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Roger Angell is Alive

By: Patrick Dubuque

I take terrible videos of my children. My wife is a much better photographer than I am; she considers things like “light” and “foreground” and “keeping the camera straight”. I do none of these things. I count myself lucky if I can hastily slide up the camera icon on the phone, barely catching some toddler miracle in media res, or some unintentional bon mot. My phone is a collection of these in-between moments, a pile of blurry debris and I find myself watching them more often than I would expect. I would have forgotten these, I find myself thinking: these moments of my life would be dead. I hoard time on hard drives. I am a writer because I am afraid.

Roger Angell is alive. He is 97 years old, and still writing. Each time a piece reaches Twitter, and the alarm is raised, I feel unexpected excitement, like a handwritten letter in the mailbox with no return address. His writing always bears some well-earned patina, even in recap form, but the thrill is to read him as a writer, to see the brushstrokes of the painting, to get a glimpse of how he thinks and feels. Angell’s age, like Jamie Moyer, invites comparisons; the one I like is that he was nearly fifty years old when Roland Barthes declared the death of the author, in 1967. Angell outlived both the author and Barthes himself.

Baseball is a disposable medium, each moment continually replaced and every achievement eventually outdone. It is made to be felt more than thought about. And yet we have these books, seven and a half of them, that have saved the past five decades. What’s strange is how well they age: the older they are, the more the names and the specific teams and the winning and losing fade from memory, the more humanity remains, evaporated. “Already, two weeks after the event, it is difficult to remember that there was a World Series played this year,” he opens a random chapter in The Summer Game, though the year itself is meaningless. “It is like trying to recall an economy display of back-yard fireworks.”

That line could open a novel as well as it could a “baseball companion.” Angell didn’t specifically write about baseball from a first-person perspective, but he made it a joy because we saw it through him, glimpsed each random still through the camera in his mind. Through him, the author will always be alive.


Baseball’s Kingdom Animalia

By Holly M. Wendt

Professional baseball players excel at a great many things: hand-eye coordination, the extraction of sunflower kernels from their thin shells, arts and crafts.

At least some of them, however, appear to struggle in other areas. This past week, for example, Yasiel Puig demonstrated a certain amount of gustatory naivete. During the final week of the season, three baseball players struggled in the naming of animals.

On September 27, Manny Acta treated the world to one of the more amusing pre-game rituals, sharing on Twitter a video of Carlos Ruiz and Kyle Seager shouting animals at each other in Spanish.

The intensity of the eye contact, the clasped hands, and the powerful deliveries on display, coupled with the frankly peculiar charm of the activity, somewhat overshadows the actual naming of animals, which might actually be for the best. Both Ruiz and Seager show particular affinity for the big cats, rattling off five members of family Felidae in the first eight mentions. From there, though, both players have longer hesitations between answers, and there’s a great deal of verbal piggybacking reliant on bears of various colors and bulls of various sizes.

Based on the fact that Carlos Ruiz’s Instagram feed is 80% horse photos, it’s a little surprising that Seager was the first to deploy caballo (in the very specific construction of white horse), but Ruiz certainly gets points for the bold choice of Chupacabra.

On the second-to-last day of the regular season, the Phillies’ Department of Inter-Innings Amusements showed a Taboo-style word game featuring Andrew Knapp and Rhys Hoskins on Phanavision. The goal of the game was for Hoskins to give Knapp clues to guess particular animals.

One of the words was “fox.” Hoskins supplied “sly like a ___” which somehow didn’t result in Knapp providing the response “fox.” After that, after some fumbling mutterings about the creature’s tail, Hoskins said, “It’s a type of cat.” Mercifully shortly thereafter, the timer expired. Knapp, at least, expressed some bemusement at Hoskins’s choice of taxonomic choice. Then the baseball game continued.

Despite some inventive—if not accurate—responses, what both sketchy tours of kingdom Animalia exhibit is a distinct display of teamwork. As Seager began to struggle mightily, his Spanish-speaking Mariners teammates shouted out additional suggestions to prolong the game. Rhys Hoskins demonstrated chagrin for his faulty clue, seemingly feeling some guilt for not making it easy for Knapp to arrive at the right answer. This is worth celebration.


