The Andrew Lloyd Webber of Baseball Writers

Writer Roger Angell, age 96 and Friend, Age and Name Unknown

Writer Roger Angell, age 96
and Friend,
Age and Name Unknown

You all know him. You cannot have followed baseball on any broad steady reading diet over time, and not have read his coverage stuff somewhere, even if you are the type reader who doesn’t check to see who wrote the piece.  Since 1944, the man has been all over the map with the subject of baseball. His name is Roger Angell. and he’s now 96 years old and still sharp as a tack.

Roger Angell is not the writer who became became really famous as the Brooklyn kid who grew up and wrote “The Boys of Summer” about his 1950’s era home turf Dodgers, at a time when the Dodgers were east, and east was Brooklyn, and at a time when the team had grown into the “Monsters of the NL Midway“, but, sadly, at the same time Brooklyn fans were leaving the Bedford Avenue area to go live in the suburbs. “The Boys of Summer” writer was Roger Kahn, the great Brooklyn-born writer and another New York icon of baseball men of letters in literature. In my book, the third member of that generational trinity of great New York baseball authors was the late David Halberstam, who died in an auto accident at the age of 73 back on 4/23/2007.

Roger Angell, age 96,  is the oldest, born on 9/19/1920.

Roger Kahn, age 89, was born on 10/31/1927.

David Halberstam, deceased, was born on 4/10/ 1934.

This column is about a taste of the common expressive ground shared by writer Roger Angell and Andrew Lloyd Webber, the great Broadway musical lyricist.

Even though their styles are not the same, I tend to think of Angell today as our baseball writing equivalent of Broadway musical composer Andrew Lloyd Webber for the lyrical way they each lift their publics for a flight through whatever subject territory they may happen to be covering at the time. Angell began his November 3, 2016 coverage article for The New Yorker on Game 7 that most of us watched Wednesday night with this classic line of implicit reference to the fact that the thing had concluded in extra innings, with the Chicago Cubs winning their first World Series since 1908 by this terse, but comprehensive column opening line:

“Good game, great game, and worth the wait.” ~ Roger Angell.

But ….

“But let’s think of the managers here for just a minute. Joe Maddon, the estimable Cubs leader, had briefly resembled a giant midair tarpon shaking the hook at the last possible instant when his Aroldis (Chapman) maneuvers turned out the way they did.” ~ Roger Angell.

All true, but had Andrew Lloyd Webber grown up a baseball fan, he may have responded to some of Cubs Manager Joe Maddon’s use of pitchers in Games 6 and 7 – and his early hooks in Game 7 – with these lines from Jesus Christ, Superstar:

Every time I look at you
I don’t understand
Why you let the things you did
Get so out of hand

You’d have managed better
If you’d had it planned
Now why’d you choose such a backward time
And such a strange land?

But things worked out. The Cubs won! The Cubs won! The Cubs won!

Chapman’s arm didn’t actually fall off from over-use. And winning what they did, and how they did it, and what it was all about in the larger scheme of things in our baseball world – well – that fact became the great forgiver of Joe Maddon’s pitching management in the last two games on the road. Winning is like holy water poured on the sin that cries out for absolution. And, man, did the Cubs do some holy water pouring – early and late – from Fowler’s lead-off homer as the first batter in the game – to Zobrist’s go-ahead double in the top of the 10th for a dramatic lead that would hold up for an 8-7 Cubs victory over the Cleveland Indians and the phantoms of all those curses that supposedly had been incubating since 1908 and 1945.

“But a win washes away all sins, at least in the minds of the winning fans.” ~ Roger Angell.

The Cubs have risen. And may the shouts of “Hallelujah” from Wrigleyville keep the North Side of Chicago cozy warm throughout the upcoming 2016-17 Hot Stove League season without anyone in the neighborhood having to fire up their furnaces.


 Bill McCurdy

Publisher, Editor, Writer

The Pecan Park Eagle

Houston, Texas

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3 Responses to “The Andrew Lloyd Webber of Baseball Writers”

  1. Tom Hunter Says:

    Roger Angell is the stepson of E.B. White, the co-author along with William Strunk Jr. of “The Elements of Style,” 1959. The fourth edition of the book (2000) included a forward by Roger Angell.

    E.B. White is probably most famous as the author of the children’s novel, “Charlotte’s Web,” 1952.

  2. stanfromtacoma Says:

    Symphony Space put together a wonderful evening of baseball readings hosted by Roger and Bart Giamatti many years ago. Just magical stuff; including Rolfe Humphries lyrical poem about the Polo Grounds and other splendid short baseball pieces, both poetry and prose. The evening ended with Roger reading from his essay for the New Yorker about the 1975 WS and Bart reading his essay, “The Green Fields of the Mind.”

  3. Tom Kleinworth Says:

    Bill: I would only disagree with you in one way. Andrew Lloyd Webber is one of many fine composers throughout the history of Broadway. Roger Angell is the greatest baseball writer of all time. I think it would be more accurate to say he is the William Shakespeare of baseball writers.

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