Roger Angell, the revered baseball writer, stands among the legendary New Yorker stalwarts who defined the magazine from its first frivolous days in the 1920s through its rise as a paragon of serious journalism.
Angell's life intersected with that of the magazine, a cultural and intellectual beacon founded by Harold Ross as a humor magazine to chronicle the Jazz Age.
One of Ross's first hires was Angell's mother, Katharine Sergeant Angell White. As literary editor, she shaped Ross' vision of a breezy, sophisticated magazine for a new generation leaving rural America for the bright city lights.
Divorcing Angell's father, the attorney Ernest Angell, she fell in love with another New Yorker pioneer, E.B. White, who also set an urbane tone for the early magazine, with his "Talk of the Town" essays and humorous pieces. He collaborated with James Thurber in giving direction to the magazine, piloted by the exacting standards of the Ross, the legendarily uncouth editorial genius.
Angell, who died at age 101 Friday at his New York City apartment, wrote his first New Yorker piece in 1944 after serving in World War II.
At the start of his career, Ross and his successor, William Shawn, published John Hershey's account of the Hiroshima nuclear bombing, which took up an entire issue and established the New Yorker as the leading American magazine.
After a period editing the now vanished Holiday magazine, Angell followed his mother and stepfather as a major influence over the New Yorker's editorial mix.
Working in his mother's office, Angell guided an American short story renaissance, editing the first publications of Ann Beattie, Donald Bartheleme and Bobbie Ann Mason. He also edited midcareer stories of John Updike and John Cheever.
Along with his lauded baseball sagas for the magazine, suggested by Shawn, Angell mirrored his stepfather in composing Talk of the Town pieces. He also published his own short stories, and was known for writing the magazine's annual New Year's verse retrospective of the year before.
While others fulsomely praised Angell's baseball writing, I liked best his memoir "Old Man," which looked back on pre-World War II New York City, recalling a magical time before Rockefeller Center’s rise.
Angell's career touched every era of the New Yorker. He witnessed and chronicled enormous changes in American society and culture.
Like other literary authors, he found baseball the key to American life, at times overloading his metaphorical flights.
Honored by the Hall of Fame late in his career, he idealized the game as it lost ground to football and basketball. In his work, baseball's glow never dimmed.