Baseball for the Thinking Fan

Login | Register | Feedback

btf_logo
You are here > Home > Baseball Newsstand > Discussion
Baseball Primer Newsblog
— The Best News Links from the Baseball Newsstand

Friday, May 20, 2022

Roger Angell, Who Wrote About Baseball With Passion, Dies at 101

Roger Angell, the elegant and thoughtful baseball writer who was widely considered among the best America has produced, died on Friday at his home in Manhattan. He was 101.

The cause was congestive heart failure, his wife, Margaret Moorman, said.

Mr. Angell’s voice was original because he wrote more like a fan than a sports journalist, loading his articles with inventive imagery.

The Boston Red Sox catcher Carlton Fisk came out of his crouch, Mr. Angell wrote, like “an aluminum extension ladder stretching for the house eaves.” The Baltimore Oriole relief pitcher Dick Hall pitched “with an awkward, sidewise motion that suggests a man feeling under his bed for a lost collar stud.” Mr. Angell (pronounced angel) described Willie Mays chasing down a ball hit to deep center field as “running so hard and so far that the ball itself seems to stop in the air and wait for him.”

The baseball season didn’t seem complete until, as he did late each fall, Mr. Angell wrapped up its multiple meanings in a long New Yorker article. Many of his pieces were collected in books, among them “Late Innings” (1982) and “Once More Around the Park” (1991).

But he wrote not just about teams and the games they played. He also considered what it meant to be a fan.

“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,” he wrote in his book “Five Seasons” (1977). “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.”

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: May 20, 2022 at 05:00 PM | 58 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: obituaries, roger angell, sportswriters

Reader Comments and Retorts

Go to end of page

Statements posted here are those of our readers and do not represent the BaseballThinkFactory. Names are provided by the poster and are not verified. We ask that posters follow our submission policy. Please report any inappropriate comments.

   1. Zach Posted: May 20, 2022 at 05:07 PM (#6077684)
He'll be missed.
   2. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: May 20, 2022 at 05:11 PM (#6077685)
I was just about to submit this--RIP
   3. JimMusComp misses old primer... Posted: May 20, 2022 at 05:13 PM (#6077686)
RIP, indeed.
   4. . Posted: May 20, 2022 at 05:18 PM (#6077688)
Best baseball writer who ever lived. RIP.
   5. . . . . . . Posted: May 20, 2022 at 05:19 PM (#6077690)
We crossed paths many times, both literally and metaphorically. I can't imagine a life better lived.
   6. asinwreck Posted: May 20, 2022 at 05:23 PM (#6077692)
It seems fitting that the New York teams have their games postponed today. Local baseball fans would do well to read some Angell this evening.
   7. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: May 20, 2022 at 05:41 PM (#6077695)
his portrait of Bob Gibson New Yorker 1980
   8. AndrewJ Posted: May 20, 2022 at 05:56 PM (#6077697)
Jack Nicholson supposedly said when Brando died, "Every other living actor has just moved up one place." I'm getting that same vibe about baseball writers tonight.

RIP.
   9. Starring Bradley Scotchman as RMc Posted: May 20, 2022 at 06:01 PM (#6077699)
On the day Roger Angell was born, September 19, 1920, the Giants beat the Reds, 7-6, as Laughing Larry Doyle scored all the way from first on a single (and an error) in the 11th inning.
   10. AndrewJ Posted: May 20, 2022 at 06:03 PM (#6077701)
Angell's first bylined piece in The New Yorker was March 1944, three months before D-Day.
   11. Tom Nawrocki Posted: May 20, 2022 at 06:14 PM (#6077703)
The Boston Red Sox catcher Carlton Fisk came out of his crouch, Mr. Angell wrote, like “an aluminum extension ladder stretching for the house eaves.”


