The long and short of Roger Angell: Verducci and Sandomir on the Hall of Fame writer
The Baseball Hall of Fame honored Roger Angell this weekend with the J.G. Taylor Spink Award, its writing honor. Angell is the first writer so honored who was never a member of the Baseball Writers Association of America. Never a beat writer, Angell wrote long, literary essays about the national pastime for the New Yorker beginning in 1962. It was a side gig. His real job was as the New Yorker’s fiction editor.
Like many baseball fans with a taste for great writing, I discovered Angell via his books, collections of his New Yorker work. I believe the 1982 collection “Late Innings” was the most recent at the time I first heard of him. Angell is widely seen as the greatest baseball writer of all time. I’m not sure I agree. As much as I love his work, I’d have a hard time putting him above Red Smith in his prime, in the 1940s and ’50s.
But Angell beats Smith in not having had a prime to pass out of. He’s as good today as he was a half century ago. Read his recent essay, This Old Man, which is not about baseball but about being 93 years old.
The Cards, the best defensive team in the National League, were stinko, with three infield errors, two of them by shortstop Pete Kozma. The pattern of the game became clear when the veteran Cardinal starter Adam Wainwright could only smile wanly after allowing a feeble pop by Stephen Drew to drop like a thrombosed dove at his feet, to begin the Sox’ second. One never knows, do one, as Fats Waller said.
Here are two good pieces about Angell on the occasion of his Spink award: Richard Sandomir’s in the New York Times and Tom Verducci’s in Sports Illustrated. Sandomir wrote short after Angell’s Cooperstown event Saturday, Verducci wrote long in advance of it. And Verducci’s piece reads almost like Angell could have written it.