Something about Willie McGee recalls the House of York.
The 1975 World Series was rather like the Battle of Agincourt.Hold it. Has the new Roger Angell arrived?
It has. It's called "Once More Around the Park: A Baseball Reader," and it collects some of the more memorable baseball dispatches of Angell, a Boston Red Sox and New York Mets fan who also happens to be senior fiction editor of The New Yorker magazine.
More than any other writer, Angell may be responsible for the tide of baseball titles that now rises in bookstores every spring.
Angell's elegant yet vivid takes on the sport, which have been appearing in The New Yorker since the 1960s, long have allowed baseball fans to feel at home amid advertisements for teak outdoor furniture or gold koala pendants.
And if his references are on occasion, like that merchandise, too dandy, Angell comes by them honestly. He published baseball-related fiction in The New Yorker as far back as 1946. That was 14 years before John Updike described Ted Williams' final home game in the New Yorker story, "Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu."
Given all this, maybe it's no accident that opening day ceremonies at Fenway Park include, just outside the stadium, a pre-game poetry reading.
Many of Angell's finest moments, certainly, involve Red Sox moments. In "Agincourt and After," Angell's account of the 1975 series - which is recalled for Carlton Fisk's 12th-inning home run in game six - Angell finds equal drama in the eighth-inning dinger by pinch-hitter Bernie Carbo.
"One more fastball arrived," Angell writes, "high and over the middle of the plate, and Carbo smashed it in a gigantic, flattened parabola into the center-field bleachers, tying the game. Everyone out there - and everyone in the stands, too, I suppose - leaped to his feet and waved both arms exultantly, and the bleachers looked like the dark surface of a lake lashed with a sudden night squall."
The most emotional argument "Once More Around the Park" might provoke among Angell fans is what is and isn't included.
Not included is "Pluck and Luck" from October 1980, which includes Angell's account of his visit to Arthur Bryant's barbecue during the 1980 World Series.
Included, however, is an excerpt from Angell's 1985 encounter with former Kansas City Royals reliever Dan Quisenberry; "In the Country," the Angell piece in which he describes a young Vermont couple whose lives revolve around a Class A semipro league (the story happened to run in 1981, the strike season); "Three for the Tigers, " a 1973 sketch of three Detroit fans so warm at the center that it testifies to theuniversal passion all fans feel for their teams; and "Distance," the 1980 profile of St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Bob Gibson.
The Gibson portrait was so stirring that one writer later argued, in a Boston alternative weekly, that the piece helped guarantee the pitcher's election to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Gibson's first year of eligibility.
Maybe. The Angell story appeared in August 1980. When Gibson was elected the next January, he was the only player so honored that year.
The only problem with Angell is that he can be guilty of the occasional highfalutin allusion. In "Once More Around the Park," he'll refer to Red Sox fans, at the time of the 1986 series heartbreak, as Calvinists. You know, as in John Calvin, the 16th-century Protestant theologian who advocated the doctrine of predestination.