Roger Angell Christopher Lehmann-Haupt - Essay

Christopher Lehmann-Haupt

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

The bare bones of Roger Angell's "The Summer Game" do not seem promising. Ten years' worth of reports on baseball that have already appeared in The New Yorker, where Mr. Angell is chief resident buff? Twenty-one installments on our great national pastime written during a period when—thanks to expanding teams and schedules, carpetbagging owners and Charles O. Finley—baseball has threatened to become our great national bore? Pages devoted to such forgettable episodes as the triumph of the New York Yankees over the San Francisco Giants in the 1962 World Series, or the Orioles' sweep of the A's in the 1971 divisional playoffs? Who—as the expression goes—needs it? But what such a summary of "The Summer Game" fails to reckon with is Mr. Angell's love of the game. It is a love that sees a fair complexion beneath the old girl's flaking make-up. It is a love that still finds the prospect of a summer without box scores to mull over "like trying to think about infinity." It is a love that sees poetry in names like Ossee Schreckengoat, Smead Jolley, Cletus Elwood Poffenberger and Luscious Easter. It wonders how many Burleigh Grimeses can dance on the head of a pin.

It is a love that had Mr. Angell chasing around the country from 1962 to 1971 attending "grandmothers' funerals"—his euphemism for significant confrontations on emerald diamonds all the way from San Francisco Bay to Back Bay. It had him poking around the vulgar splendors of the Houston Astrodome, trying to imagine plastic worms a-wiggling beneath the pluck-proof plastic grass, or sitting at the right hand of Judge Roy Hofheinz, "the Kublai Khan of the Domed Stadium," who swigged his coffee from a golden cup, dropped cigar...

(The entire section is 701 words.)