An iconic chronicler of America’s Pasttime, baseball writer Roger Angell passed away Friday at the age of 101 from congestive heart failure, according to Major League Baseball’s website.
Though never formally a credentialed sportswriter, Angell, a longtime editor and writer for The New Yorker, was nonetheless revered as one of the greats among those who wrote about the sport and was honored for his coverage of the game in 2014 when he was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.
ESPN reported that Angell was also the first non-member of the Baseball Writer’s Association of America to receive the prestigious BBWAA Career Excellence Award for his “meritorious contributions to baseball writing.”
A master of his craft
Born in New York in 1920, Angell was the son of Ernst Angell, an attorney who would later head the American Civil Liberties Union, and Katharine Angell, who was a founding member and fiction editor of The New Yorker and later remarried famed author E.B. White.
When Roger came of age, he served in the Pacific theater of World War II in the Army Air Corps but as an editor for a military magazine. It was during that time, in 1944, that then-Cpl. Roger Angell earned his first byline at his mother’s publication with a short story titled “Three Ladies in the Morning.”
According to a veritable ode to Angell’s memory by David Remnick, the current editor of The New Yorker, the young writer worked for a popular travel magazine at the time for several years after the war before joining The New Yorker in 1956, eventually taking over his mother’s old job as chief fiction editor.
It wasn’t until 1962, though, that Angell began to write about baseball when the magazine’s editor at that time, William Shawn, was looking to expand to more topics to interest new readers and Angell, as a lifelong fan of the game, volunteered for that duty.
His writings about baseball were a mix of descriptively detailed prose and poetry that both entertained and informed readers, likely because he wrote from the perspective of a true fan and not simply as a sports beat journalist.
Remnick wrote that Angell’s coverage of the sport “radiated a sense of wonder at the complexities of the game and those who play it. His enthusiasm for baseball was so immense that it could not be confined to a singular loyalty. In a given season, he was capable of giving his heart to anyone. He was a Mets fan, a Yankees fan, and a Red Sox fan. In anyone else, this would have been unforgivable.”
A true fan who loved the game
Sports Illustrated reported on Angell’s death as a terrible loss for the game of baseball itself and marveled at his insightful and passionate writings over the decades about everything from Spring Training and minor leaguers to each and every World Series and even “entirely forgettable weekday contests.”
“Roger Angell knew what it meant to care about baseball. More than anyone who has written publicly about the game, he worked to understand that feeling in all its many dimensions, and to capture it on paper,” SI declared in Memorium.
MLB’s website noted that in addition to being honored by the game itself, Angell also won other top awards for his works, including 11 books, five of which were anthologies of his writings on baseball and two of which earned a spot on the New York Times Bestsellers list.