This isn't even Angell's most memorable description of Fisk, to me; what I recall is his "long, Doric legs."
   12. Slivers of Maranville descends into chaos (SdeB) Posted: May 20, 2022 at 07:02 PM (#6077709)
One of the greats, and a person whose prose helps bring to mind the age when baseball was played across America.
   13. AndrewJ Posted: May 20, 2022 at 07:20 PM (#6077712)
Roger Kahn died two years ago at age 92. Arnold Hano died last year at 99. I like to think there's something about writing well about baseball that extends your lifespan.
   14. Accent Shallow only believes what it believes Posted: May 20, 2022 at 07:49 PM (#6077716)
RIP.

He kept his fastball until the end.
   15. Howie Menckel Posted: May 20, 2022 at 08:08 PM (#6077719)
i'd link to it if not for this dr. pepper keyboard spill, but his 1981 web of the game piece on watching two future mlb stars in a college game pitching duel alongside smoky joe wood, who won 34 games for the 1912 red sox, is my favorite baseball story ever.
   16. Jose is Absurdly Correct but not Helpful Posted: May 20, 2022 at 08:39 PM (#6077721)
That’s a shame but I think we can safely say he lived a full life. Thanks for all the writing Mr. Angel. May your library be forever stocked.
   17. Alex meets the threshold for granular review Posted: May 20, 2022 at 08:53 PM (#6077723)
Angell is among the best writers the English language has produced full-stop. That he chose to write so much about baseball was our and the sport’s blessing.
   18. The Duke Posted: May 20, 2022 at 08:59 PM (#6077724)
Best ever. I can pick up any Angell article and be quite happy even if I have read it 5X already.
   19. The Duke Posted: May 20, 2022 at 09:02 PM (#6077725)
15. It was Ron Darling vs Frank Viola and may be his best piece (I'm partial to the Gibson profile because of my fan preference )
   20. Alex meets the threshold for granular review Posted: May 20, 2022 at 09:04 PM (#6077726)
8 years ago, on my 25th birthday, the New Yorker published this essay by Angell and I doubt a week has gone by since in which I haven't thought of it. One of the most effortlessly elegiac and achingly beautiful pieces of writing I've ever read.

These names are best kept in mind rather than boxed and put away somewhere. Old letters are engrossing but feel historic in numbers, photo albums delightful but with a glum after-kick like a chocolate caramel. Home movies are killers: Zeke, a long-gone Lab, alive again, rushing from right to left with a tennis ball in his mouth; my sister Nancy, stunning at seventeen, smoking a lipstick-stained cigarette aboard Astrid, with the breeze stirring her tied-up brown hair; my mother laughing and ducking out of the picture again, waving her hands in front of her face in embarrassment—she’s about thirty-five. Me sitting cross-legged under a Ping-Pong table, at eleven. Take us away.


More venery. More love; more closeness; more sex and romance. Bring it back, no matter what, no matter how old we are. This fervent cry of ours has been certified by Simone de Beauvoir and Alice Munro and Laurence Olivier and any number of remarried or recoupled ancient classmates of ours. Laurence Olivier? I’m thinking of what he says somewhere in an interview: “Inside, we’re all seventeen, with red lips.”
   21. AndrewJ Posted: May 20, 2022 at 09:13 PM (#6077728)
My favorite Angell piece is his Steve Blass profile from 1975.
   22. . . . . . . Posted: May 20, 2022 at 09:14 PM (#6077729)
“This Old Man” is the best piece of writing that anyone over 90 has ever produced. Nothing really comes close.
   23. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: May 20, 2022 at 09:24 PM (#6077731)
My favorite Angell piece is his Steve Blass profile from 1975.


very good profile
   24. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: May 20, 2022 at 09:27 PM (#6077734)
the Frank Viola-Ron Darling-Joe Wood article is not available free, more's the pity
   25. Howie Menckel Posted: May 20, 2022 at 09:50 PM (#6077744)
per the blass profile

if a young person asked me for advice, no matter the field, i'd say 2 things;