2ANITI2E

By: James Fegan

Tony Perez, Andre Dawson, Jeff Conine and Jack McKeon walked through the service level of Marlins Park. Well past midnight, there was only a scant number of overnight security personnel on hand, just enough to let them in the building for the mysterious meeting to which they had all been summoned via a startling visit to their homes by Billy the Marlin.

They arrived at painted double doors seated at the base of the dinger sculpture in center field, which appeared to display an artist’s rendering of Derek Jeter executing a jump throw on the beaches of Normandy amid the chaos of D-Day in 1944.

The four men found themselves walking down a dark hallway, illuminated only by backlit panels behind glass to each side of them. On display were trophies and honors from Jeter’s career: Gold Gloves, Player of the Month, PTA Non-Parent Member of the Year, Most Trophies Award, Medieval Times Preferred Customer, etc.

Eventually the statues and trinkets gave way to other monuments to his career: video boards looping walk-off hits, a gift basket filled with aging fruit, and a balding man sitting in a small but impeccably clean room, clad in a Yankees uniform. As McKeon pressed his face to the glass, it became apparent this man was Scott Brosius.

“Scott, is that you?”

Brosius hopped to his feet, clearly startled as he fumbled for notecards in his back pocket.

“Derek Jeter was a great teammate, on and off the field,” Brosius read.

“Scott what are you doing here?”

“Whenever we needed a big hit, I know I always hoped No. 2 was coming up.”

“Scott are you trapped in there?”

Brosius’ brow furrowed, and a single drop of sweat appeared on his forehead. He read his next line in a desperate whisper.

“I never had to worry about any balls to my left, not with No. 2 ranging behind me.”

At that moment another set of double doors opened at the end of the hall, accompanied by a cued up recording of a bat connecting with a ball, and Bob Costas exclaiming “Jeter’s done it again!”

“Gentlemen!” Jeter called out, appearing in the doorway. “Please enter!”

The four men entered to a row of hand sanitizer dispensers all labeled “2ANITI2E”

“Please help yourselves,” Jeter offer proudly. “Thanks to a recent transaction I personally negotiated with Dombrowski, there is no shortage of supply.”

“Why are we here?” pressed Dawson. “I thought you fired us.”

“Fired!?” Jeter laughed. “That's preposterous.”

“Samson called all of us. We even received exit paperwork,” McKeon said.

Jeter smirked quizzically and shook his head, chuckling.

“Jack, please! You're a baseball man!” Jeter said. “I mean, if I cleared my stuff out of my locker every time I received a notarized letter from the Yankees informing me of my unconditional release…”

Jeter trailed off laughing to himself again.

“Business!” Jeter shouted, putting himself back on topic. “I have a project that requires the personal oversight of all of you. My top lieutenants.”

Jeter strode to the first of three doors at the back wall of his office, all labeled with a navy blue No. 2 in Yankees font.

“Behind this door lies the future of the Marlins!”

Jeter opened the door to reveal a dark room lit only by a video projection on the wall of his Jeffrey Maier-aided home run in the 1996 ALCS. Strapped to a chair in front of the projection was Tony Tarasco, bearded, jaundiced and weeping quietly as he watched a recording of his impotent protestations to the umpire in perpetuity. Jeter quickly slammed the door shut.

“Ha! Wrong door! These labels, you see,” Jeter laughed, gesturing to the numbers on all the doors. “Would you believe I can be my own worst enemy sometimes? But now I seek to be own best friend.”

Jeter swung the next adjacent door open to reveal a balcony that overlooked an airplane hangar-sized room filled with rows of military-style bunks. In each bunk slept a youthful looking Derek Jeter clone, at least 1000 of them were sleeping in a hall that had “JETOLUTION” painted on the walls, along with a mural that showed multiple stages of Jeter transforming into a fighter jet and taking off into the air.

As Jeter turned and faced his guests with a broad smile, the clock struck 2:22am and an alarm blared in the hall, waking the clones.


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