I remember the heavy gentle lift at my thighs and the ball curving back closer and my passing the ball and beating the ball in flight over the horizontal net, my feet not once touching the ground over fifty-odd feet, a cartoon, and then there was chaff and crud in the air all over and both Antitoi and I either flew or were blown pinwheeling for I swear it must have been fifty feet to the fence one court over, the easternmost fence, we hit the fence so hard we knocked it halfway down, and it stuck at degreesntitoi detached a retina and had to wear those funky Jabbar retina goggles for the rest of the summer, and the fence had two body-shaped indentations like in cartoons where the guy's face makes a cast in the skillet that hit him, two catcher's masks of fence, we both got deep quadrangular lines impressed on our faces, torsos, legs' fronts, from the fence, my sister said we looked like waffles, but neither of us got badly hurt, and no homes got whacked--either the thing just ascended again for no reason right after, they do that, obey no rule, follow no line, hop up and down at something that might as well be will, or else it wasn't a real one. Antitoi's tennis continued to improve after that, but mine didn't.
Angell made terrific use of his skill as a perceptive, sympathetic reporter when he was spending time with Steve Blass, an ace Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher who mysteriously lost the ability to throw strikes after the 1972 season. By the time Angell met with him for a 1975 profile, “Down the Drain,” Blass was out of the game entirely, four years removed from pitching the winning game of the 1971 World Series. Other writers had approached him, trying to crack the mystery of how he had suddenly lost it, but he understood that Angell would reach for more than a story about “a guy who could pitch and then suddenly couldn’t pitch.” It took some thought and imagination for Angell to come up with an ending. There was still a pitcher in Blass, or a man who thought like a pitcher, he reasoned. And so, for the story’s final scene, in Blass’ living room, Angell asked him to “pitch” an imaginary inning against the mid-seventies Cincinnati Reds, the greatest-hitting team of its era. Blass described his thought process as he worked his way through the inning, batter by batter, and, with it, they had written the hardest part of the story—the ending—together.