Baseball Books

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a thread for talking about baseball books.

actually, i'm just starting this because i ordered the neyer/james guide to pitchers the other day. it's basically an enyclopedia of pitchers and pitches. i'm trying to find a nice bullet outline somewhere but it apparently contains:

-articles describing all the major pitches, how they're thrown, what they do, who threw them the best, etc
-a register of every major mlb pitcher (1000 innings/400 games) and their repetoires
-assorted pitcher biographies and pitching-related essays

there's an excerpt, obviously written by james, over at espn:

John (jdahlem), Wednesday, 16 June 2004 03:04 (nineteen years ago) link

I'm glad you brought up this topic. I had a couple of hours to kill the other day between work and my softball game, so I spent most of that time at B&N reading through parts of Neyer's Big Book of Baseball Lineups. Mainly I just read the Astros chapter. Fascinating stuff. I learned a lot of things I didn't know about the team that I thought I knew everything about, so I can only imagine what kind of info the rest of the book contains.

Another one I ran across that looked pretty cool was something called 9 Innings by Daniel Okrent. Basically, its a pitch-by-pitch, inning-by-inning account of a 1982 regular season game between the Milwaukee Brewers and the Baltimore Orioles, with lots of back story woven in about the players, managers, and owners (including one Bud Selig). I read till about two outs in the top of the first and witnessed a Lenn Sekata leadoff homer off of Bob McClure. It reads somewhat like it's aimed at the baseball novice, but it's not too dumbed down to be enjoyable.

boldbury (boldbury), Wednesday, 16 June 2004 04:26 (nineteen years ago) link

I just bought the Neyer/James Pitchers Book last weekend, have only thumbed through it so far; there's not only the "census" section of all notable hurlers in history (well, no Kyle Farnsworth, but Brandon Webb, Firpo Marberry and Charlie Brown are in there) and what they threw, but essays on some HOF-quality non-HOF pitchers (Tommy Bridges, Bob Friend) and a detailed glossary of pitch types. (btw, James says in the intro that Neyer -- his former assistant -- did most of the work.)

The Neyer Lineups book is well worth getting too, years of bathroom enjoyment to be had.

Dr Morbius (Dr Morbius), Wednesday, 16 June 2004 12:39 (nineteen years ago) link

The Neyer Lineups book is well worth getting too, years of bathroom enjoyment to be had.

Seriously Morbs. Years? There aren't that many photos in the book.

boldbury (boldbury), Wednesday, 16 June 2004 13:59 (nineteen years ago) link

Clearly you underestimate the appeal of baggy wool.

David R. (popshots75`), Wednesday, 16 June 2004 14:01 (nineteen years ago) link

Wait til you guys hit 40 and spend more time in the john.

Neyer & James on ESPN chat yesterday:

One of the Ed Linn books James recommends, the co-authored autobio "Veeck as in Wreck," I recall from my dad's bookshelf; probably the first baseball book I read most of, succeeded by Roger Kahn's profanely nostalgic "The Boys of Summer" on the '50s Dodgers (and Kahn's '30s/40s boyhood).

Dr Morbius (Dr Morbius), Wednesday, 16 June 2004 15:29 (nineteen years ago) link

Wait til you guys hit 40 and spend more time in the john.

Oh, I hear ya. The men in my family call it the "Oldbury Curse".

Maybe this was TMI.

boldbury (boldbury), Wednesday, 16 June 2004 15:33 (nineteen years ago) link

ooooh I so need Veeck as in Wreck.

hstencil (hstencil), Wednesday, 16 June 2004 16:02 (nineteen years ago) link

i've read: moneyball, the recent koufax bio (eh), ball four (great! otto's recommendation).

I am getting started on "The Boys Of Summer" (morbius' recommendation). it's a little bit more sepia toned but i like it so far.

gygax! (gygax!), Wednesday, 16 June 2004 19:25 (nineteen years ago) link

George Will's "Men at Work" is a good read.

earlnash, Wednesday, 16 June 2004 19:30 (nineteen years ago) link

i don't think i've ever tried a...narrative style baseball book (ie something you'd read from beginning to end), other than moneyball. but i might try one or two of the rec's on this thread some time.

as for flip open and read baseball books, every fan should own a copy of james' NHBA. am i the only person here who has a copy? i hawk it at every opportunity everywhere because i'm sure it would appeal to anyone with an interest in the game.

so "profanely nostalgic" is a compliment?? i guess i read that differently.

John (jdahlem), Wednesday, 16 June 2004 19:38 (nineteen years ago) link

David Halberstam's books on the '64 Cardinals and the '49 Sox/Yankees are good reads.

I saw a new book at Barnes & Noble following a season in the Cape Cod League, but I'll wait to take a chance on it in paperback.

miloauckerman (miloauckerman), Wednesday, 16 June 2004 19:41 (nineteen years ago) link

"David Halberstam's books on the '64 Cardinals and the '49 Sox/Yankees are good reads."
i'm immediately interested in both of these. "summer of 49" and "october 1964"?

the cape cod league has always fascinated me, the "summer in maine" aspect of it as much as anything else.

John (jdahlem), Wednesday, 16 June 2004 19:47 (nineteen years ago) link

That's the two. I see them at used bookstores all the time, if you've got one near you. I got a hardcover "Summer of '49" for $5 a few weeks ago.

'49 is U&K if you're a Yankees fan. He paints a really nice portrait of Joe D., which may or may be complete BS, but I prefer to believe it's true.

miloauckerman (miloauckerman), Wednesday, 16 June 2004 19:50 (nineteen years ago) link

the NY Times review bummed me on the idea of the new '86 Mets book. Not enough specifics on drugging and whoring.

hstencil (hstencil), Wednesday, 16 June 2004 19:59 (nineteen years ago) link

I came damn close to picking up the Mets book to see how the other half lived, but decided to wait since I hadn't heard anything about it.

