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Saturday, January 11, 2014

Lahman: How a book that Roger Angell gave to Dick Young ended up on my shelf, 30 years later

Well, this certainly trumps my signed Sir Douglas Quintet LP…“To Dee Jay Dickwiggle…” that I got Goodwillingly.

In the summer of 2000, I was living in Woodstock, NY, a sleepy hamlet an hour north of New York City.  The town library was having a used book sale and I spotted a first edition of Summer Game in a box marked “one dollar.”  I picked it up, even though I already owned at least one copy, figuring I could share it with a friend and maybe introduce them to Angell’s writing for the first time.

I didn’t open the book until I got home, and when I did I was stunned.  My one dollar book was autographed by Roger Angell.  And not only was it autographed, it was inscribed: “For Dick Young, with my best, Roger.”


Could the book have belonged to the Dick Young, the legendary New York Daily News sportswriter.  Probably not, I thought. After all, it’s not an uncommon name.

Then I flipped through the book and found a sheet of paper. It contained several typewritten paragraphs, and it was clear that it was the first draft of a review of the book, presumably written by Young.  It begins:

  “The summer game is, of course, baseball. Baseball as seen through the eyes of a great fan and writer. Mr Angell loves the game and once you’ve finished the first few chapters you’ll know why…”

Young died in 1987, and I have no idea how the book ended up in Woodstock a dozen years later.  Maybe he had a summer home nearby. It seems likely that wherever the book came from, it sat undisturbed on a shelf somewhere for almost 30 years between the time Young read it and when I found it.

The style of the two writers couldn’t be more different.  Young was brash and blunt, and got to the point quickly. “”Don’t be a (bleeping) Hemingway,” he would say to other writers. “We don’t need any essayists here. Talk to your readers.”  Angell was an essayist, of course, and he wrote languid, contemplative pieces.

On my best day my prose can’t approach anything Roger Angell wrote.  But when I pull that book off the shelf every spring I feel a little bit of a connection to those two great writers, and our shared love for the summer game.

Repoz Posted: January 11, 2014 at 04:02 PM | 19 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: history

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   1. joeysdadjoe Posted: January 11, 2014 at 04:24 PM (#4636468)
Dick Young was my great uncle. His wife and my grandmother were sisters.
   2. The Duke Posted: January 11, 2014 at 04:24 PM (#4636469)
very cool. Big fan of Angell and can't wait until he gets inducted. It's such a cool anecdote because these two writers couldn't be more different
   3. PreservedFish Posted: January 11, 2014 at 05:02 PM (#4636482)
Paul Theroux began a decades long feud with his mentor, VS Naipaul, after learning that he had sold a signed book that Theroux had given him.
   4. Cuban X Senators Posted: January 11, 2014 at 05:26 PM (#4636493)
Oh mercy, don't show Rob Neyer that. Spaces before punctuation!
   5. Howie Menckel Posted: January 11, 2014 at 05:50 PM (#4636501)
I've mentioned before that I got free ticket to Game 7 of the 1986 World Series courtesy of Dick Young (who lived across the street from the family of a close college buddy of mine - serendipity).

