Roger Angell-the Best of the Best.
I’m not really sure how long I’ve been doing this. This blog, I mean. There have been changes in the program used to get it on the internet and I was posting for quite some time before I switched to Word Press. But they keep track of every post and there are almost 2,000 of them stored electronically wherever Word Press keeps all that stuff.
I go back and look at some of those old posts occasionally and I’m seldom pleased. I suppose that’s typical of most writers. We come across something we don’t even remember writing and a word or phrase jumps off the page and fairly shouts, “I don’t belong here. How could you do this to me, you hack!”
The opposite is also true. For whatever reason, perhaps I’m reading something I wrote years ago and, once again, a sentence jumps off the page and I stop and re-read it—once and then once again—and a voice inside my brain says, “Wow! That’s really pretty good.” (I’m always surprised.)
That’s what keeps writers going, I think . . . the arrogant notion that we have somehow managed to adequately convey with the written word an idea or a description or an emotion that had an impact on us.
The thing is, it doesn’t happen all that often. At least with me, because what we do—if we do it right—is so damn hard.
All the foregoing is my attempt to explain my vast admiration for Roger Angell, an editor at the New Yorker magazine for many years. (And to be an editor for writers good enough to have their work appear in that magazine . . . well, that’s pretty impressive all by itself, isn’t it.)
But what I always found most impressive is anything Roger Angell wrote on the subject of baseball. Around Christmas time for many years, he wrote a summary of the recently concluded major league baseball season. That piece was eagerly awaited by true baseball fans everywhere.
For me, however, Roger Angell’s most memorable work—one cannot apply the word ‘best’ to anything that man wrote—was a piece on former major league pitcher, Steve Blass, who, after many very successful years, suddenly and inexplicably lost his ability to accurately throw the baseball.
There are many hundreds of very, very good baseball writers. And then there’s this man, in a class all by himself.
Roger Angell died two weeks ago. He was 101 years old.