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Game Time

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Roger Angell’s sixth anthology of baseball essays should be savored, detail-by-detail, to let its delicate and subtle tastes and tones fully digest. The twenty-nine pieces, spanning forty years of covering the sport for the New Yorker magazine, include both masterful and journeyman jobs on Major League Baseball’s people and places.

Essay subjects include Wrigley Field, circa 1984, and ex-ballplayer/broadcaster Tim McCarver. There is also McCarver’s former batterymate Bob Gibson—seemingly gritting his teeth in retirement—and the game’s pitchers coping with the great Home Run Race of 1998. Also featured are famous geniuses such as Ted Williams, with his encyclopedic knowledge of hitting at age sixty-five, and lesser-known veterans of the sport and craft of play. Two standout essays focus on baseball’s edges: experienced scout Ray Scarborough and several superb coaches, from Rod Carew and Johnny Pesky to Tom Trebelhorn and Merv Rettenmund.

All that said, Game Time has a weakness stitched through the work like the seams on a hardball. Read as one anthology instead of individual pieces of magazine journalism, the book seems to immediately indulge in the journalistic conceit of first-person narrative. Here, that can make stories more memoir than reporting, with an inescapable awareness of Angell’s presence at scenes, his involvement, and his authorship. Unlike other excellent baseball scribes—Jerome Holtzman, Thomas Boswell, even “the other Roger,” Kahn—Angell is less a reporter than a participant, sometimes even a protagonist, in the proceedings.

Finally, however, this style is not a fly in the ointment but a fly on the wall, observing (if sometimes annoying). Angell,...

(The entire section is 407 words.)