I'll big up Ball Four and the Halberstam books, and add Tom Adelman's The Long Ball, which is about the '75 season (ostensibly it's about the Series, but it really rambles through the season like one of those four-page SI pre-playoffs recaps, except book-length). I've also got this big monstrosity called The Baseball Chronicle -- I can't see from here who the publisher is -- that sold cheap at the discount tables at Barnes & Noble and covers highlights year by year up to ... 2001, I think, maybe 2002.

I have The Physics of Baseball sitting on my desk waiting to be read, but it's still waiting.

Ken Burns' book doesn't seem like it's actually meant to be read, so I suppose it's a good baseball coffeetable book.

Spaceman's Little Red Sox Book is fun -- I keep meaning to buy it, but just ... well, read a chapter or two at a time in the bookstore, to be honest. It's pretty slim.

And I've only read excerpts of and articles by Roger Angell, but he seems worth picking up.

Tep (ktepi), Thursday, 17 June 2004 12:04 (nineteen years ago) link

(And in case novels come up, let me caution you against W.P. Kinsella's If Wishes Were Horses, which is so relentlessly terrible it made me like his good stuff less.)

Tep (ktepi), Thursday, 17 June 2004 12:15 (nineteen years ago) link

I can't give you a citation, Milo, but Halberstam's two books have been nailed for being absolutely riddled with factual errors -- easily checkable ones. I recall DiMag was reported to hate the '49 book for whatever reasons.

You said in the other thread someone gave you "Win Shares." Man, that's one James book I knew was NOT for me -- too much pure theory. And he said in the ESPN chat this week "I made four significant mistakes in the design of Win Shares; four that I know of. I am making notes about a next-generation of Win Shares..." So why lay out $20 for a work in progress?

Like I was telling h at the park last night, a friend reports "The Bad Guys Won" is worth it just for dumb ballplayer anecdotes, and the excerpt I read involving the Animal House destruction of the post-pennant-winning charter flight out of Houston (complete with puking wives) was good Flushing Confidential stuff. Nothing about Keith Hernandez's rumored liaison with the San Diego Chicken, alas.

Dr Morbius (Dr Morbius), Thursday, 17 June 2004 13:05 (nineteen years ago) link

Kinsella's Iowa Baseball Confederacy is terrible, too. The only good baseball-related fiction I've read was Philip Roth's Great American Novel

I kind of figured Halberstam's books leaned toward the fiction end when it comes to actual facts, but it doesn't bother me that much.

miloauckerman (miloauckerman), Thursday, 17 June 2004 19:03 (nineteen years ago) link

I'd make a joke about the facts not bothering milo much but I'll refrain.

hstencil (hstencil), Thursday, 17 June 2004 19:09 (nineteen years ago) link

five months pass...
Alan Schwarz, guy who does the Sunday NY Times "new stats" column Keeping Score, has a history of baseball stats I just finished, "The Numbers Game":

Filled with stuff I didn't know, from the 1860s through 2004 (did you know this was the first year Topps hadOPS on the back of cards?), from Henry Chadwick (father of the boxscore as we know it) to VOROS McCRACKEN and beyond! Many of you will beshocked at how OLD many sabermetric concepts are... It's also quite hilarious how, in the Stone Age of computers, so many stat mavens worked for the military and used the mainframes to run their baseball numbers at night. Stuff on Strat-o-Matic andother games, the Elias Bureau vs Bill James war, STATS Inc, and how Oakland became the first on-base-centric franchise TWENTY YEARS before Billy Beane (via Sandy Alderson and Steve Boros).

(particularly recommended to Alex in SF)

Dr Morbius (Dr Morbius), Monday, 22 November 2004 15:54 (eighteen years ago) link

Hahaha fuck off.

Alex in SF (Alex in SF), Monday, 22 November 2004 16:46 (eighteen years ago) link

I'll check it out though. It looks interesting enough.

Alex in SF (Alex in SF), Monday, 22 November 2004 16:52 (eighteen years ago) link

Let's play nice!

gygax! (gygax!), Monday, 22 November 2004 17:31 (eighteen years ago) link

We are! I'm totally sincere in wanting Alex to read it, and am never offended by a friendly "Fuck off."

Has anyone seen the new Bill James handbook? Coliseum Books on 42nd usually has it by now...

Dr Morbius (Dr Morbius), Monday, 22 November 2004 17:45 (eighteen years ago) link

the sandy alderson stuff was mentioned, practically in passing, in moneyball! i didn't get that either, must've been because it didn't mesh well enough w/ the narrative, or had to edited out for length. it was like "billy beane would be NOTHING w/out sandy alderson, who did all this shit before he did. ok moving on"

John (jdahlem), Monday, 22 November 2004 18:40 (eighteen years ago) link

eleven months pass...
i seem to remember reading a little while ago about a new book coming out by some top baseball website that was all about last year's red sox world series win, but i now can't work out what it is - anyone? and is it any good?

also, tips of books for someone who knows pretty much nothing about baseball, except for what i managed to glean from watching a few games on tv, would be appreciated.

toby (tsg20), Wednesday, 9 November 2005 10:35 (seventeen years ago) link

Baseball Prospectus' "Mind Game" book

Yes, it's good.

Dr Morbius (Dr Morbius), Wednesday, 9 November 2005 14:37 (seventeen years ago) link

I'm reading The Wrong Stuff by Bill "Spaceman" Lee right now... it's pretty hilarious.

gygax! (gygax!), Wednesday, 9 November 2005 16:02 (seventeen years ago) link

two years pass...

friend of a friend is putting out a graphic novel about satchel paige and jim crow...

j.q higgins, Thursday, 13 December 2007 18:56 (fifteen years ago) link

the new Connie Mack bio by Norman Macht is sposed to be definitive.

Dr Morbius, Thursday, 13 December 2007 19:57 (fifteen years ago) link

three months pass...

I am enjoying that Neyer/James Book of Pitchers.

Got randyrolled yesterday.

