caring deeply and
passionately, really, has
gone out of our lives
Roger Angell has died.
Born in 1920 and the son of Katherine Angell White (which made him the step son of EB White), Roger Angell wrote about baseball for the New Yorker Magazine for as long as I can remember.
To say, though, that Roger Angell wrote about baseball is much like saying Michelangelo painted ceilings.
There was so much more than that to what Mr. Angell wrote.
The focus, the reason for the writing was baseball, but the words were brought together in ways that were magical and poetry.
It was after the 1975 World Series, the famous game six that was won by the Red Sox on a home run in the bottom of the 12th inning, late, late at night in Fenway Park, that Mr. Angell wrote:
What I do know is that this belonging and caring is what our games are all about: this is what we come for.
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, and the amused superiority and icy scorn that the non-fan directs at the sports nut (I know this look — I know it by heart) is understandable and almost unanswerable.
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.
And so it seems possible that we have come to a time when it no longer matters so much what the caring is about, how frail or foolish is the object of that concern, as long as the feeling itself can be saved.
Naïveté — the infantile and ignoble joy that sends a grown man or woman to dancing and shouting with joy in the middle of the night over the haphazardous flight of a distant ball — seems a small price to pay for such a gift.
Mr. Angell was a not so much a sports reporter but a baseball commentator.
Each year, it seems to me now, he would write an essay that previewed the upcoming season, then an essay or too on the season so far and then an essay recapping the season just finished.
These 4 or 5 essays over the course of a year all appeared in the New Yorker Magazine.
Written a leisure with thoughtfulness beyond anything but appreciation, Mr. Angell could bring each and every game he covered to life though it had been over for some time.
I was 8 years old when the Detroit Tigers won the World Series in 1968.
It wasn’t until years later that I was able to understand and appreciate what when on in that World Series, the dual between Denny McCain and Bob Gibson and the slow turtle-and-the-hare story Mickey Lolich pitching his way to 3 World Series wins, and I got those stories from reading Roger Angell’s account in an essay titled, “A LITTLE NOISE AT TWILIGHT.”
But like the Persian Rug with the missing knot so it wouldn’t be perfect, Mr. Angell did make mistakes.
I always felt somehow privileged that I caught one.
But to this day, I am not sure if the error was Mr. White’s or his editor.
Here is the passage in question?
Can you find the mistake?
The scene is late in Game 7 of the ’68 Series between the Cardinals and Tigers.
The game is in St. Louis and the series is tied 3-3.
Mr. White wrote: Still no score. Summer and the Series were running out. Gibson had permitted only one base-runner in the game, and here were the Tigers down to their last seventh inning of the year. Gibson fanned Stanley, for his thirty-fourth strikeout of the Series, and Kaline grounded out. At three and two, Cash singled to right. Horton hit to the left side, and the ball went through for a single. Northrup lined the first pitch high and deep, but straight to center, where Curt Flood started in, reversed abruptly, and then stumbled, kicking up a divot of grass. He recovered in an instant and raced toward the fence, but the ball bounced beyond him, a good four hundred feet out; Northrup had a triple, and two runs were in. Freehan doubled past Brock in left, for the third.
It is right there in plain sight.
For me, it made Mr. Angell more human and that much more great.
Roger Angell has died.
This is when I quote John O`Hara on the death of George Gershwin.
I don’t have to believe it if I don’t want to.