The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract Paperback – Jun 13 2003
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From Publishers Weekly
A premier baseball analyst and brand name, James (The Bill James Player Ratings Book, The Bill James Guide to Baseball Managers) releases a revised edition of his 1985 classic, with expanded player and team histories and reconsidered commentary. Divided into two sections, "The Game" and "The Players," this comprehensive and opinionated tome describes the evolution of the sport over the decades (uniforms in the 1890s, best minor league teams of the 1930s, the Negro Leagues, etc.) and the characteristics of its players (stats, injuries, habits and proclivities). The thumbnail player sketches in the second section (the 100 greatest players at each position) vary widely in content and tone: the entry on Lefty Gomez includes a page on his public-speaking abilities, while of Kevin Brown, James merely writes, "I don't root for him, either, but he is a great pitcher." (James has assigned the rankings according to a statistical rating formula he calls Win Shares, which he explains conceptually and mathematically.) The game section, though, is the standout. It may not contain detailed statistical leaders or standings for each year, or even who won each World Series, but it does offer information on new stadiums, the competitiveness of different leagues and shifts in the way the game was played. At the end of each chapter, a "decade in a box" lists major statistics and Jamesian awards, varying from the quantitative (the team with the best record) and the qualitative (the best switch hitter) to the quirky (the decade's ugliest player). (Dec.)Forecast: There are enough baseball and Bill James fans to ensure steady sales, and the pub date near enough to the World Series might encourage a few extra readers. A uniquely personal, even iconoclastic guide, this belongs in baseball libraries to counterpoint The Baseball Encyclopedia and Total Baseball.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Library Journal
True to form, James's new Historical Baseball Abstract is filled with often fascinating and frequently quirky evaluations and insights regarding the history of baseball. Starting with the 1870s, James explores, decade by decade, how and where the game was played and who played it. He discusses nicknames, top minor-league teams, and the most admirable superstars, among other matters. At the close of the initial 13 chapters, the author highlights each ten-year period "in a box," with a player or two tagged as the best-looking, the ugliest, the fastest, the slowest, and so forth. The last half of the book presents James's evaluations of the top 100 or more players at each position. Some are expected, with Lou Gehrig and Jimmie Foxx, for example, deemed the top first basemen. But Hank Greenberg is slotted in only at eighth place, and then James spends most of his time ragging on the great slugger's performance as the Cleveland Indians' general manager from 1949 to 1957. In other instances, the description of a player's on-field antics is melded with curious social commentary. All of this makes for a sometimes illuminating, occasionally exasperating book certain to engender controversy among baseball aficionados. For general libraries. R. C. Cottrell, California State Univ., Chico
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
Overall, it is a definitive book to have on your baseball shelf. James rates many more players than he did in 1987 and introduces a new statistic called "Win Shares" from which most findings are based. I was disappointed with his explanation for wins shares theory and even more frustrated to learn that you had to buy the "Win Shares" companion piece [not cheap] just to understand his derivations. The preface/introduction in the historical abstract does not fully describe the intricacies of the method (particularly for defensive win shares), making it difficult to appreciate his conclusions. His finding that Craig Biggio is the 35th greatest player of all time, for example, is met with skepticism because the reader is not given complete proof. Yes, we know Biggio can create runs -- that is a Jamesian throwback -- but how precisely do these runs contribute to wins? The reader won't know all the details until he purchases the "Win Shares" volume.......
Some of James' conclusions arbitrarily deviate from the quantitative analyses. He goes to the trouble of developing a systematic approach for win shares but then does not do us the service of explaining why certain players rate higher than their individual values would indicate (see Don Mattingly). Such deviations do not lend confidence to a value scheme which Mr. James himself is VERY fond of.
However, there is no reason for owners of the 2001 edition to consider buying the new edition. There's really nothing new here. Well, sure, James has added a few pages of new material, but it's not very good and it does not add anything substantive to any of the myriad topics raised in the book's 2001 text. Most of the genuinely new material consists of James' corrections. But the editors of the new edition have not actually made any of these corrections to the text itself. For example, James writes that he erred in saying that the 1914 A's had history's best infield, judged by Win Shares; a mathematical error led him to overlook the 1913 A's, whose infielders earned even more Win Shares. But page 548 still lists the 1914 A's as the Win Sharingest infield of all time.
Most infuriatingly of all, James casually mentions in this edition that all index references to pages after 945 were off by a page in the previous edition. But the new edition does not correct this error; the new index is just as wrong as it was in the old edition. So when you go to look up John Dopson, the index tells you to look on page 956. Only his name does not appear there; it appears on page 957.
Here, then, is something innovative: A reference book that cannot be referred to, and a new edition that mentions but does not correct errors in the previous edition.
All in all, this might be the sorriest excuse for a "new edition" in recent publishing history. Considered in the abstract, "The New Bill James Historical Abstract" deserves five stars. But considered as an updated edition of a classic, the 2003 version deserves no stars at all.
Most recent customer reviews
HUGE book... although it's been updated many times since the original publishing there are still a lot of tidbits of information on each page. Read morePublished 12 months ago by PompousMoose
Bill James has been cooking statistics to support his own prejudices for twenty years. Think about it. Read morePublished on June 10 2004 by antistat
The Historical Baseball Abstract is one of the most important books ever written about baseball. It covers the history of the Major Leagues in a very enlightening and entertaining... Read morePublished on Dec 10 2003 by Jeffrey Lichtman
I like this book, but I must caustion the prospective buyer that Bill James is an acquired taste, even for fans of advanced baseball statistics. Read morePublished on Aug. 17 2003
This latest edition shows James at his finest, in the form of numerous essays and thoughts about the game, ranging from the "history" he provides of the game from the... Read morePublished on Aug. 8 2003 by Todd Hawley
This was good, but maybe not as good as I expected. As noted by Michael Lewis in "Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game", Bill James has been the unsung hero of a... Read morePublished on July 17 2003 by Randy Given
One of my friends who lives two blocks from Wrigley Field but (inexplicably) does not give a hoot about baseball once commented to me, "I can't stand baseball fans. Read morePublished on July 10 2003 by P. C.
This is by far the most authoritative, informative and entertaining baseball guide around. It is not, however, objective and Bill James does not keep his likes and dislikes well... Read morePublished on June 3 2003 by Lisa Bahrami
How can you not like this book?
Bill James is a stat-head. You already know that. And if this were simply a compilation of obscure stats -- many made up by James himself --... Read more