Instead of the copy of Christy Mathewson's Pitching in a Pinch that I ordered, I got this.

felicity, Thursday, 3 April 2008 20:28 (fifteen years ago) link

Belisarius, Friday, 4 April 2008 07:30 (fifteen years ago) link

Oh! I just read about that book and "wa" in the Cubs spring program.

It said that cultural differences between Japan and America were responsible for the Giants' inability to retain Manasori Murikami after 1965. Apparently the MLB negotiators were more strict in their reading of the reserve clause, whereas the Japanese expected the "spririt" of the deal to prevail. The article was pretty brief but I gather that the "spirit" referred to was that NPB used to send "non-prospects" to the U.S. for seasoning, and when Murikami turned into an actual MLB prspect, they felt that he should go back to Japan, despite the literal meaning of the contract language. It sounds like Murikami (semi-) voluntarily returned to NLP, even though he technically could have stayed in the U.S. under his contract.

I guess it was only because Nomo found some sort of legal loophole in the standard NLP contract that allowed him to sign with the Dodgers in the 1980s. Perhaps that represented some historical cultural shift in Japan's attitude to contract. More recently they seem to have stood on the letter of contract (much to their profit).

It didn't explain the "posting" process that well. Apparently Fukudome didn't have to be posted like other recent Japanese players.

"Wa" (group harmony) is neat. Let us bury our tomahawks and have wa on ILBB.

felicity, Friday, 4 April 2008 15:30 (fifteen years ago) link

two months pass...

Just read Summer of '49 -- was kinda hoping for a 50/50 split regarding Sox / Yankees nostalgia-tinted schmooze, & not back-in-the-day when-men-were-men Yankeeography action clumsily intercut w/ "these are fans!" anecdotes. (Unrelated: every time DH leaned on Triple Crown stats or W-L records, I rolled my eyes.) Some cool stories & quotes & stuff, but doesn't really seem to congeal as a book so much, and "the great DiMaggio" can go fart in a hat.

Also read excerpts of that O'Nan / King 2004 Red Sox diary thing a while back. Whatever interest I had in pro-RSN propoganda was totally squelched by that piece of shit.

NB: I hate everything. :p

David R., Friday, 13 June 2008 17:39 (fifteen years ago) link

the o'nan/king book was interesting early because that team did take a dip that looked like it would be their annual august swoon and o'nan totally starts ripping the team. but when they hold on and the playoffs it was too much even for me.

chicago kevin, Friday, 13 June 2008 17:47 (fifteen years ago) link

mookieproof, Saturday, 14 June 2008 03:14 (fifteen years ago) link

I read "Summer of '49" when I was fifteen or so. I found it a bit long-winded and boring. No need to revisit it, I guess? :)

NoTimeBeforeTime, Sunday, 15 June 2008 15:33 (fifteen years ago) link

apparently it's full of errors.

Dr Morbius, Monday, 16 June 2008 14:56 (fifteen years ago) link

eight months pass...

We're pleased to make two major announcements to the SABR membership and the baseball community at large:

1) SABR is now the publisher of The Emerald Guide to Baseball, and
2) SABR is making the PDF version of The Emerald Guide to Baseball 2009 available as a FREE download from the members-only section of the website (and be sure to direct friends and family to so they can get a copy too).

Edited by acclaimed baseball historians (and SABR members) Gary Gillette and Pete Palmer, The Emerald Guide distills the 2008 season down to 586 fact-filled pages that contain the pitching, fielding, and hitting statistics for every player active in the major and minor leagues in 2008. The Emerald Guide fills the hole in the baseball record left by the 2006 demise of the Sporting News Baseball Guide and contains all of the same features and then some, such as team-by-team daily results, a directory of important contacts, and a synopsis of the just-completed season. A bound version of The Emerald Guide is available via print on demand at for $23.94.

Making the PDF of The Emerald Guide available fre to anyone with accesss to a computer is a direct way for SABR to fulfill its mission of disseminating the history and record of baseball. And you, our members, help the organization fulfill this mission each and every day. One of our objectives is for to be bookmarked by everyone with a serious interest in baseball. The Emerald Guide offers a step in that direction.

SABR plans to publish The Emerald Guide annually. Gillette and Palmer also authored 2007 and 2008 editions of The Emerald Guide (co-published with Sports-Reference). Free PDF versions of these editions are also available from the SABR website.

Thank you for your commitment to SABR and its mission. We hope you enjoy The Emerald Guide to Baseball 2009.


John Zajc, Executive Director,c,2766,36,0

Dr Morbius, Wednesday, 11 March 2009 20:28 (fourteen years ago) link

fwiw, i third (?) bellisarius and felicity's recommendation of you gotta have wa. it provides a lot of interesting history of japanese baseball even if it's bit dated at this point. it would be interesting to see a new edition taking into account ichiro, matsui et al on one hand and bobby valentine on the other.

anybody have an opinion on that somewhat recent dimaggio bio? i think the author was richard cramer?

j.q higgins, Thursday, 12 March 2009 11:56 (fourteen years ago) link

has anone bought the Fielding Bible II? Froma BP interview with author John Dewan:

The one thing I'd bring up that was kind of fun, was the analysis of Nate McLouth and Carlos Gomez; McLouth won a Gold Glove, and Gomez didn't. Carlos Gomez had the most defensive misplays in center field, which is a characteristic of young players that we've found; other young players up there are Delmon Young, B.J. Upton, and his brother, Justin Upton. All of these players have more defensive misplays. But Carlos Gomez covers so much more ground, that it just shows through on the number of runs saved. The difference that we found between Nate McLouth and Carlos Gomez was amazingly straightforward. Simply, Gomez is covering ground in deep center field, where fielding a ball is much more valuable, than Nate McLouth, who covers more ground in shallow center field, where making a catch means that you're saving a single. Gomez, meanwhile, is saving doubles and triples. It looks to be that the biggest problem for Nate McLouth is that he should play deeper. He has good skills and a lot of good fielding plays in our system, but when we break it down between shallow, medium, and deep, which is something we did in the book this year, he's plus on shallow balls, and minus on medium and deep.

also measures Varitek as worst recent Boston catcher, lol

Past a Diving Jeter (Dr Morbius), Friday, 20 March 2009 21:16 (fourteen years ago) link

Yeah that was weird though cuz it sort of seemed like the return of CERA which seems very suspect.