- dont be intimidated. you might be better than most, and yet
- there will always be somebody better than you can ever be.

i learned that just as i started my career, having read roger angell.
you can be great but you'll never be the best, because someone else got there first.
   26. The Yankee Clapper Posted: May 20, 2022 at 09:59 PM (#6077749)
I like to think there's something about writing well about baseball that extends your lifespan.
DOCTOR: “Do you exercise regularly?”
ME: “Not that much, but I often comment at BBTF, so I should be good.”
   27. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: May 20, 2022 at 10:31 PM (#6077759)
Angell's on my personal Mt. Rushmore along with Koppett, James and Lieb.
   28. gef the talking mongoose, peppery hostile Posted: May 20, 2022 at 10:34 PM (#6077760)
As far as I can tell, unlike James, Angell never lost his mind.
   29. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: May 20, 2022 at 10:36 PM (#6077761)
Interesting that he said his baseball writing style was inspired by John Updike's Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu, which appeared in The New Yorker two years before Angell's first baseball article.
   30. Perry Posted: May 20, 2022 at 11:17 PM (#6077770)
I think what he meant by that was that, like Updike, he didn't change his writing style when the subject was baseball.

And of course, in his day job he EDITED Updike, and many other heavyweights. Baseball writing was a sideline. What a career, and life.
   31. rr would lock Shaq's a$$ up Posted: May 20, 2022 at 11:51 PM (#6077779)
Reading Five Seasons as a middle-schooler is one of the reasons that I became a huge baseball fan.
   32. base ball chick Posted: May 21, 2022 at 01:14 AM (#6077789)
from that piece on steve blass in 1975

" one hundred and thirty pitches in a seven- or eight-inning appearance"

"Strikeouts are of no particular use in defining pitching effectiveness, since there are other, less vivid ways of retiring batters"

- from BITGOD before i was born when games got you know, finished in 2 1/4 - 2 1/2 hrs and had stuff like action and FB averaged 85-90 MPH...
   33. vortex of dissipation Posted: May 21, 2022 at 02:30 AM (#6077792)
This is Roger Angell’s wonderfully written description of Sandy Koufax, which he wrote during the 1965 World Series. I’m too young to have seen Koufax pitch live. At the time when I first read Angell’s description, which is included in his book of baseball essays “The Summer Game”, I’d never even seen film of Koufax. Angell’s description was, and still is, the basis for my mental image of Sandy.

“...Koufax was back on the mound, and this time was performing very close to his peak. By the end of seven innings, he had faced only one more than the absolute minimum number of batters, and he wound up with a four-hit shutout and ten strikeouts. It was the twenty-second time this year that he had struck out ten or more batters in a single game. There were other things to admire that afternoon (Willie Davis’s three stolen bases, for instance, and the Twins’ not falling apart again), but I concentrated on watching Koufax at work. This is not as easy as it sounds, for there is the temptation simply to discredit what one sees. His fast ball, for example, flares upward at the last instant, so that batters swinging at it often look as if they had lashed out at a bad high pitch. Koufax’s best curve, by contrast, shoots down, often barely pinching a corner of the plate, inside or out, just above the knees. A typical Koufax victim — even if he is an excellent hitter — having looked bad by swinging on the first pitch and worse in letting the second go by, will often simply stand there, his bat nailed to his shoulder, for the next two or three pitches, until the umpire’s right hand goes up and he is out. Or if he swings again it is with an awkward last-minute dip of the bat that is a caricature of his normal riffle. It is almost painful to watch, for Koufax, instead of merely overpowering hitters, as some fastball throwers do, appears to dismantle them, taking away first one and then another of their carefully developed offensive weapons and judgments, and leaving them only with the conviction that they are the victims of a total mismatch. Maybe they are right, at that; the records of this, Koufax’s greatest year, suggest as much. In the regular season, he won twenty-six games, struck out three hundred and eighty-two batters (an all-time record), and pitched his fourth no-hit game — a perfect game, by the way — in as many years, which is also a new record. In the Series, he won two shutouts pitched within three days of each other, and gave up exactly one earned run in twenty-four innings. He was the difference between the two clubs; he won the Series.”
   34. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: May 21, 2022 at 10:51 AM (#6077800)
In the Series, he won two shutouts pitched within three days of each other

Just in case that's not 100% clear, it means Koufax pitched game seven on two days' rest. And in both his game five and game seven shutouts, he posted 88 Game Scores.

