitement around him. Not quite believing it remains true for us all. I could not recall a game ever ending this way, and neither could Tim McCarver or Joe Buck, up in the booth. Another First Ever, then, right to the gizzard for all of New England.

The Red Sox, returning to the field Sunday evening, might expect to find crime-scene tape surrounding home plate, third base, and much of left field.


"[A]s entrenched as Marbury v. Madison."

Fantastic. Hits you right in the gizzard.
   10. Bourbon Samurai in Asia Posted: October 29, 2013 at 09:04 PM (#4589070)
awesome! didnt realize he was stoill goiung
   11. dlf Posted: October 29, 2013 at 09:16 PM (#4589075)
If you enjoy baseball and enjoy quality writing, you should find everything you possibly can that this wonderful man has written. My personal favorite is still "Web of the Game" about the matchup in the 1981 College World Series between Ron Darling's Yale and Frank Viola's St. John's that Angell watched with octogenarian Smokey Joe Wood. I re-read it at least once a year.
   12. Jarrod HypnerotomachiaPoliphili(Teddy F. Ballgame) Posted: October 29, 2013 at 09:24 PM (#4589080)
My favorite of his writing as well.
   13. Howie Menckel Posted: October 29, 2013 at 09:52 PM (#4589090)

me too

if you heretofore did not believe in divine intervention, what the hell else put Angel(l) and Smokey Joe and an all-time epic pitching duel between two future MLB stars?

you can make a good living at writing, and still go slackjawed at Angell at his best.
   14. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: October 29, 2013 at 10:02 PM (#4589096)
as entrenched as Marbury v. Madison."

consider that line stolen, Roger
   15. Publius Publicola Posted: October 29, 2013 at 10:02 PM (#4589097)
If the game was in 1981, Wood was a nonegenarian. He was born in 1889.
   16. Publius Publicola Posted: October 29, 2013 at 10:03 PM (#4589098)
...
   17. Publius Publicola Posted: October 29, 2013 at 10:08 PM (#4589100)
He always comes up with cute observations of players mannerisms. In Burns doc, he described Fisk's habit of eying his bat as he prepared to hit like he was inspecting it for termites.
   18. Steve Treder Posted: October 29, 2013 at 10:14 PM (#4589105)
Roger Angell is ninety-freaking-three years old.

He has long been the greatest pure writer on the subject of baseball, ever, and the fact that he can still crank a little bit of it out these days just adds more icing to his spectacular cake.
   19. Steve Treder Posted: October 29, 2013 at 10:15 PM (#4589106)
"Let me Finish", his memoir, isn't even about baseball, and it's wonderful.

Yes.
   20. Good cripple hitter Posted: October 29, 2013 at 10:16 PM (#4589107)
I've missed his magazine pieces and had no idea he was contributing online posts. Thanks for alerting me - I now have some catching up to do.


That was my response, I couldn't believe that he was still writing and it wasn't being posted / talked about here. I'm glad others enjoyed this piece.


If you enjoy baseball and enjoy quality writing, you should find everything you possibly can that this wonderful man has written. My personal favorite is still "Web of the Game" about the matchup in the 1981 College World Series between Ron Darling's Yale and Frank Viola's St. John's that Angell watched with octogenarian Smokey Joe Wood. I re-read it at least once a year.


I like that one, but I prefer the one that follows in Late Innings, a piece about the 1981 strike called The Silence. There's a bit that's almost perfect:

The ordinary news of the game seemed to explain a lot of the things about the much larger loss we fans are all experiencing because of the strike. The refrain of late-night baseball scores; the sounds of the televised game from the next room (the room empty, perhaps, for the moment, but the game running along in there just the same and quietly waiting for us to step in and rejoin it when we are of a mind to); the mid-game mid-event from some car or cab that pulls up beside us for a few seconds in traffic before the light changes; the baseball conversation in the elevator that goes away when two men get off together at the eleventh floor, taking the game with them; the flickery white fall of light on our hands and arms and the scary sounds of the crowd that suddenly wake us up, in bed or in the study armchair, where we have fallen asleep, with the set and the game still on - all these streams and continuities, it seems to me, are part of the greater, riverlike flow of baseball.


I don't want to quote too much but he goes on to describe the flow of a baseball season perfectly, it's one of my favourite bits of baseball writing.
   21. Steve Treder Posted: October 29, 2013 at 10:22 PM (#4589112)
I don't mean to make too much of this. Oh, hell, yes I do, because it's worth doing so. This man has simply been one of the very greatest masters of short-form prose in all of our lifetimes, and the fact that he's devoted a great deal of his energy and attention to rendering that prose on the subject of baseball is conclusive evidence that life is good.
   22. Howie Menckel Posted: October 29, 2013 at 10:23 PM (#4589113)
Roger Angell, who is still getting it done today, once watched a baseball game alongside Smokey Joe Wood, who completed his first MLB season the same year that the Cubs last won the World Series in 1908. The drought doesn't seem as long now, does it?