Alex in SF, Friday, 20 March 2009 21:28 (fourteen years ago) link

two months pass...

The Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) is pleased to announce the winners of the 2008 SABR-Sporting News Awards: Ron Selter for Ballparks of the Deadball Era; Andy Strasberg, Bob Thompson and Tim Wiles for Baseball's Greatest Hit; and Jim Walker and Rob Bellamy for Center Field Shot: A History of Baseball on Television. The winners will receive their awards on Saturday, August 1, 2009, in Washington, DC, at the JW Marriott, Pennsylvania Avenue during SABR's annual convention.

The Sporting News-SABR Baseball Research Award recognizes outstanding baseball research published in the previous calendar year in areas other than history and biography. The Award is designed to honor projects that do not fit the criteria for The Seymour Medal or the McFarland-SABR Baseball Research Award. The Sporting News sponsors the $200 cash awards that accompany the honor.

Ballparks of the Deadball Era is Ronald Selter's comprehensive study of Deadball Era-ballparks and park effects, in which he shows the extent to which ballparks determined the style of play. Organized by major league city, this fact-filled, data-heavy commentary includes all 34 ballparks used by the American and National Leagues from 1901 through 1919.

In Baseball's Greatest Hit, Strasberg, Thompson, and Wiles present the complete story of the third-most frequently sung song in America: “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” The book features countless photos and illustrations, providing a pictorial history of the song’s influence on the game and American culture. A bonus CD is also included, which features many rare and classic recordings of the song from artists such as Dr. John, the Ray Brown Trio, Carly Simon, and George Winston.

In Center Field Shot, Walker and Bellamy trace the sometimes contentious but mutually beneficial relationship between baseball and television, from the first televised game in 1939 to the contemporary era of Internet broadcasts, satellite radio, and high-definition TV. Ultimately, the association of baseball with television emerges as a reflection American culture at large.

Dr Morbius, Friday, 22 May 2009 01:19 (fourteen years ago) link

seven months pass...

Baseball America's top ten of '09:

Rage, Resentment, Spleen (Dr Morbius), Tuesday, 5 January 2010 08:55 (thirteen years ago) link

one month passes...

dude's got a blog too!

Tracer Hand, Wednesday, 24 February 2010 00:26 (thirteen years ago) link

four weeks pass...

anyway it's no surprise that even the guys he thought he'd portrayed lovingly -- like manager joe schultz -- hated him for it

mookieproof, Monday, 28 June 2021 05:21 (two years ago) link

The other players know he's writing a book and don't trust him because of it, that's clear from the few times that he breaks the fourth wall. Obviously he didn't care about being seen as a loner who would sit in a corner by himself writing rather than socializing with the other players, that didn't endear him to anyone either. The players respect him and his accomplishments -- with reason, for as a star player on a WS winning team, he'd accomplished more than any of those Pilots misfits ever had and ever did -- but they don't particularly like him as a person at all.

So yeah, Bouton was a dick but OTOH he understood that in an era when players didn't earn multimillion dollar salaries and were trapped by the reserve clause, he had to look out for himself and build a career outside of baseball before it was too late. Can't fault him for that.

NoTimeBeforeTime, Monday, 28 June 2021 09:41 (two years ago) link

I dunno mookie I think he’s pretty smart and pretty funny. the opening few grafs are a masterpiece of self deprecation and a window into the baseline psyche of what motivates (a lot of) professional athletes

Tracer Hand, Monday, 28 June 2021 09:58 (two years ago) link

he drips condescension for everyone

Could not disagree more--it's a book by someone who loves every last stupid thing about the game.

clemenza, Monday, 28 June 2021 10:04 (two years ago) link

I’m maybe 2/3 of the way through and I don’t get a “dripping with condensation” vibe.
He acknowledges his views are out of step with most of his teammates - which makes him a “commie” outsider to some of them. And I don’t think he’s all that condescending to them despite that. He only seems to really come down on coaches and managers, and he’s not wrong about the points he makes. He explains his thoughts on that well enough.
I’m finding his views (some, not all) surprisingly progressive for the time/profession.

The only thing that jumps out at me is him talking about players being unfaithful and the looking up girls skirts in the stands. Obviously players arent going to like having that stuff shared, he should have known using real names for stuff like that was going to have a lot of blow back.

Could not disagree more--it's a book by someone who loves every last stupid thing about the game.

About the game, yes. About the people who play it, not as much.

Like Thermo said, he was sharing details of players private lives (active players, even) and had to expect some blow back. I don't think he cared whether he made enemies, everyone was equal cannon fodder for his book. That does make him an asshole, even if he was kind of a visionary at the same time.

NoTimeBeforeTime, Tuesday, 29 June 2021 07:55 (two years ago) link

Sorry to be stubborn, but still disagree: for Bouton, the game is the people who play it. When he writes of Gene Brabender--a guy he has basically zero in common with (except the game they play)-- that he could crush your spleen, it's said with humour and affection. You can make an argument that he betrayed confidences, but that pretty much holds for anyone who writes a book or makes a film where certain characters are recognizable as real people. Bouton used real names; to do otherwise would have been silly. He either writes the book honestly, or he doesn't write it--or, more probably, he just writes another pointless sports book. I don't think he cared whether he made enemies, everyone was equal cannon fodder for his book. Right--and I'm sure he knew the cost.

(But, as he also notes, at a certain point many of the players were very aware of what he was doing--some would come up and say "Here's a story for your book." His pen would fall out on the mound. So I doubt, when the book appeared, it was a total shock to many, maybe most of them.)

clemenza, Tuesday, 29 June 2021 12:28 (two years ago) link

Dirk Hayhurst didn’t use names for a lot of the players he was writing about.
But his books were a little different I suppose.

