Inside Baseball

Jeremy Bernstein

Roger Angell, the New Yorker writer and editor, died on Friday at the age of 101. He was one of the first people I met when I became a staff writer for the magazine in 1962. I didn’t know much about him except that he seemed to have an understated elegance which I thought was characteristic of the New Yorker. I later learned that his mother, Katharine Sergeant Angell White, had been the magazine’s first fiction editor.

After graduating from Harvard in 1942 Angell went into the air force and was assigned to be an editor of their journal. William Shawn hired him at the New Yorker. It was Shawn who asked Roger to go south and write about the spring training of baseball teams. I don’t know if Roger had much interest in baseball or indeed any kind of sport. We had a softball team that played other magazines and I don’t remember Roger showing any interest. But somehow Shawn, who had a genius for this sort of thing, suggested that Roger write about baseball and he became one of the most noted sports writers of his time. He must have stood out among the other baseball writers who were a pretty rough bunch. There was always something a bit reserved about Roger.

He specialised in drinking martinis where he moved from vodka to gin. But the New Yorker writers – at least some of them – were a hard drinking lot and Roger was not in that group. The last time that I saw him in action at the magazine was when S.I. Newhouse bought it (in 1985). One of the first things he did was to fire Shawn. We had a meeting on what to do. There was of course nothing to do but a few of the senior people like Roger said we should all sign a letter urging Newhouse to change his mind. A little committee was formed with Roger at its head and they produced what may be the best edited letter of protest ever written. We all signed it and it had no effect whatever. I was fired by Tina Brown who arrived in 1992 but Roger stuck around and wrote his last piece for the magazine in September 2020, just after his 100th birthday.


  • 25 May 2022 at 4:42pm
    sterilepromontory says:
    'Understated elegance' is a wonderful trait that some people seem to come by early in life, like a young man inheriting his grandfather's cashmere overcoat. The guy in the navy wool pea coat just doesn't have it. With Katherine as mother and E.B. White as step-father, Roger was NewYorker royalty almost by birth. And the admission to Harvard surely came with it. Today's NewYorker is more like an Ivy League alumni magazine than ever... I wait for each "profile" to reveal which noble school the subject attended. That's one of the reasons I spend more time with the LRB than the NewYorker. (Note: I've subscribed to the NYer for 47 years.) It seems less in-the-bubble. But then, as an American, I might simply be missing the subtle references.

  • 26 May 2022 at 11:56am
    jeremy bernstein says:
    Just an added note. The first time I went to the headquarters of the magazine to look at some proofs I was assigned an empty office. It turned out that it belonged to E.B.White who never used it. Roger was then in his mother's old office.

  • 27 May 2022 at 12:13pm
    Lexa Hypatia says:
    The take home lesson? Gin martinis prolong life. Got that.

  • 27 May 2022 at 7:41pm
    jeremy bernstein says:
    For many years the New Yorker had its offices at 25 West 43rd St, It was next to the Harvard Club where the drinkers among us-not me-would get loaded. It was next to the Century Club where we often had lunch. The magazine had as I recall three floors two for editorial and one of business. They were not allowed to come to our floor. You could only buy shares in the magazine if you got permission. I had some which I had to sell when Newhouse bought the magazine. Sic transit....

  • 30 May 2022 at 3:07pm
    jeremy bernstein says:
    This comment has nothing to do with Roger but thinking about him has brought to mind the New Yorker that I knew. One of the important characters was Maeve Brennan, She was born in Dublin and spoke with a wonderful Irish brogue. Only we on the inside knew that she was the "long winded lady" who graced the Talk of the Town. When I knew her she was married to the oft married New Yorker writer StClair McKelway. Both he and Miss Brennan drank heavily. One morning I was walking on 44th St in the general direction of the New Yorker office when I came upon Miss Brennan standing in front of the Royalton Hotel.."McKlway's gpne into the Royalton to buy a handerchief," she said adding, "The Royalton has the best handkerchiefs in all of New York and now that you have moved into the city you'll have to know things like that..."