In this 2006 Sports Illustrated interview, New Yorker baseball essayist and fiction editor Roger Angell captures not only why I treasure his writing but also why I was inspired to start a baseball blog. A former sportswriter myself, I am now just a fan who likes to write about my favorite sport (as Tom Seaver once called it, "the greatest game in the world.")
Angell's books and essays have slowed their regularity as he enter his 90s. And so it was with great enthusiasm that I received an email from my mother-in-law in Philadelphia who had just read his latest contribution, fully one day ahead of the Pony Express delivery that brings the magazine to Seattle. I'm not kidding about this. I stood by the mailbox and waited for the delivery today.
Daddies Win is Angell's reprise of the 2009 postseason -- the one in which the Yankees beat the Phillies. Although it lacks that old hanging-around-the-bleachers reporting I've always loved, Angell asks (and answers) the question "Can we love the Yankees now?" (For most of you reading this I know your answer.)
Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui earn Angell's most elegant reportorial adoration. His description of Damon's 9-pitch at-bat and his heads-up double-steal only add to the argument that Angell deserves a place somewhere in the Hall of Fame (since broadcasters have a place).
But it is his description of Matsui where you see Angell's emotions. In his closing paragraphs Angell describes Matsui as an old-fashioned player who is silent to us all because he does not speak English easily.
His silence kept him old-fashioned: a ballplayer from the black-and-white newspaper-photographs days, before our heroes talked.
You have to read between the lines to see Angell's skepticism of A-Rod. He writes fairly about his contributions in the post-season, but A-Rod is neither hero nor goat.
In his closing paragraph, Angell pleads for Damon and Matsui to come back to the Yankees even though that is unlikely because of their ages. He then slyly invites Shane Victorino to jump ship.
Angell's close felt sad to me, perhaps a reflection of a fan's realization that the season has ended, but more than anything it felt wistful.
Come back, Roger, come back.