Editor’s Note: Occasionally, CodBall will reflect or report on baseball events beyond the Cape league. As a point of personal privilege, I cannot let a Roger Angell article go unnoticed. Enjoy… If the Cape League is the pinnacle of amateur baseball, then surely Roger Angell of The New Yorker is the pinnacle of baseball writing. In the depths of winter, with baseball a distant memory and an anxious hope, Angell’s latest article (SORRY, it's not online, but you'll find it in the hard copy under, "The Sporting Scene: Cardinal’s Rule (But how about those Mets?)." His article instantly brings back the heat of the summer and the tension of October.
The New Yorker arrives out here in the Northwest woods several days later than it does on the East Coast. So I am just now getting around to reading the issue (Nov. 27, 2006) with the 4-scene cartoon on the cover. A dedicated fan of Mr. Angell, I was delighted to see the most literary baseball writer of our time return with a compact seven-age tour of the 2006 MLB season. Only Frank Deford and Roger Angell will cause me to stop what I am doing to savor their prose.
In this week’s article, Angell’s writing chops are once again on display:
-On the Tigers: [They] “reversed direction, unexpectedly eliminating the Pinstripes in three straight games….”
-Again, on the Tigers: The Tigers’ botched baseball “were a fresh reminder of the spareness and elegance that skilled defenses cast unnoticed over most big-league games….”
-On the Cardinals: “Reyes wears his uniform pants legs at a boyish knee level, revealing the striped scarlet Cardinal stockings that have been scarcely visible since the time of Pepper Martin.”
-On Bonds’s “Record”: “I will be able to find the right place for his record in my baseball consciousness, with whatever asterisks are needed, just the way I did with Roger Maris’s sixty-one homers (struck in a longer season than Babe’s sixty), and even with the rare dead-ball home runs knocked out in the sunlit, bribe-prone, alcoholic, and racist baseball times of my father.”
-On Jeff Weaver as a Yankee: “could be counted on for overexcitability on the mound, followed by the sudden sounds of a denting timber.”
Angell’s closing paragraph is a feast. He recalls Carlos Beltran in the fateful final at-bat against the Cardinals in the NLCS. He replays in his mind Beltran standing there looking as Wainwright throws past him the final strike. But then the New York writer, now getting up there in years, re-imagines the scene. Instead, Jose Reyes – who batted ahead of Beltran – is up again. Reyes’s shot is not caught (as in the actual game) but rather falls in for a double…“and Lo Duca is just coming up.”