|Roger Angell and Andy in Central Park in 2014|
****(Continuing my letter to Roger)
I have admired how your love of baseball is not limited to the stars of the game. I enjoy reading your stories about spring training as much as any climatic regular season game or World Series games.
One of my favourite essays you have written is from one of your earlier books, Late Innings, in which you exchanged correspondence with and then meet Linda Kittell to sit and talk about baseball and life while watching her partner, Ron Gable, pitching semi-pro baseball. It is the baseball I know best.
Linda spoke so powerfully about Ron’s earlier pursuit of a distant dream of the major leagues while playing for the Boise Buckskins in the lowest of the minor leagues. And you listened.
In your essays I appreciate how you will develop a thought over a few pages. A reader is invited to think with you about the subject of your essays. I slow down when reading you. With most of my reading, especially on the internet, I find myself rushing through articles. Most are so short or so limited in content or both that I feel they were meant to be read in a hurry.
It took me until reading This Old Man to read your non-sport essays. I envy few people but your combination of contacts and interviews with authors and athletes left me envious of your life. I know of no other person who analyzes author Vladimir Nabokov in one essay and Hall of Fame ballplayer, Jackie Robinson, in another.
I admire how you follow the precept “be clear” set out by your stepfather, E.B. White, in Elements of Style which you quoted in an early essay of This Old Man. When I read your essays I know your themes and can follow your reasoning.
As a lawyer I strive to write with directness to make it easy for the judge to understand my submissions. For most legal briefs I have my clients read the whole brief. If they struggle to follow and grasp the facts and issues and arguments as I have set them out I know that I need to revise the brief.
I have come to appreciate grace in action in different forums. Watching a skilled lawyer in court is a pleasure. A well-presented oral argument can be a model of persuasion. A deft cross-examination can shift the course of a trial.
A challenging form of written grace is humour. You have the ability to make me smile. My wife would say I should read more of your work. I am not thinking of the strident LOL notations of emails and texts. It is the subtler grin that often stretches across my face while reading your essays and haikus.
I did initially struggle with your recommendation at the opening of This Old Man to feel free as a reader to move around in the book. I have always read books from start to finish. I was convinced to move around when I encountered some of your poetry. I expect your poetry is well done but the essays and letters are what I enjoyed best in the book.
Belated congratulations on winning the J.G. Taylor Spink Award. Reading your remarks at Cooperstown reminded me that when I was in my early 20’s and finally had some disposable income the first subscription I purchased was to The Sporting News. It was my portal to the big leagues. The only newspaper coverage in Saskatchewan of the major leagues at that time was through wire service stories. I devoured the baseball articles of The Sporting News even though they were a couple of weeks old by the time the paper reached me. I still find it hard to believe that through the internet and satellite T.V. I now get stories on the Yankees and Blue Jays as quickly as residents of New York and Toronto.
As an aside you mention you enjoy writing on blogs. A few years ago I started writing a blog concentrated on crime fiction, Mysteries and More from Saskatchewan. The blog has given me a new outlet for writing. Unexpectedly it has allowed me to make blogger friends around the world.
This letter will make up two posts in my blog.
I hope you will continue to write essays, especially about baseball. Shirley Povich’s last column in the Washington Post was published the day after his death at 92. At 95 you have years to go as a sports writer.