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Celebrating The Centennial of Roger Angell + Thoughts on Sports During The Pandemic

In this time of great loss - the passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the first day of the Jewish New Year was the latest cruel blow - I am glad we could celebrate Roger Angell's 100th birthday on Saturday September 19. 

 

Starting with a spring training piece from the Mets' debut season of 1962, Angell's essays for  "The New Yorker" magazine have been required and delightful reading for any thoughtful baseball fan. In recent years he has written on newyorker.com 

 

I have fond memories of his appearance on my WBAI sports radio show "Seventh Inning Stretch" during the 1980s. He did some readings for a fund-raising drive (we didn't raise much money but to hear EB White's stepson read his elegant prose was memorable.)

 

I treasure the autographed copy of his anthology "Five Seasons".  He thanked me for "your baseball writing and your baseball passion," the underlining making me especially proud.

 

Angell spoke for all of us unrepentant fans in "Agincourt and After," a "Five Seasons" essay   about the 1975 Red Sox-Reds World Series.  He knew well the "amused superiority and the icy scorn" of non-fans who considered rooting for a "commercially exploitative" sports team "foolish and childish . . . patently insignificant."

 

What these people forgot about ardent fans, Angell wrote, was "the caring deeply and passionately, really caring."

 

Thinking back at Carlton Fisk's memorable extra-inning home run in Game 6 1975, when his hand gestures seemingly willed the ball fair, Angell extolled "Naivete - the infantile and ignoble joy that sends a grown man or woman to dancing and shouting with joy in the middle of the night over the haphazardous flight of a distant ball."

 

Angell's gift has been to connect with players in the same human way.  "They were dying to talk if they trusted you," he told Chris Haft of mlb.com.

 

I recall a piece in which the almost-patrician-looking Fisk opened up with critiques of his fellow catchers.  It prompted Angell to write that catchers carp about each other just like writers.  

 

So all hail to Roger Angell as he enters his 101st year and deserving of all the plaudits that have come his way, including his 2014 election into a honored place at the Cooperstown Hall of Fame plus the warm birthday encomiums this week from fellow Hall of Fame writer Peter Gammons and the Wall Street Journal's Jason Gay.  

 

CLOSING THOUGHTS

This strange baseball season ends a week from tomorrow (Sunday September 27). 16 of the 30 teams will be eligible for a post-season scheduled to end before the end of October.  The league divisional, championship, and World Series will be held in "bubbles" in Southern California and Texas. 

 

So far the "bubbles" have worked without much new infection for hockey and basketball.

I guess I'm glad that the games are going on even without fans.  I'm a rooter at heart and I miss my college basketball and football teams at Columbia and Wisconsin, and especially Columbia baseball.

 

In a complex world, I've had to deal for almost 30 years with no baseball at Wisconsin, the only Big Ten (or to be exact Big 14) school without baseball.  Football returns at end of October to the Big Ten, a reversal of earlier decision to postpone until the spring.  

 

"Political pressure, money, and threatened lawsuits" had nothing to do with the decision, said Northwestern University president Morton Schapiro.  If you believe this, I have a Brooklyn bridge - choice of three - to sell you. 

Don't want to end on a sarcastic note.  So here's to sustained good health and good spirits to face what a headmaster friend of mine has aptly defined as our "volatile and ambiguous future."   

 

Always remember: Take it easy but take it!

 

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Memorial Day Musings: Of Will Power and Lions To Dive Into Gator Waters

I couldn't quite believe that the winner of the Indianapolis 500 race on Memorial Day Sunday was Will Power. That name seemed more likely for a horse but indeed the winning race car driver was Will Power, an Australian. Congrats to him and to all the drivers who survived the marathon race without serious injury.

The seedings are out for the NCAA baseball tournament that will climax with the College World Series in Omaha June 16-27. Ivy League champion Columbia will face the number one national seed the University of Florida Gators in Gainesville at noon Friday June 1.

Columbia opened the 2017 season by being swept by Florida so this matchup allows for a long shot at revenge in the double-elimination regional. Columbia earned the right to make the tourney for the fourth time in six years by winning two exciting games last week at defending champion Yale's historic Yale Field in New Haven.

Columbia's 4-0 win on Tuesday May 22 occurred on the 37th anniversary of the classic Ron Darling-Frank Viola tournament duel that Roger Angell immortalized in "The Web of the Game" in the New Yorker magazine (and later included in his anthology "Late Innings".)

Darling actually attended Tuesday's game but his presence could not induce offense from Yale bats. The following day, the Elis scored only one run in the deciding 2-1 game that went 15 innings. I feel very happy for two Columbia senior pitchers: Harrison Egly who won the 4-0 game and Ty Wiest who not only threw the last two innings in that victory but hurled 6 innings of one-hit relief in the deciding 2-1 game.

The other seven national seeds in the tournament are Stanford, Oregon State, Mississippi, Arkansas, North Carolina, Florida State and Georgia. But here's a good luck wish to Army who will tangle with North Carolina State on Friday at 7p and the University of Hartford who at the same time will go up against Stetson in Deland, Florida.

That's all for now - always remember: Take it easy but take it!  Read More 
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