FRAUDULENT STEAKS (The Cursed Return of the Dastardly Thermo Thinwall), Tuesday, 29 June 2021 12:48 (two years ago) link

i didn't say it was a bad book! but yeah i'd have absolutely felt betrayed if i'd been his teammate (apart from marshall/hovley/bell, and even then i'd have not appreciated the attention).

he draws the line at specifically naming the married guys who fucked around on the road -- which i can absolutely understand and appreciate, but i don't think he ever understood where the line was (not least when he goes into all the 'beaver shooting')

he has a certain self-awareness that's good but doesn't go terribly far. i mean it's nice that he came to appreciate don mincher despite his alabaman origins, but somehow it never occurred to him to avoid pranking people when he was among the team's least-liked players

anyway yes the book is totally intriguing and important! but it also doesn't make me think a great deal of him

mookieproof, Wednesday, 30 June 2021 03:27 (two years ago) link

certainly the stuff about contracts/labor/marvin miller is crucial

mookieproof, Wednesday, 30 June 2021 03:31 (two years ago) link

Still waiting to buy the biography that came out last year; 10 years ago, you could wait a couple of months and used copies would start to turn up at half the price, but not anymore.

clemenza, Wednesday, 30 June 2021 18:43 (two years ago) link

five months pass...

There are more good books written about baseball than any other American team sport. Here are our 100 indispensable picks that no baseball fan should be without. via @alexbelth

— Esquire (@esquire) November 30, 2021

mookieproof, Tuesday, 30 November 2021 20:36 (one year ago) link

I count 21 that I've read, but that could be off in either direction--I have so many of them, sometimes I wasn't sure. Two of my three favourite are there, Ball Four and the first Historical Abstract; Robert Creamer's Casey Stengel biography missing. Going to look for a Boxing Day deal on the Posnanski book.

clemenza, Tuesday, 30 November 2021 20:49 (one year ago) link

four months pass...

Kill The Àmpaya!

Tracer Hand, Saturday, 16 April 2022 13:37 (one year ago) link

one month passes...
one month passes...

Halfway through Keith Law's The Inside Game. Pretty good, but I just finished the chapter where he writes about the status-quo trap, the tendency to think doing nothing is safer than change, which he illustrates with Grady Little leaving Pedro in too long in 2003, and with the Giants keeping three prospects who never panned out rather than trading for Roy Halladay (coming off a mediocre season, headed for a string of great ones) around the same time. Fine--except earlier in the book, he writes about availability bias, where a team might mistakenly jump at a known quantity primarily because he's known, and you could just as easily make the argument that the Giants avoided that. It's sometimes a here's-the-answer, what's-the-question kind of book.

clemenza, Wednesday, 6 July 2022 23:42 (one year ago) link

The book sounds interesting, but when did Law become an armchair psychologist? I get that he wants to take a break from analytics and write about the human element of the game, but has he actually researched that? Or is he just trying to pad his memoirs by giving it a more "academic" spin?

When the Halladay trade happened, it was widely thought that many teams were overvaluing their prospects and were reluctant to make trades for established stars. I don't think it had much to do with availability bias, but perhaps my timeline is a bit off? He was working for the Jays at the time, right? He'd be the right guy to comment on what front offices were generally thinking.

NoTimeBeforeTime, Thursday, 7 July 2022 07:08 (one year ago) link

The book's in the car right now, too lazy to walk out and get it, but I think he says he had a background in all this stuff at university.

The availability bias (and it might have a different name...many biases covered in this book) would have been in play in the negative: San Francisco didn't, in that particular instance, fall prey to it. My basic point is that there are all sorts of biases--the very biases he writes about--that come into play simultaneously, and when you chastise one team for falling prey to one of them, the opposite may be true for the other team; they may have wisely avoided it. In the Halladay non-trade, there was the Giants avoiding the availability bias, falling prey to the status quo bias, and--true of the Jays also--being led astray by recency bias, not making the trade because Halladay was coming off a poor season. The Jays, who made Halladay available, got away with it: the Giants passed, and the Jays got four or five more great seasons out of Halladay.

All these biases are at cross-purposes, and I think Law sometimes cherry-picks them to suit his purposes. Which is one of the biases he writes about.

clemenza, Thursday, 7 July 2022 13:45 (one year ago) link

So that Halladay non-trade was in 2004, not around the time he was actually traded years later.

Cherry picking biases sounds about right based on your description. That would annoy me as a reader but I should read the book before assuming too much.

NoTimeBeforeTime, Friday, 8 July 2022 04:38 (one year ago) link

also keith law is a prick

mookieproof, Friday, 8 July 2022 04:40 (one year ago) link

(xpost) I should have made that clear, 2004. I'm on the chapter about good decisions right now, and that deals with Halladay in 2009.

One instance where Law looks like a genius is an early chapter where he writes about vaccine hysteria (connecting it to one of his biases), and chastises people who won't get a measles vaccine, and how misinformation is feeding them, and what would happen if there were a serious epidemic, etc...and he's writing in the middle of 2019.

clemenza, Friday, 8 July 2022 14:09 (one year ago) link

five months pass...

Reading Kevin Cook's Ten Innings at Wrigley: The Wildest Baseball Game Ever, With Baseball on the Brink. Before starting, I thought it'd be Ryne Sandberg's famous game against the Cardinals (must have been a Saturday--I was watching) -

or Mike Schmidt's four-HR game -

but it's neither; it's this one:

clemenza, Friday, 23 December 2022 19:51 (nine months ago) link

I think I will be receiving the Howard Bryant Rickey book for Xmas.

lets hear some blues on those synths (brimstead), Friday, 23 December 2022 22:23 (nine months ago) link

the only player I ever had a poster of.

lets hear some blues on those synths (brimstead), Friday, 23 December 2022 22:24 (nine months ago) link

Love the kind of useless trivia you pick up from a book like Ten Innings at Wrigley.