The only arguably more impressive game seven performance was Dizzy Dean's Game Score of 80 in the 1934 World Series, which he accomplished on one day's rest.
   35. SandyRiver Posted: May 21, 2022 at 11:01 AM (#6077801)
Roger Angell's incredibly long writing career is a gift to readers that keeps on giving, on baseball or anything else. My copy of "Five Seasons" unfortunately failed to complete one of our cross-state moves many years ago. Therefore, Angell's write-up of the 1975 WS is no longer in my library, and I can't look up his description of Luis Tiant's wind-up, one of my favorite paragraphs ever.
   36. Rough Carrigan Posted: May 21, 2022 at 01:28 PM (#6077812)
RIP. His descriptions of Luis Tiant's various pitching motions was fantastic.
   37. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: May 21, 2022 at 02:46 PM (#6077816)
His repertoire begins with an exaggerated mid-windup pivot, during which he turns his back on the batter and seems to examine the infield directly behind the mound for signs of crabgrass. With men on bases, his stretch consists of a succession of minute downward waggles and pauses of the glove, and a menacing sidewise, slit-eyed, Valentino-like gaze over his shoulder at the baserunner. The full flower of his art, however, comes during the actual delivery, which is executed with a perfect variety show of accompanying gestures and impersonations.
   38. Hombre Brotani Posted: May 21, 2022 at 03:11 PM (#6077819)
The latest episode of the Effective Wild podcast began:
The title of 'World's Best Baseball Writer' is vacant for the first time in 60 years or so.
   39. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: May 21, 2022 at 03:19 PM (#6077820)
A farewell from the New Yorker
He did as much to distinguish The New Yorker as anyone in the magazine’s nearly century-long history. His prose and his editorial judgment left an imprint that’s hard to overstate. Like Ruth and Ohtani, he was a freakishly talented double threat, a superb writer and an invaluable counsel to countless masters of the short story. He won a place in both the American Academy of Arts and Letters and in the Baseball Hall of Fame—a unique distinction.
   40. Gold Star - just Gold Star Posted: May 21, 2022 at 03:44 PM (#6077821)
...a perfect variety show of accompanying gestures and impersonations.
"Fall off the Fence."

"The Low-Flying Plane."

"Call the Osteopath."
   41. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: May 21, 2022 at 09:00 PM (#6077852)
Roger Angell's incredibly long writing career is a gift to readers that keeps on giving, on baseball or anything else. My copy of "Five Seasons" unfortunately failed to complete one of our cross-state moves many years ago. Therefore, Angell's write-up of the 1975 WS is no longer in my library, and I can't look up his description of Luis Tiant's wind-up, one of my favorite paragraphs ever.

Sandy River,

Here are 125 copies of Five Seasons, beginning at $3.00. You can even get a jacketed hardback for as little as $10.00.
   42. I don't want to talk about Rocco Posted: May 21, 2022 at 09:48 PM (#6077858)
Very sorry to learn of his death. By all accounts an amazing individual on both a personal and professional level.
   43. Infinite Yost (Voxter) Posted: May 22, 2022 at 12:14 AM (#6077875)
His elegy to Yogi Berra:

I can almost bring Yogi back in memory, up at the plate, powerfully round and thick and bearish in his work-smudged pinstripes, with his head (in a cap, not a helmet) tipped a little, as if to give him more height while he stares out at the pitcher. The pitch is up, out of the strike zone, but Berra slashes at it anyway—it’s up by his eyes, because the force of his swing has dropped him down—and he drives it distantly. He runs hard, startling you again with his speed and strength, and rounds first base at full speed, leaning sideways like a racing car, then pulls up in a shower of dirt and scrambles back to the bag. I’m on my feet, yelling and laughing with everyone else. Yogi, Yogi—there's no one else like him. The laughter isn’t sweet; it’s all wonder.


