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Roger Angell, Who Wrote About Baseball With Passion, Dies at 101

  • May 20, 2022

Mr. Angell was known, too, for his annual page-long holiday poem, titled “Greetings, Friends!” The poem, a New Yorker tradition, began in 1932 and was originally written by Frank Sullivan. Mr. Angell wrote “Greetings, Friends!” from 1976 until 1998, when it went on hiatus, and restarted it in 2008. In recent years, the poem has been written by Ian Frazier.

In his holiday poems, Mr. Angell mixed the boldface names, from high culture and low, that had filtered through that year. Here is a snippet from 1992:

Here’s where hearts grow rife or rifer,
Near Donna Tartt and Michelle Pfeiffer,
With B.B. King and his Lucille,
And Dee Dee Myers and Brian Friel!

Some of his rhymes could be read mischievously. “Yo! Santa man, grab some sky,” he wrote in 1992, “And drop a sock on Robert Bly.”

“I’m not sure there’s ever been a writer so strong, and an editor so important, all at once, at a magazine since the days of H.L. Mencken running The American Mercury,” David Remnick, The New Yorker’s editor, said in an interview for this obituary. “Roger was a vigorous editor, and an intellect with broad tastes.”

Mr. Angell became a baseball writer by accident. He was already a fan in 1962 when, he told an interviewer for Salon, he was asked by William Shawn, the magazine’s editor, to “go down to spring training and see what you find.”

It was an auspicious year to be a young baseball writer: the first season of the New York Mets. “They were these terrific losers that New York took to its heart,” Mr. Angell said.

The tone of his baseball writing, he once said, was inspired by a now canonical John Updike article, written in 1960, about Ted Williams’s final game at Fenway Park in Boston. “My own baseball writing was still two years away when I first read ‘Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu,’” Mr. Angell wrote, “and though it took me a while to become aware of it, John had already supplied my tone, while also seeming to invite me to try for a good sentence now and then, down the line.”

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