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Roger Angell, baseball writer, 1920-2022


Roger Angell, who has died at 101, was not merely the best, most lucid author on baseball; a distinction for which there has lengthy been stiff competitors. He was additionally the personification of the New Yorker journal: literate, witty and quirky. He graced its pages together with his phrases and as an editor for practically 80 years, from his first quick story, revealed in 1944, to his ultimate essays on life as an outdated man.

He was to the New Yorker manor born. His mom was its first fiction editor after its start in 1925, a job he inherited 30 years later, working from the identical workplace. His stepfather was EB White, already a famous essayist on the publication. As a toddler he used to memorise the captions of each cartoon.

Baseball writing got here afterward the suggestion of William Shawn, the editor in chief, who knew nothing in regards to the sport however understood its place in American life and its enchantment to the most effective American writers, equivalent to John Updike for starters. Rather like cricket, it’s a contemplative sport, that includes lengthy passages of obvious inaction, although the wheels are at all times churning, till all hell breaks free.

That suited Angell’s model. He appreciated to sit down within the stands, with the paying public, slightly than within the press field with its fixed chatter. As he wrote, he additionally talked endlessly with the gamers and managers to get a deeper understanding of all of the nuances.

His end-of-season wrap-up essays turned obligatory studying, as did his profiles of the actors, such because the intimidating St Louis Cardinal pitcher Bob Gibson of the Sixties and Seventies. Angell obtained him to confess in retirement that, sure, he did throw at hitters however provided that they dared to lean throughout the plate. “The outside corner is mine and don’t you forget it”, Gibson growled.

He painted beautiful verbal footage of gamers in motion. He likened the distinctive high-kicking supply of one other nice pitcher, Juan Marichal of the San Francisco Giants, to “some enormous and highly dangerous farm implement”. But the balls Marichal threw, because the likes of Henry Aaron and Pete Rose informed him, have been the epitome of excellent management.

Angell speaks after receiving an award at the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2014
Angell started writing on baseball on the New Yorker in 1962 after his editor William Shawn recommended it © Mike Groll/AP

Angell was born on September 19 1920, in Manhattan to Ernest Angell, a lawyer, and Katharine Sergeant. After their divorce and her marriage to White, he lived principally together with his father, went to Harvard, like his father, and throughout the second world struggle joined the military, the place he was {a magazine} editor. His first New Yorker quick story, “Three Ladies in the Morning”, was bylined Cpl Roger Angell.

He joined the journal within the Nineteen Fifties as a fiction editor, taking on his mom’s listing of shoppers, who included Updike, James Thurber and Vladimir Nabokov, earlier than creating his personal; not least Ann Beattie, whom he inspired, even whereas sending rejection letters to her for 2 years.

David Remnick, the New Yorker’s present editor, described his modifying model as “devoted, open-minded and sometimes hard-knuckled”. Angell himself stated he was extra of a “taker outer” than a “keeper inner”. 

He was additionally writing for the gosippy Talk of the Town part in addition to producing humour items. His wit confirmed up in his annual in-house vacation poems. One of them, in 2008, was usually eclectic: “By wintry lawn we’ll dance til dawn/ With Sheryl Crow and Wally Shawn/ J.Lo, Mo (the doughty Yankee) / Beyoncé and Ben Bernanke.”

When he was 93 he wrote a New Yorker essay, “This Old Man”, which turned some of the extensively learn articles within the journal’s historical past. It spoke of macular degeneration, arterial stents and fingers gnarled with arthritis, however it was not despairing: “I believe that everyone in the world wants to be with someone else tonight, together in the dark, with the sweet warmth of a hip or a foot or a bare expanse of shoulder within reach. Those of us who have lost that, whatever our age, never lose the longing.”

Just earlier than his second spouse, Carol Rogge, died in 2012 after 48 years of marriage, she informed him that “if you haven’t found someone else by a year after I’m gone, I’ll come back and haunt you”. Two years later he married Margaret Moorman, who survives him alongside together with his adopted son John Henry from his second marriage.

I by no means met Angell however we shared one coincidence. In 1962, Shawn requested him what a double play was in baseball. Happy with the response, he recommended Angell ought to write in regards to the sport. Four years later, Gordon Newton, the FT’s editor, requested the identical query of a younger applicant for a junior overseas desk job. He appreciated the reply and employed me. Thank you, Roger Angell.



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