Roger Angell brings a literary style that is rare in sportswriting, his pieces have often exceeded 10,000 words and like a popular athlete, he got the star treatment when he won the hall of fame's highest award for baseball writing in 2014. NY1's Budd Mishkin filed the following One on 1 profile.
This shouldn't be called work. Listening to Roger Angell tell baseball stories, like the one about the great Mets first baseman Keith Hernandez and his manager.
"Davey Johnson never understood why there was pine tar on his office phone in his office, after a game pine, there would be pine tar on his phone. After every at bat Keith would go back to Davey Johnson's office and call his father about the last at bat," recalls Angell.
Roger Angell's 2014 article for the New Yorker magazine, entitled This Old Man, has received more than a million page views.
Clearly, at 95 years old, he still has his fastball.
"Well I have the other expression from baseball which is I'm day to day. Or I'm week to week," says Angell.
Angell's latest book, "This Old Man: All in Pieces", includes work from throughout his long and illustrious career. He's known primarily for his writing about baseball. But here Angell writes about the need for love.
"The need for intimate association that old people have which everybody wants to hear about this except for your children," he says with a laugh.
And he writes about what he calls the common denominator at his age -- loss.
"You suffer unimaginable loss and think you can't get through it. But you do. I remember, I still see a shrink every couple of weeks wonderful woman talking to for years. and after my wife died. I said I don't know how I'm going to be able to stand this. And she said neither do I but you will," says Angell.
Angell brings a literary style that is rare in sportswriting. His pieces have often exceeded ten thousand words.
Like a popular athlete, he got the star treatment when he won the Hall of Fame's highest award for baseball writing in 2014.
"About 40,000 people on the streets and they're going, 'Roger, Roger.' Most of them don't know who i am but i'm going like this with my hat like this," says Angell.
Angell is just as enthused to talk about the many years he spent as The New Yorker's fiction editor and the relationship he built with writers like John Updike and Woody Allen.
"I said, 'Woody this is great but there are too many laughs. You can't have a laugh, in writing, you can't have a laugh in every sentence. Doesn't work that way.' And he says, 'Too many laughs?' But he was always the quickest guy to respond. Woody, usually, sent something in and if it needed some fixing and cutting or whatever, he would have it back the next morning," recalls Angell.
Angell cites a piece of advice he received from The New Yorker magazine editor who gave Angell the fiction editing job in 1956, William Shawn.
"He said it's no great trick to take a piece of fiction and turn it into the greatest story ever written. Anybody can do that. What you want to try to do is turn it into the greatest story this writer can write," he says.
Roger Angell was practically born into The New Yorker. His mother Katherine Angell White was the magazine's first fiction editor.
E.B. White was a famed writer. Angell first experienced the difficulty of writing watching his stepfather struggling with his weekly submission to the magazine.
"The typewriting would be very sporadic, long silences in between and then type and type and type and come out and have lunch and he wouldn't say anything. And then he would mail it off in the afternoon mail. And he would say it isn't good enough. And then it would come back and we would read it and it was completely effortless, just felt as if he had done this just like this," says Angell.
But after his parents divorced, Angell was raised primarily by his father.
"It was a big mistake for everybody, mistake for my mother, mistake for my father, mistake for the children that my father should be the main day to day place where we lived, we made the best of it. My father was admirable in many ways, although didn't know anything about being a father because he hadn't had a father of his own," he says.
Angell didn't lack for confidence or gumption. When he and a friend needed to write a story to get onto the school newspaper, they chose to interview then mayor Fiorello La Guardia - unannounced and uninvited.
"So we just walked down one morning and walked into the mayor's office and said we are here to interview the mayor. And this mayor's secretary said, 'Sit over there boys,'" he recalls.
Angell was just 14. At the end of the day, they finally got their audience with La Guardia. They asked him if boys in city public schools got as good an education as they did in private school.
"And he went off like a rocket. He said, 'What?!' And he went on and on about the great public school system and the great teachers and the great Americans who came out of there. And then he stops and he said, 'You got me, right?'" says Angell.
Angell served in the Pacific during World War II. After the war, he worked for Holiday magazine, and then in 1956, he took his mother's old office and job as fiction editor of The New Yorker.
"There was some resentment from people on the staff that I was the third person in this hierarchy or something. But I was good at what I did and it was pretty clear that I was earning my way I never worried about that," he recalls.
Angell was strictly a baseball fan until 1962 when The New Yorker wanted more sports in the magazine. So they sent him to the New York Mets' first spring training in Florida.
"I was nervous around major league baseball players. I didn't know what to talk to them about, I was self-conscious. And I sat in the stands and reported fom there and reported about myself as a fan," says Angell.
He got some early interviewing advice from one of his colleagues, John McPhee.
"Be stupid, be stupid. Somebody says something you say what? And then they think this guy doesn't know anything. I got to help him out and then they begin to talk and you start writing," says Angell.
Whether Angell is in New York or at his summer home in Maine, the conversation with ballplayers, writers, himself and perhaps most importantly with his audience has never stopped.
"The idea of not working is something that never occurs to me," he says. "I'm glad I never retired. I like not doing things, or things away from work. I love my life in Maine. But if I write something even if I write a blog, I feel great. It really sets me up."