1) Bob Boone and Randy Lerch of the Phillies remain the only pitcher-catcher combination to both homer in a game before taking the field.

2) I guess I should have known this--I didn't--but the Dodgers, in their "legendary draft of 1968," landed Garvey, Cey, Lopes, and Buckner. That's incredible...that's 8,800 hits in the same draft, many of them (probably most) for the Dodgers.

3) There was an umpire's strike in '79 (the first?). It had just been resolved before the 23-22 game in question, but the replacement umpires were still working games before they returned. The home plate umpire that day was nursing a hangover.

It's still the '70s, far and away baseball's greatest decade for me.

clemenza, Sunday, 25 December 2022 20:33 (eight months ago) link

Don't remember Danny Ozark all that well (Phillies manager in '79), but evidently he was a Yogi Berra in training. When the Phillies were mathematically eliminated in '75, he was quoted as saying "We're not out of it yet." On team morale: "Morality isn't a factor." When he was kidding around one time, he said "I'm being fascist."

Nice image after Schmidt wins the game in the 10th with a HR: two of the old-school reporters start writing their game reports on typewriters, while one of the younger reporters starts writing his on a Teleram P-1800 computer, and another writes his on a Radio Shack TRS-80.

clemenza, Tuesday, 27 December 2022 17:15 (eight months ago) link

Finished the Kevin Cook book. (Not a cookbook.) I just grabbed it off the shelf looking for something quick to read over Christmas, but it was excellent. You start with this one game that then branches off in so many different directions (beginning with histories of the Cub and Phillie franchises, all their woes and mismanagement). The cast of characters in the 23-22 game takes in HOF'ers (Schmidt and Sutter), weirdos like Tug McGraw and Dave Kingman, all those relievers I mentioned, Rose and Buckner, pure '70s guys like Bake McBride and Rawley Eastwick and Garry Maddox, Bob Boone and Tim McCarver, etc. The story of Donnie Moore is central; as I remembered, there was a whole confluence of factors that led to his suicide (which was actually a suicide/attempted murder of his wife).

Then and now. In '79, Kingman was a veritable freak, a guy who hit home runs or struck out. He led the NL that year with 131 strikeouts--which would have have placed him 56th on the MLB list in 2017. (Gorman Thomas did strike out 175 times in the AL that year.)

clemenza, Wednesday, 28 December 2022 17:38 (eight months ago) link

two months pass...

I am reading Ball Four and I love it, and though I’m only 30% in, I can otm this:

and basically, christ what an asshole

It doesn’t hurt the book I don’t think, but I am laughing at the things this guy writes and doesn’t realise what he’s saying about himself. More when I actually finish it (I only started it yesterday so I really love it).

giant bat fucker (gyac), Sunday, 5 March 2023 09:20 (six months ago) link

two weeks pass...

I’m 80% of the way through this, and into the Ball Five (post playing career?) bit so I feel qualified to comment now.

Firstly, Bouton tells the story really well. The book is full of both the broad sweep - the grinding slog of a season, from the minors to the majors and traded onwards - and the tiny details - the stuff they talk about in the bullpen, like the All-Uglies Team and the punctuation of family visits and pranks. So there’s a very frank portrayal of the professional player’s life back then, which has probably changed quite significantly since then, though the long hours of travel and boredom no doubt stay the same.

There’s some real laughs in it, he has very dry humour. But all the same, it’s clear as day that this guy is not liked, and it’s not because of his politics*, it’s because of his personality! Seriously. Steve Hovley managed to stay in the team, as did the guy who forever had a sore arm and went from starting to relief without Bouton thinking about this much besides “whyyyyyy can’t I start?”

Seriously. I won’t say that this works against the book, that it is a worse book for it, but Bouton is a prick. I got the strong sense that this would be the case even if he’d never published this. He’s always making digs and jokes at people despite clearly being disliked at best, and he absolutely loves to trot out the true catchphrase of the prick, “I couldn’t resist!” It’s a sad day when you’re sympathising with some dead-eyed big boi Bouton is dunking on just because Bouton has no clue how to read a room. If this guy was a football manager, we’d say he lost the dressing room, and in his case it would be almost as soon as he walked into it.

*Re his politics - yeah great you’re anti war, but the book is still filled with mentions of “beaver shooting”, some of which is basically upskirting aiui. That’s a criminal offence today, I found that far worse than any of the stuff about greenies or cheating on the wives or whatever.

Anyway I am finishing the last part of this but not looking forward to it. The atmosphere in the clubhouse and the tales of how the games went and how he felt pitching his knuckleball and all that - wonderful, I would read 20,000 pages of this. Him in television? I really don’t care, you know?

Classic read basically.

limb tins & cum (gyac), Thursday, 23 March 2023 20:42 (six months ago) link

I don't think I'd change anything I wrote above--and I doubt either one of us would move the other an inch as to what we think of Bouton or the book--but I'm glad you mostly liked it. Haven't read the follow-up, Glad You Didn't Take It Personally, in ages (and only once)--I should read that again. It's about his '70 season with the Astros, and also about the fall-out from Ball Four.

clemenza, Friday, 24 March 2023 01:48 (six months ago) link

i haven't read dirk hayhurst's book(s) so maybe he talks about this? (although tbf he was always marginal)

players in the minor leagues are trying desperately to *not* be in the minor leagues. they're in direct competition with their own teammates in a zero-sum game. but at the same time they're expected to publicly support each other in search of a Texas League title lol

there's a book to be written about that (even apart from the at-large racism of organized baseball)

(also 'sugar' was a good movie)

mookieproof, Friday, 24 March 2023 06:42 (six months ago) link

By the way, I should mention that the impetus for me to read this book was seeing this comic about it.

limb tins & cum (gyac), Friday, 24 March 2023 10:45 (six months ago) link

Finished Ball Four properly - all the post-career updates.

