Roger Angell, the celebrated baseball essayist, New Yorker editor and lifelong summer resident of the Hancock County town of Brooklin, died on May 20 at age 101, according to an obituary published in the New York Times.
Angell, stepson of writer and fellow Brooklin resident E.B. White, was beloved for his imaginative, inventive essays on baseball, writing eloquently about the game and its fans in articles that began in the 1960s and continued until he was well into his 90s. Though Angell was a professed New York Mets fan, he also avidly followed the Boston Red Sox, as well as the San Francisco Giants and Oakland Athletics.
Though he often said he disdained the sentimentality of films like “Field of Dreams,” and he chafed at being called baseball’s poet laureate, Angell’s evocative, funny, sometimes melancholy writing on America’s pastime belied a wellspring of emotion.
“Since baseball time is measured only in outs, all you have to do is succeed utterly,” he wrote in “The Summer Game” in 1972. “Keep hitting, keep the rally alive, and you have defeated time. You remain forever young.”
Angell was born in New York City on Sept. 19, 1920, the son of lawyer Ernest Angell and New Yorker fiction editor Katherine Angell White, who later married E.B. White. He attended Harvard University and served in the U.S. Air Force during World War II. At age 12, he began coming to Maine for the summer from his home in New York, a pilgrimage he would make for nearly 90 more years.
He began writing for The New Yorker in the 1940s but did not begin writing about baseball until a 1962 New Yorker assignment to cover spring training in Florida. By the early 1970s, he was already regarded as one of the greatest baseball writers of all time.
In total, Angell has published seven collections of his baseball writing, in addition to two memoirs published in 2006 and 2015. In 2014, he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame and the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
Angell was part of a long tradition of writers living quietly in the summers on the Blue Hill peninsula, from his stepfather White to more contemporary figures including Michael Chabon, Ayelet Waldman, Jonathan Lethem and John Hodgman.
Though writing was certainly accomplished during those long, warm Maine coastal summers, leisure time was of equal, if not greater importance, including Angell’s beloved afternoon cocktails, and watching boats ply the waters of Eggemoggin Reach from the porch of the gray-shingled cottage he returned to summer after summer.
In an essay he wrote for the New Yorker about his favorite drink, the classic martini, he recalled E.B. White picking him up at Bangor International Airport during the summers in the 1970s and 80s. On the ride back to the coast, they’d split cheese and crackers and a Thermos filled surreptitiously with martinis.
Decades later, in a 2011 essay for the New Yorker, he detailed the slate of events for the town of Brooklin’s Fourth of July celebrations.
Brooke Dojny, former chair of the town’s Friend Memorial Library, worked with Angell on a video detailing his many memories of Brooklin over the decades. She said the community at large mourned the loss of a longtime friend.
“He was charming, informative, and eager to help,” Dojny said. “His memory was as sharp as a person’s half his age and his reminiscences of early Brooklin were unfailingly accurate and were filled with wit and humor and some lovely sentiment. Brooklin will miss him sorely.”
In 2020, Brooklin named Aug. 8 Roger Angell Day and honored him with a parade and ceremony at the Friends Library. During the ceremony, Gov. Janet Mills remarked that a writer like Angell was a natural resource in Maine, just as woods and waters are.
“In Maine, while we brag about our ponds and peninsulas, our gardens, our granite, our grandkids and green fields, and goats old and young, our woods, our words and our language are the dearest things to us,” Mills said. “Roger Angell [is] someone who has used words to elevate us, to inspire us, to get at the truth. He tells it straight. He writes about winning and he writes about the pain of loss and regaining life again.”