One of Wood's teammates that first year was Cy Young, who won 21 games that season.
   23. BDC Posted: October 29, 2013 at 10:26 PM (#4589114)
Great prose writer, and I also remember Angell's annual year-end poem for the New Yorker, which for all I know he's still writing, too. There was usually a line or two devoted to baseball.
   24. esseff Posted: October 29, 2013 at 10:59 PM (#4589129)
Because of his personal background, it's as if we, in the 21st century, have a last living, breathing link to the Algonquin Round Table.
   25. the Hugh Jorgan returns Posted: October 29, 2013 at 11:38 PM (#4589144)
The ordinary news of the game seemed to explain a lot of the things about the much larger loss we fans are all experiencing because of the strike. The refrain of late-night baseball scores; the sounds of the televised game from the next room (the room empty, perhaps, for the moment, but the game running along in there just the same and quietly waiting for us to step in and rejoin it when we are of a mind to); the mid-game mid-event from some car or cab that pulls up beside us for a few seconds in traffic before the light changes; the baseball conversation in the elevator that goes away when two men get off together at the eleventh floor, taking the game with them; the flickery white fall of light on our hands and arms and the scary sounds of the crowd that suddenly wake us up, in bed or in the study armchair, where we have fallen asleep, with the set and the game still on - all these streams and continuities, it seems to me, are part of the greater, riverlike flow of baseball.


As pointed out already, but to reiterate, that's not just good baseball writing, it's brilliant prose regardless of the topic. Anything written by a great writer is just so much joy to read as most compositions these days are just poorly constructed.
   26. Morty Causa Posted: October 29, 2013 at 11:54 PM (#4589148)
Roger Angell's writing always make me consider what E. B. White's writing would have been like had he written about baseball. I like this from a review of Let Me Finish:

"Let Me Finish" does include an affectionate portrait of E.B. White, who died in 1985. In "Andy," as White was often called, Angell remembers his stepfather's "plaid button-down shirt and tweed jacket," his chronic aches and pains and the cold December day he lost his shoes and tiptoed around on hockey skates, "bent half-double, laughing at himself."

He also describes White's latter years, when the author was suffering from Alzheimer's and would listen to his son, Joe, read passages of his own work, not always knowing who had written it.

"Sometimes he'd raise a hand and impatiently wave a passage away: not good enough," Angell writes. "Other evenings, he'd listen to the end, almost at rest, and then ask again who'd written the words.

"You did, Dad," his son replied.

"There was a pause," Angell writes, "and Andy said, `Well, not bad.'"
   27. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: October 30, 2013 at 12:31 AM (#4589159)
Roger Angell's Amazon page. I don't know whether to laugh or cry at the fact that you can buy hardback copies of all of his baseball books (minus postage) for a total of 96 cents.

And yes, as a pure baseball writer, nobody beats him, now or ever, certainly not for career value.
   28. Morty Causa Posted: October 30, 2013 at 12:49 AM (#4589169)
No, Bill James has more. And a higher peak.

That is worrisome, but it worries me much more that until recently (through the efforts of me and other fans, I'd like to think) another New Yorker writer's unique contributions to literature were all out of print, to wit: Peter De Vries, maybe America's best pure comic novelist.
   29. AndrewJ Posted: October 30, 2013 at 05:49 AM (#4589188)
I'm a big fan of Angell's "Gone for Good," his profile of Steve Blass from Five Seasons. And I linked to this piece about Angell and Roger Kahn when it first appeared last year, but it's worth another read.
   30. Publius Publicola Posted: October 30, 2013 at 08:16 AM (#4589213)
it's brilliant prose regardless of the topic.


That's the first thing that hits you in the eye when you read his stuff, the literary quality of his prose is startlingly good. The next thing you notice is how acutely fine his baseball eye is. He never misses a trick.
   31. BDC Posted: October 30, 2013 at 08:37 AM (#4589228)
Peter De Vries

I very often think of a single sentence that De Vries wrote: "Nuts are edible wood."
   32. Publius Publicola Posted: October 30, 2013 at 09:05 AM (#4589244)
Not to be pedantic but they really aren't. Nuts are mostly protein and fat. Wood is mostly carbohydrate.
   33. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: October 30, 2013 at 09:44 AM (#4589262)
And yes, as a pure baseball writer, nobody beats him, now or ever, certainly not for career value.

No, Bill James has more. And a higher peak.


Kind of apples and oranges, and I read them for different reasons. I'd choose James's HBA over any one book of Angell's, but as a stylist Angell has it all over him. That's what I meant by "pure".