He was, by far and without question, the greatest baseball writer of all time. He was also a great writer about other things, but baseball -- baseball was the world he brought to life, magically.

By the way, he wrote the above paragraph at 94. I'm not going to live to 94, but if I accidentally do, I will not be capable of such excellence. I am 42, and I am already not.
   44. sunday silence (again) Posted: May 22, 2022 at 01:19 AM (#6077880)
This Old Man” is the best piece of writing that anyone over 90 has ever produced. Nothing really comes close.


Herman Wouk enters the room.
   45. The Yankee Clapper Posted: May 22, 2022 at 01:24 AM (#6077881)
By the way, he wrote the above paragraph at 94. I'm not going to live to 94, but if I accidentally do, I will not be capable of such excellence. I am 42, and I am already not.
On today’s Yankees broadcast, David Cone, the subject of an Angell book, noted that Angell had taken up with a new girlfriend at age-94. So, there’s another area you can measure yourself against him if you don’t want to compete on writing.
   46. sunday silence (again) Posted: May 22, 2022 at 01:25 AM (#6077882)
In the passages above, he describes both Koufax and Gibson having fastballs that broke upward (or "hop" as I used to hear it described). But that's not really true is it? Its physically impossible. Its more or less some sort of illusion from the way we track the ball. At least I think so. Yes?
   47. Eric L Posted: May 22, 2022 at 02:55 PM (#6077959)
#46. I’m sure it’s more optical than physical but … in his autobiography “From ghetto to glory,” Bob Gibson recounts advising Dal Maxville to stand at the front end of the batters box in order to catch the fastball before the hop. He says Maxville had 2 hits that day. If only it was that easy.
   48. phredbird Posted: May 22, 2022 at 08:02 PM (#6078039)
the rising fastball is a myth.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A1VClnk3l-k
   49. phredbird Posted: May 22, 2022 at 08:03 PM (#6078040)

... but roger angell is still the best ever. i can't believe i've lost my copies of his books.
   50. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: May 22, 2022 at 09:51 PM (#6078050)
They're all plentiful and cheap on Amazon, easy to replace.
   51. . . . . . . Posted: May 22, 2022 at 10:12 PM (#6078053)
Herman Wouk enters the room.


And quickly leaves, because his old man #### doesn’t hold a candle to Angell’s.
   52. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: May 22, 2022 at 10:48 PM (#6078058)
Herman Wouk enters the room.

I met Herman Wouk once in the early 1980's, when he was in his late 60's but looked much older. It was in a book shop in Georgetown where I was working at the time, and he wandered around for a few minutes with nobody paying any attention to him.

And then he came up to me and several others in the room, extended his hand, and said "I'm Herman Wouk, the famous writer".

He then walked out of the shop. None of us really knew what to make of it all.

Wouk had a gofer who was his "research assistant", a chain smoking timid little man whom everyone liked, and who accumulated what may have been the biggest collection of military unit histories in the entire United States, which he'd have on hand any time Wouk needed to reference a specific battle. Whatever you may think of Wouk as a writer, and I've never read any of his books, I'd imagine that at the very least he got all of his dates and places right.
   53. phredbird Posted: May 23, 2022 at 11:34 AM (#6078116)

wouk was still alive when i moved to palm springs in 2016. he had a regular book club thing with some local writers until he died in 2019, age 104.
   54. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: May 23, 2022 at 12:51 PM (#6078128)
If you'd seen what Wouk looked like circa 1980-83, you'd have thought the only way he'd still be around in 2019 would've been if he'd been given the V. I. Lenin formaldehyde treatment.
   55. Zach Posted: May 23, 2022 at 08:10 PM (#6078201)
He had the elusive ability to write great passages that don't sound like great writing.

