Baseball author, insider tells of games past

The Daily Pennsylvanian
March 1, 2005

While February triggers thoughts of snow and cold, it is also the sign of hope for baseball fans everywhere, author Roger Angell not least of all.

The long-time sports reporter, who will soon be journeying down to Florida for the start of baseball's spring training, rekindled memories of seasons past at the Kelly Writers House last night.

"I hate speeches," Angell said following his introduction by English professor Al Filreis. As a result, Angell's talk was much more akin to a chat with an old manager than a formal speech.

"Baseball memories are always told in the first person," he said as a man who in his 80-plus years has experienced more of the game firsthand than almost anyone.

The long-time New Yorker reporter has not only lived the grand moments of the sport, but has glimpsed behind its scenes as well, seeing the human dimension of its stars.

He once took a look in Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski's locker, reading batting tips reminding him to "keep his back foot down," hitting's most fundamental law.

He heard legendary Cardinals hurler Bob Gibson proudly say he had never lost to his daughter in tic-tac-toe in over 300 tries.

Angell's stories were all related to a broader message about the "fragile nature of memory."

"I don't think memory works the way it used to," Angell said. "With the advent of instant replay and the jumbotron, we're no longer allowed to remember baseball for ourselves."

Angell discussed at length the active nature of memory and its natural tendency to personalize events.

"You don't remember an event as much as you remember yourself at the moment when something happened," Angell remarked.

Angell told the audience about a conversation with Boston's legendary hitter Carlton Fisk, who still refuses to watch the famous home run that won game six of the 1975 World Series for the Red Sox, fearing it will ruin the purity of his own memory of the game-winning blast.

Angell also noted several stains on the game, ranging from Pete Rose's gambling to the current steroid scandal. Yet, there is no question he believes baseball to be sacred, a part of American culture for better or for worse.

Angell's visit was part of the Writers House Fellows Seminar, taught and organized by Filreis.

As a part of the course, the authors of the works studied in class visit the students to both engage in discussion and lecture to a more open audience.