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Born in 1920, Roger Angell was an American essayist known for his writing on sports, especially baseball. The only writer ever elected into both the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the Baseball Writers' Association of America, he was a regular contributor to The New Yorker and was its chief fiction editor for many years.
He also wrote numerous works of fiction, non-fiction, and criticism, and for many years wrote an annual Christmas poem for The New Yorker.
His mother, Katharine Sergeant Angell White, was The New Yorker's first fiction editor. And his stepfather was renowned essayist E. B. White. His real father, Ernest Angell, was an attorney who became head of the American Civil Liberties Union.
Angell attended Harvard University and served in the United States Army Air Forces during World War II. It was during this time, while serving in Hawaii that his contribution was published in The New Yorker, his short story titled "Three Ladies in the Morning" was published in March 1944.
Angell’s first writing job was at Holiday Magazine, a travel magazine that featured literary writers. His earliest published works were pieces of short fiction and personal narratives, several of which were collected in The Stone Arbor and Other Stories (1960) and A Day in the Life of Roger Angell (1970).
He became The New Yorker's fiction editor in the 1950s, sharing an office with his mother, and continued to write for the magazine until 2020. "Longevity was actually quite low on his list of accomplishments", wrote his colleague, David Remnick. "He did as much to distinguish The New Yorker as anyone in the magazine's nearly century-long history. His prose and his editorial judgment left an imprint that's hard to overstate."
Angell’s foray into baseball began in 1962, when William Shawn, editor of The New Yorker, had him travel to Florida to write about spring training. His first two baseball collections were The Summer Game (1972) and Five Seasons: A Baseball Companion (1977).
Angell has been called the "Poet Laureate of baseball" but he disliked the term. In a review of Once More Around the Park for the Journal of Sport History, Richard C. Crepeau wrote that "Gone for Good," Angell's essay on the career of Pirates’ pitcher Steve Blass, "may be the best piece that anyone has ever written on baseball or any other sport".
Another essay of Angell's, "The Web of the Game", about the epic pitchers' duel between future major-league All-Stars (and eventual teammates) Ron Darling and Frank Viola in the 1981 NCAA baseball tournament, was called "perhaps the greatest baseball essay ever penned" by ESPN journalist and NSMA board member Ryan McGee in 2021. Angell also contributed commentary to the Ken Burns series Baseball, in 1994.
Angell received a number of awards for his writing, including the George Polk Award for Commentary in 1980, the Kenyon Review Award for Literary Achievement in 2005 along with Umberto Eco, and the inaugural PEN/ESPN Lifetime Achievement Award for Literary Sports Writing in 2011. He was a long-time ex-officio member of the council of the Authors Guild, and was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2007. His article This Old Man in The New Yorker on his "challenges and joys of being 93" garnered the National Magazine Award for Essays and Criticism in 2015.
He was inducted into the Baseball Reliquary's Shrine of the Eternals in 2010, and he was the 2014 recipient of the J. G. Taylor Spink Award of the Baseball Writers' Association of America; despite being a New Yorker writer, he was nominated by the San Francisco–Oakland chapter. In 2015 he was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a unique combination with the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Angell was married three times and was the father of three children.
He died of congestive heart failure at his home in Manhattan on May 20, 2022, at the age of 101.