Roger Angell, longtime writer and truly the poet laureate of baseball, passed away last Friday at the age of 101.
Writing with a fan’s passion and Shakespearean splendor, he achieved literary prominence in the 1970s, when Cincinnati’s Big Red Machine clubs and the intensifying of the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry helped elevate the game’s overall quality. Angell’s long-form pieces captured fans who appreciated deftly crafted, cliché-free perspectives of the game.
The piece referenced in the tweet above (and here) is about the Boston Red Sox winning their first World Series in nearly a century. I read it last night and, true WordNerd that I am, was blown away by Angell’s command of the English language. “La Rochefoucauld” and “fritillary”? That’s a true All-Star. His style matched the beauty of the game, and his prose could be as majestic as any towering home run.
But he didn’t just cover baseball. A fixture — an icon, though that word is overused — at The New Yorker for three quarters of a century, he wrote Talk of the Town columns, humor essays and the annual holiday poem… and was a stellar editor as well.
Roger Angell cared about his craft, and he heartily endorsed the passion of true fans:
Roger Angell lived to be 101. We may not make it that far into the post-season, but we can certainly try.
“Since baseball time is measured only in outs, all you have to do is succeed utterly; keep hitting, keep the rally alive, and you have defeated time. You remain forever young.”
How many more innocent children must be slaughtered before we do something?
How many more grocery shoppers, or church-goers?
How many more fellow citizens must die or be maimed in petty arguments that escalate due to the presence of guns?
How many more women must be threatened, stalked and killed by gun-wielding ex-lovers?
How many more loved ones must be gone forever, due to suicidal thoughts and access to a gun?
I’m asking Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, who just signed legislation allowing adults to carry a concealed handgun without a license or training, and the governors of 22 other states who have signed similar laws.
I’m asking every member of Congress who refuses to even consider common sense gun regulations. The same ones who tweet out their thoughts and prayers every time another senseless — and likely preventable — mass shooting happens.
Thoughts and prayers. It began as a cliché. It became a joke. It has putrefied into a national shame.
If tonight, Americans do turn heavenward in pain and grief for the lost children of Uvalde, Texas, they may hear the answer delivered in the Bible through the words of Isaiah:
“And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood.”
Large font text above from this article by David Frum in The Atlantic
But I’m also asking you, Mr. and Ms. Responsible Gun Owner. Because I have more hope that you’ll do something to stem the tide of bloodshed.
The shock and horror of mass shootings focus our attention. But most of the casualties are inflicted one by one by one. Americans use their guns to open fire on one another at backyard barbecues, to stalk and intimidate ex-spouses and lovers, to rob and assault, and to kill themselves. Half of the almost 48,000 suicides committed in 2019 were carried out by gun. All of this slaughter is enabled by the most permissive gun laws in the developed world.
OK, I haven’t taken to yelling at clouds yet, but I DID write to the City of Cincinnati to school them on the many benefits of the “zipper merge” when they had traffic barrels set up on the road I take to work.
(Sidebar: the Zipper Merge deserves its own post… study up here.)
And I used the Fix it Cincy! app on my phone to complain about the sinkhole forming near a drain on the baseball fields near our house. Because if someone were walking there after dark, they could break a leg. And not in the Broadway sense.
And I also used the Fix it Cincy! app to get a Grand Canyon-sized pothole filled on a busy street near our house.
I sent in my request on a Thursday night, and the pothole was repaired by Monday afternoon. (And yes, I filled out the feedback survey to let them know I appreciated their prompt response – I can do compliments just as well as complaints.)
You can’t fight City Hall. But you can ask them to be wise stewards of your tax dollars, and fix what needs to be fixed. And if you don’t reach out, you’ve got no right to complain. But feel free to yell at clouds all you want.