Richard Sandomir writes about Roger Angell of The New Yorker, the J.G. Taylor Spink honoree into the Baseball Hall of Fame for his writing. Now 93, Angell joins the company of Ring Lardner, Red Smith, Shirley Povich and Dick Young.
His baseball essays for the magazine in 1962. He had no previous experience covering the sport, and he never shared the experience of newspaper writers under daily deadlines:
“I didn’t have to write after a game. That was unforgivable.”
Most of his 10 books are devoted to baseball, including the trilogy of “The Summer Game, Five Seasons and “Season Ticket” that were pulled together for “The Roger Angell Baseball Collection” published last year.
He doesn’t write magazine-length pieces any longer but pens shorter blog posts, including this one on the recently departed Don Zimmer.
Angell also talked to columnist Maureen Dowd of The New York Times explained the origins of his unlikely path to Cooperstown:
“I didn’t write about baseball because I was looking for the heart and soul of America. I don’t care if baseball is the national pastime or not. The thing about baseball is, it’s probably the hardest game to play. The greatest hitters are only succeeding a third of the time. If you take a great athlete who’s never played baseball and put him in the infield, he’s lost.”
“Baseball is linear — it’s like writing. In other sports, there’s a lot going on at the same time. You can’t quite take it all in.”
Earlier this year, Angell wrote his long life in the post, “This Old Man:”
“I’m not dead and not yet mindless in a reliable upstate facility. Decline and disaster impend, but my thoughts don’t linger there. It shouldn’t surprise me if at this time next week I’m surrounded by family, gathered on short notice—they’re sad and shocked but also a little pissed off to be here—to help decide, after what’s happened, what’s to be done with me now. It must be this hovering knowledge, that two-ton safe swaying on a frayed rope just over my head, that makes everyone so glad to see me again. ‘How great you’re looking! Wow, tell me your secret!’ they kindly cry when they happen upon me crossing the street or exiting a dinghy or departing an X-ray room, while the little balloon over their heads reads, ‘Holy shit—he’s still vertical!’ ”
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As a federal judge is set to rule on O’Bannon v. NCAA — which could dramatically alter the landscape of college athletics — Steve Fainaru and Tom Farrey profile the lead plaintiffs’ attorney for ESPN’s “Outside the Lines.”
“Game changer” examines the sports-related legal career of Michael Hausfeld, a hard-driving Washington class-action litigator who’s burned bridges with his former law firm as well as some of his former clients, including professional football players.
Hausfeld admittedly knows nothing about sports, and revealed it during the O’Bannon trial this summer. But he was deeply influenced by reading former NCAA executive director Walter Byers’ 1997 mea culpa, “Unsportsmanlike Conduct.”
The Byers book, Fainaru and Farrey write:
” . . . asserts that, with his help, the NCAA erected a ‘nationwide money-laundering scheme’ that enriches conferences, schools, coaches and TV networks on the backs of unpaid athletes. Byers confessed that he helped invent the term ’student-athlete’ to shield the NCAA from having to pay the players.
“To Hausfeld, the book was ‘an amazing revelation’ that helped convince him he had a case. He found that other economists had reached the same conclusions about the NCAA. Two years after the publication of Byers’ book, a former Berkeley economics professor named Ernie Nadel was watching a bowl game when an announcer mentioned that Florida coach Steve Spurrier earned $2 million a year. Nadel approached one of his colleagues, Dan Rascher, and asked how it could be that the head football coach for a public university was making so much money.
” ‘Because he’s good at recruiting talent,’ Rascher said. ‘And you can’t pay the talent.’
” ‘This is legal?’ Nadel responded.
“That inquiry ultimately led to one of the first class-action antitrust cases against the NCAA. Rascher and fellow economist [Andy] Schwarz hoped the case would go to trial. But in 2008, attorneys accepted a $10 million settlement from the NCAA for ‘bona fide educational expenses’ to be distributed to some 12,000 athletes over a three-year period. The lawyers made almost as much money. The NCAA emerged unscathed. Schwarz and Rascher were furious. Hausfeld, who hired them as expert witnesses, gave their cause new life.
“All Hausfeld needed was a name to attach to the case.”
But previous sports clients offered a cautionary tale in dealing with Hausfeld, who represented former NFL players in a 2011 case. Six NFL star retirees sued, claiming the league illegally used their identities in NFL Films productions. Hausfeld worked a $50 million settlement (with another $8 million going to lawyers) that included no direct payment to players or insurance, which some players, including Buffalo Bills Hall of Fame offensive lineman Joe DeLamielleure, said was all they wanted.
Instead, he was among those thinking Hausfeld sold them out, and the bitter haggling between lawyer and players continued into 2012. Said DeLamielleure:
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“I thought he was sent from God to help us. Then I realized he was the devil.”