Thursday, June 9, 2011

#12 Vern Law

Baseball writing doesn't get much better that that provided by Roger Angell. He's produced several volumes  and I believe this, his first, is his best. The Summer Game is Angell's collected essays on the game from the early sixties through 1972. These essays, which originally appeared in New Yorker magazine touch on nearly everything significant that occurred in the game during that decade.

I'll admit to a prejudice towards this time in baseball history because of the success my Orioles had. But each and every subject here, all the Series, all the stars and stories, get Angells' touch. He's very simply one of the best writers ever. And I don't think that's an exaggeration. 

After the success of The Summer Game Angell's collected baseball writing were published several times, each book advancing in time using his work in The New Yorker and elsewhere. I also read the book Five Seasons which picks up after TSG and as the title suggests covers baseball through 1977. just more good stuff. 

Angell's book spends most of it's time in the 1960's. The opening of that decade saw one of the most iconic moments in the history of baseball, Bill Mazeroski's World Series winning blast that sent the Pirates to the title over the Yankees in seven games.

And all the attention that homer got seems to overshadow the accomplishments on the Pirate starter who won two of those Series games, Vern Law.

Law, who pitched for the Pirates (and only the Pirates) from 1951 through 1967, had about as successful a season as a pitcher can have in 1960. He won 20 games (for the first and only time in his career), picked up a save and a win (holy cow!!) in a span of three days in the two All Star games held that season, took home the Cy Young Award, led the league in complete games, made three World Series starts (winning games 1 and 4 and was the starter in that fateful Game Seven) and added that World Series ring to his mementos. 

For his career Vern Law made 364 starts for the Buccos, winning 162. He had nine double digit winning years and also helped out with the bat hitting .216 with 11 homers.

But man, that 1960!! On his '59 Topps Vern appears to be peering into the future with two things on his mind... "Just wait until I show them my stuff next year" and "Why are we all wearing these damn helmets on the mound?"


  1. For me, Angell is the best sports writer ever. I've read all his baseball compilations: The Summer Game, Five Seasons (first one I ever read), Late Innings and Season Ticket. And I've read compilations of his compilations, Once More Around the Park and Game Time.

    I need to take this summer and re-read them all.

  2. I usually don't keep books long unless they are reference books or in my O's/Colts collection. But I can't bring myself to give away the Angell books I have. They are like a diary of my favorite times as a fan.