Look at the excerpt in #33 -- it's ordinary, conversational English, simply describing the physical characteristics of Koufax's delivery and the batters' response to it. And yet it comes alive because he's got such a good eye for detail.
   56. Zach Posted: May 23, 2022 at 08:17 PM (#6078204)
I was going to call his style the mid-century New Yorker style, which reminds me a little bit of E.B. White and John Updike.

Well, lo and behold, he edited Updike. And E.B. White was his stepfather!
   57. The Duke Posted: May 23, 2022 at 09:40 PM (#6078230)
Read EB White and you'll definitely see where Angell got his style . Hard to believe they aren't flesh and blood.
   58. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: May 23, 2022 at 09:43 PM (#6078231)
There've been so many great New Yorker writers over the years that it's hard to rank them, but if I had to choose one for a combination of style and subject matter, I'd go with A. J. Liebling. Liebling At Home contains five of his best books, complete and unabridged, including two classics on the Broadway underworld economy (The Telephone Booth Indian and The Jollity Building) that are better than anything Damon Runyon ever wrote.

You must be Registered and Logged In to post comments.

 

 

<< Back to main

BBTF Partner

Dynasty League Baseball

Support BBTF

donate

Thanks to
Francis
for his generous support.

You must be logged in to view your Bookmarks.

Hot Topics

NewsblogWeekend OMNICHATTER for June 24-26, 2022
(86 - 1:03am, Jun 26)
Last: Howie Menckel

NewsblogCole Hamels Targeting 2023 Comeback
(10 - 12:58am, Jun 26)
Last: Booey

NewsblogTexas Rangers trade Willie Calhoun to San Francisco Giants for Steven Duggar
(3 - 11:36pm, Jun 25)
Last: Gold Star - just Gold Star

NewsblogYankees’ Jose Trevino now thriving after ‘he got shafted’ with Rangers
(16 - 11:30pm, Jun 25)
Last: Gold Star - just Gold Star

NewsblogFormer No. 1 pick Mark Appel, 30, gets big league call-up from Philadelphia Phillies
(7 - 11:06pm, Jun 25)
Last: The Duke

NewsblogMLB should consider adopting a mercy rule
(49 - 9:29pm, Jun 25)
Last: Ithaca2323

Newsblog2022 NBA Playoffs thread
(3337 - 8:55pm, Jun 25)
Last: tshipman

NewsblogHere are the All-Star Ballot standings so far
(26 - 8:08pm, Jun 25)
Last: Baseballs Most Beloved Figure

NewsblogFormer MLB manager Art Howe in ICU due to the coronavirus
(5 - 6:46am, Jun 25)
Last: Captain Joe Bivens, Pointless and Wonderful

Newsblog696 games later, he gets his 1st at-bat, and well ...
(4 - 9:54pm, Jun 24)
Last: Starring Bradley Scotchman as RMc

NewsblogShohei Ohtani follows up career-high 8-RBI night with career-high 13 Ks
(51 - 9:06pm, Jun 24)
Last: Howie Menckel

NewsblogMemo: MLB to require all teams to 'muddy' ball using exact same technique
(13 - 6:25pm, Jun 24)
Last: tshipman

NewsblogOMNICHATTER for Thursday, June 23, 2022
(44 - 5:17pm, Jun 24)
Last: ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick

NewsblogThe Yankees Are Keeping Pace With Their 1998 Powerhouse
(26 - 5:13pm, Jun 24)
Last: ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick

NewsblogWhy Manny Ramirez says Derek Jeter would have been ‘just a regular player’ in Kansas City
(30 - 3:35pm, Jun 24)
Last: Bret Sabermatrician

Page rendered in 0.3581 seconds
45 querie(s) executed