But the best New Yorker writer? A.J. Liebling, in a walk. But then I'm biased because of my interest in his subject matter, which ranged from city characters to boxing to war to gastronomy to a bevy of larger than life but largely forgotten politicians.
   34. Morty Causa Posted: October 30, 2013 at 10:19 AM (#4589285)
A long, long time ago, as a teenager, I read Lieblng's book on Earl K. Long. Very readable, I remember. Every once in a while there's an effort by someone to revive him. He's good, definitely worth preserving, but De Vries is unique--a comic writer of a very high order. His collection of short pieces, Without a Stitch in Time, is online. Without A Stitch in Time Just the first two there gives you an idea and a feeling of why he was special.

Angell is hard to beat for that elegant, effortless style where each word or phrase is perfectly weighted, a style that made the New Yorker and which it demanded for many years after Thurber and White had perfected it. Evocative in a highly impressionistic way that mirrors the fine sensibilities--you have to have to sensibilities, too. Angell, like I said, gives me an inkling of what E. B. White would have done. Or John Updike, if Updike would have just kept going with sportswriting after his essay on Williams. (Thurber would have been more consciously humorous--see "You Can Look It Up", but, boy, would he have been a pan of cold water on sports writing).
   35. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: October 30, 2013 at 10:50 AM (#4589315)
A long, long time ago, as a teenager, I read Lieblng's book on Earl K. Long. Very readable, I remember.

Very much so. Too bad that when Paul Newman played Long in the movie Blaze, they didn't base the film on Liebling's book rather than on Blaze Starr's memoir. That entire Long dynasty could (and should) be made into what could be the greatest HBO series of them all.
   36. Chicago Joe Posted: October 30, 2013 at 10:53 AM (#4589317)
Kind of apples and oranges


These are not wood, either.
   37. Morty Causa Posted: October 30, 2013 at 01:47 PM (#4589522)
   38. Fred Lynn Nolan Ryan Sweeney Agonistes Posted: October 30, 2013 at 01:55 PM (#4589540)
Second the affection for Peter De Vries.
I've only read a couple of his books, but it seems like every page has an ace word choice or turn of phrase.
Charles Einstein, same - he has a baseball story where an attractive female reporter has invited herself to a player's hotel room for an interview. He is at first oblivious to her charms, but then she shifts in her seat "with a sweep of her legs that left him baffled and aware." ("baffled & aware" perfectly captures every awkward young man around a pretty girl, ever)
   39. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: October 30, 2013 at 02:10 PM (#4589559)
Second the affection for Peter De Vries.

still has one of the best book titles ever
   40. Morty Causa Posted: October 30, 2013 at 02:14 PM (#4589564)
Good to meet another fan. De Vries's Comfort Me With Apples has at least one memorable line or phrase a page. That's classic straight "white" comedy. His darker comic novels like Let Me Count the Ways and The Vale of Laughter similarly sparkle with his use of language and comic incident. The last ten years of his career are more or less his improvisational period. He seems to be like George Carlin just endlessly and effortlessly riffing on a subject, and from one subject to another. One of his short pieces in the aforementioned Without a Stitch in Time is a parody of Ring Lardner. He, like his mentor Thurber, was a master parodist. Indeed, one of his early novels, The Tents of Wickedness (the sequel to Comfort Me With Apples) is almost one parody after another, all of different writers, culminating with one of Kafka where the protagonist has hallucinations he's a pig.

EDIT: #39, yeah, that is one of the late ventures I speak of. It's funny, you read him now, and it's obvious how contemporary sensibilities and rhetorical stances became what his were.
   41. Jarrod HypnerotomachiaPoliphili(Teddy F. Ballgame) Posted: October 30, 2013 at 02:23 PM (#4589575)
But the best New Yorker writer? A.J. Liebling, in a walk.


I'd say Joseph Mitchell at least makes it a race.
   42. Morty Causa Posted: October 30, 2013 at 02:24 PM (#4589579)
Suddenly remembering discussions I'm having elsewhere, I hasten to add that by "white" comedy, I mean as opposed to Black Humor, which...aw, forget it.
   43. Fred Lynn Nolan Ryan Sweeney Agonistes Posted: October 30, 2013 at 02:26 PM (#4589584)
The Mackerel Plaza might make a darn good movie, but in a weird way I'm glad nobody's tried. Too much can go wrong.
   44. Morty Causa Posted: October 30, 2013 at 02:40 PM (#4589603)
Yeah, I think so, too, especially now. The movies made of his books, The Tunnel of Love (too '50s conventional in sensibilities), Pete 'n' Tillie (of his great novella, Witch's Milk) too earnest, especially Carol Burnett. I think the companion piece to Witch's Milk, The Cat's Pajamas, has a lot of material. Or his The Blood of the Lamb, which always reminds me of Sturges's Sullivan's Travels. It's rather schizophrenic.

EDIT: I'd forgotten. The movie Reuben Reuben is a very good take on one part of his novel.

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