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Legendary Baseball Writer Roger Angell Dies at 101

His iconic prose was featured in The New Yorker.

Roger Angell, the influential baseball writer whose life spanned from Babe Ruth to Shohei Ohtani and whose prose earned him the title of the sport’s poet laureate, died Friday. He was 101.

His wife, Margaret Moorman, said Angell died at his New York City home in the borough of Manhattan due to congestive heart failure.

The stepson of legendary writer E.B. White (“Charlotte’s Web,” “Stuart Little”), Angell’s work was featured in The New Yorker, a weekly magazine. His first piece appeared in the publication in 1944 and his last in 2020.

He was entered into the baseball Hall of Fame in 2014 when given the J.G Taylor Spink Award.

Angell wrote more from a fan’s perspective and kept the reader hooked with every word.

“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.” “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.”

In addition to being a baseball writer, Angell also became a fiction editor at The New Yorker and helped discover and develop writers Garrison Keillor, Ann Beattie and Bobbie Ann Mason, while also working with others such as Vladimir Nabokov and John Updike. Additionally, Angell was famous for his annual holiday poem that spanned an entire page.

He also changed with the times. Angell began writing during a time when reporters would use typewriters and dictate their stories over the phone, but he finished by adjusting better than most newspapers did by writing blog posts filed electronically late at night.

Angell was the author of several books. In addition to “Five Seasons,” he wrote “The Summer Game,” “This Old Man” and his memoir “Let Me Finish.” Among his celebrated pieces for The New Yorker are 1962’s “The Old Folks Behind Home,” a profile of St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Bob Gibson and recapping the thrilling 1975 World Series between the Boston Red Sox and Cincinnati Reds.

Graduating from Harvard, Angell was deployed in World War II in the Army Air Corps and was stationed in the Central Pacific, where he still found time to write and be the managing editor of a G.I. magazine. He inspired generations of baseball writers, several of whom shared their feelings on Twitter.

“Baseball is not life itself, although the resemblance keeps coming up,” Angell wrote in “La Vida,” a 1987 essay. “It’s probably a good idea to keep the two sorted out, but old fans, if they’re anything like me, can’t help noticing how cunningly our game replicates a larger schedule, with its beguiling April optimism; the cheerful roughhouse of June; the grinding, serious, unending (surely) business of midsummer; the September settling of accounts … and then the abrupt running-down of autumn, when we wish for — almost demand — a prolonged and glittering final adventure just before the curtain.”

 

Photo by Karen Green (https://www.flickr.com/photos/klg19/) | Adapted by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)

Steve Drumwright

Steve Drumwright is a lifelong baseball fan who retired as a player before he had the chance to be cut from the freshman team in high school. He recovered to become a sportswriter and have a successful journalism career at newspapers in Wisconsin and California. Follow him on Twitter @DrummerWrites.

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