I went from finding Bouton irritating to more sympathetic. He wrote about his daughter Laurie‘s death with such tenderness and in such pain, and how it affected him. As he aged, he gained more perspective on his life. I loved his later life meeting with Steve Hovley, and that conversation he had with Gary Bell where they talk about modern players and all the money they make. He even has perspective on how pitchers are better cared for now - this is even truer now than it was in the later texts.

But yeah, as above: the perspective shift only reminds me of the original things I didn’t like much about his narration. An absolutely essential book.

limb tins & cum (gyac), Thursday, 30 March 2023 20:14 (five months ago) link

One of the most moving things--not sure if it's in there--is when, after decades of Mantle not talking to him, Bouton took the initiative and contacted him when Mantle's son died of cancer: (Wikipedia) "Bouton tried several times to make peace with Mantle, but not until Bouton sent a condolence note after Mantle's son Billy died of cancer in 1994 did Mantle contact Bouton. The two former teammates reconciled not long before Mantle's death in 1995."

clemenza, Thursday, 30 March 2023 20:42 (five months ago) link

Yeah it is in there. It was very touching.

limb tins & cum (gyac), Thursday, 30 March 2023 20:44 (five months ago) link

By the way, even though Baseball Reference discontinued their page sponsorships, they grandfathered a few around that, and I'm proud to say I'm still the sponsor of Joe Schultz's page:

His player page--I tried to get his manager page first but I think someone else had it, or maybe it cost a lot more--but it's still Joe.

clemenza, Sunday, 9 April 2023 17:58 (five months ago) link

one month passes...

Got a few at the town sale yesterday, including the International League yearbook for the 1987 season. I got excited thinking it would be filled with future HOF'ers, but no: scanning league leaders for both hitters and pitchers, the only one I can spot is Glavine, 18th in ERA. I do see the names of numerous future Jays: Mike Sharperson, Rob Ducey, Manny Lee, Lou Thorton, Sil Campusano, David ("Dave") Wells, Duane Ward, etc. The Jays had a strong farm system then. Two other names: John Gibbons, Bill Beane.

Going to start on Pat Jordan's The Suitors of Spring. Jordan was one of SI's key baseball writers in the '70s; I remember an excerpt in the magazine from A False Spring, his memoir of his own minor-league pitching career. Never read the book, but the piece ended memorably, with him completing something like a two-hit shutout and thinking he'd finally arrived. The Suitors of Spring, from '74, has essays on eight pitchers, including Seaver, McDowell, Johnny Sain, and Steve Dalkowski (9 minor league seasons, 956 IP, 1324 K, 1236 BB).

clemenza, Thursday, 11 May 2023 15:10 (four months ago) link

three weeks pass...

I’m reading Jason Turbow’s The Baseball Codes, which is about the unwritten rules of the game. Ty to Mookieproof for this! So far my favourite chapter is about retaliation:

That the Royals were willing to wait a full season for revenge hardly set precedent. Take the time in 1973 when A’s outfielder Billy North let go of his bat as he swung at an offering from Kansas City rookie Doug Bird, sending it sailing toward shortstop Freddie Patek. North jogged out to retrieve his lumber, but stopped at the mound on the way to ask the startled pitcher, “Do you remember me?” Bird replied that he did not. “I remember you,” said North. “From Quincy.” Then, to the surprise of everybody, he started swinging. “We were all stunned,” said A’s second baseman Phil Garner, watching from the dugout. “Everybody was stunned.” “We were on the bench saying, ‘What the hell’s going on?’” said A’s catcher Ray Fosse. “They started fighting, so we as teammates ran out, and so did the Royals. When it was all over, we all asked, ‘What the hell just happened?’”

What the hell happened was that in 1970, when North was a twenty-two-year-old playing for Quincy, Illinois, of the Single-A Midwest League, he had the misfortune of coming to the plate against Bird, then twenty years old and playing for Waterloo. The two batters ahead of North had connected for home runs, and Bird responded by brushing North back. After the hitter had words with Waterloo’s catcher, Bird’s next pitch drilled him in the helmet. North missed three days. That was the last time the two shared a baseball diamond as minor-leaguers. North got called up to Oakland the following season, and two years later, when he saw the transaction wire indicating that Bird had joined the Royals, he began counting down the days until Kansas City came to town.

Alas, there does not seem to be video of this. Great, great book. I feel as though a lot of these unwritten rules are softer - and I recognise what they say about players being hit by pitches cos you do see them react now - or lapsed and I’m fine with that as a spectator, but it’s great to know more about the history of the game’s culture.

TY FRANCE HATES TEXAS CONFIRMED (gyac), Monday, 5 June 2023 18:24 (three months ago) link

three weeks pass...

About halfway through the Pat Jordan book I mentioned above, The Suitors of Spring. There's a long chapter, "The Old Hand with a Prospect," about Woody Huyke--career minor-league catcher, "organization man" who obligingly goes wherever he's sent, hoping to maybe get a coaching job in the majors one day--and his relationship with Bruce Kison, 20 at the time and a year away from his famous middle-relief game in the '71 Series. It reminded me so much of Bull Durham, which I know is based on Ron Shelton's own minor-league experiences, but I bet he'd at least read Jordan's book when he sat down to write it.

Huyke never got his major-league coaching job, but:

He managed in the Pirates' organization from 1974 through 1989, and 1990 through 2004. He voluntarily stepped down as manager after the 2004 season, remaining with the Gulf Coast League Pirates as a coach. One of Woody's early successes, in 1989, was identifying Tim Wakefield's potential as a knuckleball pitcher (at the time, Wakefield was a light-hitting first baseman) and convincing the Pittsburgh Pirates organization not to release him.

Still alive; Kison died five years ago.

clemenza, Friday, 30 June 2023 15:14 (two months ago) link

Anybody read Evan Drellich's Winning Changes Everything? A friend writes that it's

a look at the Luhnow-era Astros that offers: a) a case-study reckoning with two decades of league-wide Moneyball cloning; and b) a sobering portrait of Alex Cora in his Houston days (a drunkard and a lout, according to Drellich).