He was "great" to me, too!
never saw him type, though - hell, I never met him.
   6. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: January 11, 2014 at 06:04 PM (#4636505)
When I had a book shop I'd usually keep the best copies of all the books I liked, and I've got tons of signed copies. But one I sold was a presentation copy of Lowell Reidenbaugh's stadium book, Take Me Out to the Ball Park, signed to "President Ronald Reagan" with a gushing inscription. I think I got something like fifty bucks for it back in the late 80's, but now I wish I had it back.
   7. TRBMB Posted: January 11, 2014 at 08:06 PM (#4636637)
Roger Angell is a great writer, but he is NOT getting inducted into the Baseball Hall Of Fame in July. He has simply won the Spink award, a wonderful honor, as have many other writers in the past, and none of them have thus become Hall of Fame members. There are now 306 members of the Baseball Hall of Fame and 0 of them are Spink and Frick award winners. You can look it up on the Hall website.
   8. Gonfalon Bubble Posted: January 11, 2014 at 09:36 PM (#4636696)
I keep hearing from the voters that the Hall of Fame is "not a court of law," it's the "court of public opinion." In my opinion, Roger Angell has absolutely been elected to the Hall of Fame. Also, so has Justin Timberlake, and a giraffe. That's just what I feel. You may see things differently, and that's the beauty of the process.
   9. Jose is an Absurd Doubles Machine Posted: January 11, 2014 at 09:44 PM (#4636698)
Saying Spink winners aren't Hall of Famers is awfully pedantic in my opinion. Yes it is technically true but as a practical matter it IS the Hall of Fame for baseball writers.
   10. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: January 12, 2014 at 12:28 AM (#4636760)
Dick Young was a loathsome, despicable jackass
   11. Gonfalon Bubble Posted: January 12, 2014 at 08:38 AM (#4636807)
He may be loathsome, and despicable, and a jackass, but he is NOT a porn star!
   12. Lassus Posted: January 12, 2014 at 09:26 AM (#4636813)
I picked up a new second-hand hardcover copy of The Old Ball Game by Frank Deford (about McGraw and Mathewson) in the Strand in the mid-aughts, and when I got it home, I found it had the following sharpie inscription: "May 26th, 2005 - For Peter Jennings, all good wishes, Frank DeFord." I suppose it's possible it was for some OTHER Peter Jennings, but the famous one died on August 7th 2005 and the book was tagged by the Strand on March 6th 2006, so to me it seems very likely it was for the ill newscaster. Neat stuff.
   13. TRBMB Posted: January 12, 2014 at 11:54 AM (#4636876)
Not my intent to minimize the recognition of the media, the Spink and Frick awards are genuine, but they absolutely don't equate to Hall of Fame election and induction. Again, there are 306 Hall Of Fame members now, none of whom are media. Note also that several years back the HOF moved the media recognition from Sunday to Saturday to separate it from the actual HOF inductions.

Bill Deane, one of the very best baseball researchers, and at one time the lead Researcher at the HOF, commented on this by mentioning, in a book he wrote last year, that while still employed at the Hall he had Spink winning writers approach him asking where their plaques were hanging. He had to ease them down gently on what they had really achieved. This is in his book, Baseball Myths, a good read. Media being actually in the Hall as members is one of the myths.

When any number of actually eligible baseball players endure years of disappointment in gaining, or not, election, it's really not fair to them to attach that designation, inaccurately, to the media. If I was Tim Raines or Jack Morris, for example, I'd be frustrated hearing Frick winner Bob Uecker referred to as 'Hall Of Famer' Not fair. Think of them.
   14. SoSH U at work Posted: January 12, 2014 at 12:11 PM (#4636888)
Again, there are 306 Hall Of Fame members now, none of whom are media.

There's a certain fellow who knows the actual ratio is 306:1.
   15. TRBMB Posted: January 12, 2014 at 12:19 PM (#4636892)
Just a wild guess, Dizzy Dean? <VBG>
   16. SoSH U at work Posted: January 12, 2014 at 12:24 PM (#4636896)
Just a wild guess, Dizzy Dean?

No, a legitimate writer, not a ballplayer turned talking head.

This guy.
   17. TRBMB Posted: January 12, 2014 at 12:45 PM (#4636904)
OK, I also had Chadwick, Christy Mathewson, and Ford Frick himself as candidates. The latter two could be as legit as Henry as writers.

And there is absolutely no reason why any of the various 'Veterans' committees can't actually designate a Spink or Frick winner as a true Hall Of Famer, of course those committees themselves have a history of stretching it, and much of the 'weakness' in the Hall came from the committees. But that's another topic.
   18. Dock Ellis Posted: January 12, 2014 at 01:02 PM (#4636915)
Neat find, Lassus! I worked at the Strand around the time you purchased that book. It wasn't that uncommon to find signed copies in the stacks.
   19. AndrewJ Posted: January 12, 2014 at 07:05 PM (#4637308)
Several years ago at a used record store in Philadelphia I bought a 1950s LP of John Facenda reciting the story of the Nativity. Cost me $3.98, but only when I got home and opened the gatefold did I see that it was autographed by him. As well as by Jack Whitaker and ... Ed McMahon.

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