Who’s Our Daddy? A Roger Angell Appreciation

Roger Angell is 89 years old. He was born in 1920. To put that in perspective, Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle were born in 1931. Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush were born in 1924. What I’m saying is that Roger Angell is an old man. That fact, of which there is no hiding, is what makes his latest in the New Yorker, Daddies Win, so magnificent.

He takes a few cheap shots at the blogs. He bemoans statistics. But the man still writes like he is living in 1957, in a world where baseball players are made not by television, but by the words floating through the air via radio, and the ones printed on newspaper and magazine pages. He writes like baseball still has the power to capture the imagination of an entire nation. His essay on the Yankees’ latest World Series victory is plucky and poetic. Without being sappy, the piece emits a sort of sepia-tinged nostalgia. What struck me most as I read this was Angell’s knack for magnificent little descriptions. He writes about baseball like the game is still new.

Here are some of my favorite descriptions:

On Alex Rodriguez:

“This year – well, this year he he’s been somebody else.”

“I’ve had the impression that I’m within touching distance of a new species.”

Cliff Lee:

“He throws with an elegant flail, hiding the ball behind his hip or knee and producint it from behind his left shoulder, already in full delivery. His finish brings his left leg up astern like a semaphore, while his arm swings across his waist. This columnar closing posture . . . is classic and reminded me strongly of some fabled pitcher from my boyhood.”

Chase Utley:

“Utley, who has slicked-backed, Jake Gittes hair, possesses a quick back and a very short home-run stroke; he looks like a man in an ATM reaching for his cash.”

AJ Burnett:

“a Tom Joad with beads.”

CC Sabathia

“Sunny looks and pavilion-sized pants and weird, white-toed spikes.”

“his fastball-cutter-changeup assortment . .  arrives like a loaded tea tray coming down an airshaft.”

cc: turtlemom4bacon

cc: turtlemom4bacon

On the New Yankee Stadium:

“I enjoy the wild, Ginza-esque light shows – the “lightage” I mean – but I’d trade them for the steeply vertical stands of the vacant, now shrouded original and the walls of noise they produced on big nights.”

On Nick Swisher:

Where have you gone Joe DiMaggio?

On Hideki Matsui:

“His silence kept him old-fashioned: a ballplayer from the black-and-white newspaper-photograph days, before our heroes talked.”

I’d venture to say the same thing about Angell.

4 Responses to “Who’s Our Daddy? A Roger Angell Appreciation”

  • His interviews in Ken Burns’ Baseball are phenomenal, glad he’s getting some recognition here. Also, I’m still waiting on a Roberto Clemente piece.

  • Brilliant stuff! Not too many baseball writers like that anymore, if any at all.

  • He’s of a different generation, but I think the reason he still pulls such water is that no one else from subsequent generations has yet to turn a phrase as well as he still does.

  • I was struck with a similar sense of appreciation, which quickly crossedd the border into awe, as I read Angell’s most recent piece in The New Yorker. I didn’t think anything would ever rival his classic “Legend of the Fens” but, happily, I was wrong.

    Thanks for exposing it to a wider audience.

Comments are currently closed.