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· Roger Angell on America's Pastime "Gone South" ·

It is hard to wrap your mind around a season, a year, a career, or, even more, a life. Roger Angell has tried to do so in his recent New Yorker piece on the just-finished baseball season. Gone South: In a Last Surprise, The Young Marlins Are Champs, marks his own take on the autumnal collapse of what Angell once called America's Summer Game. Consider his witty, ironic lead:

 · Roger Angell ·

Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig, in a surprise news conference two days after the conclusion of the recent World Series, announced that Major League Baseball will undertake a radical change in scheduling next fall, when the Divisional and League Championship eliminations will come after the World Series, not before. "Tradition matters," Selig said, "but the fans have made it clear that they much prefer the interest and drama of the earlier rounds of post-season play, and we're going to oblige them. From now on, it's the Fall Classic first and then heartbreak."

As I've noted the Mariner season around here (Birthday Baseball Triple Play shows, though, that I'm a hopeful fan still), I thought to honor Angell's piece as in fact doubly given to the stylish work of American hitting and fielding both. Indeed, as step-son to star New Yorker writer E. B. White — and as natural son of New Yorker fiction editor Katharine White — Angell understands well the struggle (and the heartbreak) of both "Gone South."

But Angell knows too, of course — at 82 — how still to recall some truly fine, northern-seasonal baseball. Yet since "[t]he easy, almost endless run of summer ball was not just over but obsolete, . . . it requires," he says, "effort to bring any part of it back, even the Mets."

Place should be reserved [he writes] for the achievement of the switch-hitting Red Sox infielder Bill Mueller, who twice hit home runs from different sides of the plate in the same game. The second time he did this, against the home-team Texas Rangers, the dingers — first right-handed, then left — came in consequetive innings and were both grand slams. Never before — never nearly before.

For a single game [he adds], I will keep the drizzly, foggy evening of June 13th, at Yankee Stadium, when Roger Clemens, after failing in his three previous tries, at last nailed down his three-hundredth win. He was the twenty-first pitcher to enter this particular club, but on the same night also notched his four-thousandth lifetime strikeout, a level previously attained only by Nolan Ryan and and [sic] Steve Carlton. Clemens, who is forty-one, was retiring after this season, his twentieth, and he had wanted these certifications before the end. The landmark K was odd, because Roger had just given up a home run and a double to the previous Cardinal batters here in the second inning (it was an inter-league game) and because the cheers greeting the whiff, by shortstop Edgar Renteria, now began to blend with a welcome for the next batter, designated hitter Tino Martinez, an old Yankee hero making his first appearance at the Stadium since his departure two years ago. Tino, sensing the moment, stepped back to allow the Roger ovation to reach its full, 55,214-fan volume while the ball was being handed off to a ball boy like a Brinks package, and then at last got into the batter's box for his own "TI-NO! TI-NO! TI-NO!" Nothing came easily on this night, in fact, in a game that repeatedly threatened to be delayed or wiped out by rain, or even won by the wrong team, until a two-run homer by Raul Mondesi in the seventh brought the score to 5-2 Yankees, and safety. Clemens had departed in the top of the same inning (he struck out ten batters) but came back onto the field after the final out, while the scoreboard played Elton John's "Rocket Man" and the fans flashed their digital cameras and wept. Clemens hugged his catcher, Jorge Posada; hugged his other teammates and coaches; hugged the Yankee P.R. honcho, Rick Cerrone; hugged his wife, Debbie; hugged his sons, Koby, Kory, Kacy, and Kody; hugged the ballpark.

 · Worth Remembering ·

As I attended that Friday-the-13th game, I would add that it was, even more profoundly, a Yankee "Camelot" day too. Immortality falls sometimes on unlucky days, of course (as I once tried to say in Cheap Tickets From Track to Field: Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda and Here, Here, Where Have You Been Now?).

I'd hope you might agree, perhaps by saying Roger Angell's name with a kind, quick, substantively stylish, Memorial Pause.

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Clemens' 300th - Ya hadda be there.

Marlins? Wait til next yr, baby. We got a new stadium and a killer attytood in Philly. Weathers not bad as NYC, neither. Check us out & get a free cheesesteak at Tony Luke's anytime.

Posted by
Phillies Fan on November 26, 2003 02:59 PM



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