Tracer Hand, Monday, 3 July 2023 13:17 (two months ago) link

The Sam McDowell chapter in the Pat Jordan book is a time-capsule snapshot of the baseball mindset just a few years before James published his first Abstract. Jordan dwells on how immensely talented McDowell is, and how that doesn't translate into gaudy W-L records. He never outright says it, but the unspoken message of the chapter is that McDowell just doesn't know how to win. He's too preoccupied with his hobbies (he paints, he's a gunsmith), he's got "too much stuff" (and therefore never had to learn how to pitch), etc., etc. Mostly, it's an obscure character flaw that holds him back: "He seems to be afraid that if he let his talent grow to its fulfillment he might cease to possess it, and it, in turn, would possess him. So he treats his talent like some unruly growth he must periodically prune before it becomes unmanageable." Huh?

What isn't mentioned: his alcoholism (understandable--probably not public knowledge when Jordan profiled him) or (barely; there's one brief acknowledgement) the mediocre teams he played for. Cleveland wasn't as bad as I thought--they had 86- and 87-win seasons during McDowell's tenure there--but they were usually under .500, and bottomed out at 60 and 62 wins.

From everything I've ever read about McDowell, it does sound like he was his own worst enemy, so I'm not saying Jordan doesn't get at something. But psychoanalyzing his W-L record is such a time capsule.

(Personal corroboration: on that 1972 trip to spring training my family took--I've posted photos here--I have a distinct memory of my dad talking to one of the players, maybe even Harry Walker, about the recent McDowell/Gaylord Perry trade. Whoever it was said that Cleveland got the better of the deal because Perry was a "winner" and McDowell wasn't. Subsequent events proved him right, but I don't think for the reason he thought.)

clemenza, Tuesday, 4 July 2023 15:20 (two months ago) link

three weeks pass...

I don't think a team-wide cheating scandal is going to hurt Altuve one bit. It'll be ancient history. If he makes it to 3000 hits, most people aren't going to be talking about 2017, they're gonna be talking about his 3000 hits. They'll talk about his Astros winning 4 pennants in 6 years (or whatever it ends up being). And they'll talk about how short he is and how unlikely his story was. Jaffe himself says that Altuve will probably go in with 3000 hits.

― ✖, Sunday, June 4, 2023 8:21 PM

Finished Andy Martino's Cheated, which is mostly about the Astros but also covers all the other rumoured and actual sign-stealing going on the past few years (plus a pre-history: Bobby Thomson, etc.). I mostly agree with ✖'s post, but not entirely. The book makes clear that Altuve was much less eager to take part than other Astros, and, numerically, received the assistance of far fewer garbage-can signals than others. But a) he did receive some--maybe 20 to their 200, although that may have been more, because sometimes the signal was no-bang, and b) his series-winning HR off Chapman in the 2019 ALCS is very murky: Altuve clearly signals as he approaches home plate that no one is to remove his jersey in all the celebrations, possibly because he was hiding some kind of signal-giving apparatus, or maybe for a more benign reason. Martino presents a couple of other possible explanations, but he doesn't commit one way or the other. History tends to simplify, so Altuve's role is ambiguous enough, I think, that all that will be remembered is that he was on that team and part of all that.

Two things I didn't know: 1) Verlander and Cole may have benefitted from doctored baseballs. I always assumed that Astros pitchers were exempt outside of additional run support, and that since no one cares about pitcher wins anymore anyway, that wouldn't matter to something like HOF viability. It seems obvious Verlander won't be affected, but it does look like he's not blameless. 2) The worst offender in terms of numerically documented trash-can signals was Springer. Which would explain the non-stop booing he got in L.A. a few days ago.

Beltran, hard to say. He was heavily involved, but at the same time, he did seem to be scapegoated--only player specifically named in the report--possibly because of earlier issues he'd won when he'd taken on MLB.

clemenza, Sunday, 30 July 2023 17:39 (one month ago) link

By the doctored baseballs do you mean the spider tack stuff? Cos that was known regarding those two, but a lot more guys than them benefited from it. Manoah famously called Cole the biggest cheater in the modern game (!) because of it.

a love song for connor wong (gyac), Sunday, 30 July 2023 17:51 (one month ago) link

No index, so I can't look it up specifically...It had to do with clubhouse people rubbing up the baseballs pre-game; the Astros pitchers would use the ones that had more or less of whatever they used. Maybe that's the same thing you're talking about. I knew Cole had issues, but I thought that had to do with stuff he was allegedly doing during the game.

clemenza, Sunday, 30 July 2023 19:15 (one month ago) link

I do recommend the book. Like a lot of people, I was half-paying attention when the story broke wide open in 2020, but then COVID happened and my attention turned elsewhere.

clemenza, Sunday, 30 July 2023 19:16 (one month ago) link

Oh that’s interesting, no it’s not the same thing, will check it out for sure 👍🏻

a love song for connor wong (gyac), Sunday, 30 July 2023 19:20 (one month ago) link

Here's Altuve's HR:

At 6:25, Ken Rosenthal actually asks him why he was signaling not to tear his shirt.

clemenza, Sunday, 30 July 2023 19:40 (one month ago) link

Gausman had some choice words about it, don’t know if you ever saw it. Kind of shocking they never punished any players.

This Astros thing is bad!!! Guys lost jobs, got sent down, missed service time bc of how they were hit in HOU. Does anyone really think they only did this in 17? #getreal

— Kevin Gausman (@KevinGausman) November 14, 2019

a love song for connor wong (gyac), Sunday, 30 July 2023 19:44 (one month ago) link

That's stressed in the book; nine pitchers lost their jobs right after a loss to the Astros in 2017 (one of them sued). Honestly, I think the timing of COVID and the lost season had a lot to do with it--within weeks of blowing up, the story was dwarfed by events. Also, to get people to talk, MLB had to (or at least decided they had to) offer players immunity

clemenza, Sunday, 30 July 2023 19:51 (one month ago) link

one month passes...

mookieproof, Tuesday, 19 September 2023 20:48 (five days ago) link

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