Angell in the Outfield

Posted on: July 30th, 2014 by bobmorris

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Here is a brief excerpt from an article by Maureen Dowd about Roger Angell for The New York Times. To read the complete article, check out others, and obtain subscription information, please click here.

Photo Credit: Todd Heisler/The New York Times

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Roger Angell takes off his brown J. Press sports coat and blue cap, yanks out his hearing aids, stashes his cane, and sits down for a shave and haircut at Delta barbershop at 72nd and Lex., the same spot he’s patronized for 40 years. “I don’t see Henry Kissinger doing any interviews in a barbershop,” he says dryly.

The 93-year-old New Yorker writer has come down from his house in Maine to get spruced up for the Baseball Hall of Fame ceremony this weekend. The old man who has lovingly described so many young men playing the game is getting the sport’s highest writing honor, the J. G. Taylor Spink Award, unprecedented recognition for “a drop-in writer,” as he calls himself, whose leisurely deadlines prevented him from becoming a member of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.

In 1962, he says, he took the advice of New Yorker editor William Shawn to try writing about something exotic, like baseball, describing Shawn’s red-cheeked excitement when Angell explained to him what a double play was.

Roger Angell, 93, is getting baseball’s highest writing honor for his work in The New Yorker. He’s not nervous about the activities in Cooperstown. “Anything I do is O.K. because they’ll say, ‘He’s 93. He’s hopeless.’ ” Baseball writing was a part-time gig for Angell, who served for many years as the magazine’s fiction editor, following in the footsteps of his mother, Katharine Angell White, who left his father to marry her colleague E. B. White. When Angell moved into his mother’s old New Yorker office, he chuckles, his shrink called it the “biggest single act of sublimation in my experience.”

The lover of books and words — who else would use “venery” in a story and write the world’s longest palindrome? — crisply shepherded John Updike, Donald Barthelme and William Trevor, as he himself became so luminous that Sports Illustrated compared him to Willie Mays, the player Angell calls so thrilling he “took your breath away.” It’s refreshing that a sport that has become tarnished by the desire to amp itself up — on steroids, merchandise and video — should honor someone so unamped.

In person, the writer is less “Angellic” — the adjective coined to describe his beguiling writing — than astringent. He has spent most of a century, from Ruth to Jeter, passionately tracking the sport as a fan, but he also proclaims himself a “foe of goo.” He much prefers the sexy Bull Durham to the sentimental Field of Dreams. He sniffs at being called “the poet laureate of baseball” and winces at a recent reverential Sports Illustrated profile. “It made me sound like the Dalai Lama,” he says. “My God, I’m just a guy who happened to live on for a long time. I’d rather be younger and writing than all this stuff.”

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Here’s a direct link to the complete article.

Roger Angell, a senior editor and a staff writer, has contributed to The New Yorker since 1944, and became a fiction editor in 1956. Since 1962, he has written more than a hundred Sporting Scene pieces, mostly on baseball but also on tennis, hockey, football, rowing, and horse racing. His baseball books include The Summer Game, Five Seasons, Late Innings, Season Ticket, Once More Around the Park, A Pitcher’s Story, and Game Time. Nothing but You: Love Stories from The New Yorker is an anthology of fiction selected by him. He has won a number of awards for his writing, including a George Polk Award for Commentary, a Kenyon Review Award for Literary Achievement, and the Michael Braude Award for Light Verse, presented by the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and in 2011 he was the inaugural winner of the PEN/ESPN Lifetime Achievement Award for Literary Sports Writing. On July 27, 2014, he was inducted into the Major League Baseball Hall of fame.

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