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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars baseball writing at it's best, 29 Dec 2001
By 
A.D.M. (Norwich, UK) - See all my reviews
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If you appreciate the quality baseball writing around today (such as baseball prospectus) then you simply must own this book. I've recently started finding some of Bill James' older work (the Baseball Abstract series from the '80's) and this book picks up his legacy and then takes it further. James offers insights into each decade of baseball, breaking it down with interesting notes and stories that aren't just your typical "and then so and so won the world series", but actually bringing the era's to life. It is written engagingly, humourously, and it really is a joy to read. You can tell that James' still loves to dispel common (mis)conceptions about the game of baseball, and does it in thought provoking fashion. The second half of the book sees James rank the top 100 (!) players at EACH position. An impressive task, and one he carries off as you would expect.
This is the book of the year for the inquisitve baseball fan. Do not miss it.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Just buy it right now, 16 Sep 2008
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This review is from: The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract (Paperback)
If you're interested in baseball, this is an essential book; it's tempting to stop the review right there and simply direct you to the "Add to Basket" button. For your money, you get a huge volume that effectively combines two books: in the first half, a decade-by-decade history of the sport, charting its evolution, then in the second half James applies his new statistical metric, "Win Shares" - an attempt to compute the contribution an individual player makes to his team's record and thus his overall value compared to others of different teams or different eras - to compiling lists of the 100 best players at each position. As previous readers of James's work will know - or, indeed, anyone who's simply aware of his guru-like status among some baseball fans will guess - James is reluctant simply to pass on received opinions and is always ready to sink his teeth into a woolly generalisation or piece of conventional wisdom and ask its upholders to justify it with reference to facts and numbers. Along the way, he finds time for all sorts of humourous, cranky or opinionated diversions - for each decade, for example, we get a few particularly strange names picked out, and essays on particular questions that the decade poses (are we justified in calling the various shortlived organisations that preceded or paralleled the National League in the late nineteenth century "major leagues" in terms of quality of play, for instance?). It's a delight to read it cover to cover or just to dip in - it's like having a long conversation during a game with an opinionated eccentric friend who knows an enormous amount and is prone to use his knowledge to launch huge speculations that demand you argue about them. Is there anything sports fans like better than arguing about the game - particularly when the questions can't ever be given a definitive answer? Is Roger Clemens better than Walter Johnson? Nolan Ryan - overrated? What do we think of the save statistic, or of RBI, as indicators of a player's worth? Let the debates commence...
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract, 2 Jun 2003
By 
Mr S J Laville (Leeds, West Yorkshire United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract (Paperback)
An absolutely superb piece of work. If you are at all interested in the history of the game, and the attributes and skills that make-up winning ballplayers, (Whether casually, or as a full blown anorak), this is absolutely the book for you. I have read Bill James before (in the also excellent "Politics of Glory"), and had very high expectations of this book, but even these were exceeded. There is something to hold your attention on every page, and the way in which the author explodes common myths, or assesses the true worth of underrated players left me amazed at his depth of knowledge, and powers of analysis. He always presents his point in an interesting, balanced, but ultimately convincing manner. The man is a genius!
Finally, the way the book is structured is perfect for dipping in and out of, an added attraction for people like myself with two young children!
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Fantastic Collection of Baseball Writing, 2 April 2014
By 
JWH (East Midlands, England) - See all my reviews
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This is a magnificent book to browse through for a quirky and refreshing history of the game, the players who played it and how and why the game changed over the years. Bill James loves to explain why the 'accepted view' of things is wrong so there is always something to be surprised by. The book is split into two sections, the first being a run through of the history of baseball decade-by-decade, showing how different players, different ballparks, different rules and different organizations changed the game. Personally I found it fascinating to see just how much the rules and equipment, and in particular the ballparks, change how the players played the game and give each period its distinctive character. It also includes an equivalent section on the Negro Leagues and lots of pieces about various players and teams in the minor leagues. James specifically sets out to include both the broad sweep of the history, but also the little details of games and players which make the whole thing designed for the fans much more than the academics. The second section is an assessment of the top 100 ball players in each of the positions, using his 'Win Shares' formula (basically a way of calculating each individual players contribution to his team's victories - it gets explained in much more detail in the book). Again, it has lots of interesting details and anecdotes to flesh out the statistics.
The book is quite big and most readers will probably prefer to dip in and out. However, it does form a cohesive and logical whole which equally supports cover-to-cover reading.
I have both the hardback and the kindle version. The hardback version is brilliant. The kindle version, considered purely from the design point of view is only fair. There are occasions where tabulated information is hard to read, or in a place slightly distant from the text it refers too. Similarly, the sidebars which work so well in the hardback version haven't always been ported across whole to the kindle version, so there are times when there is a baseball anecdote interrupted by a discussion of 'Baseball Uniforms in the 1960s' in its entirety and then resumed. I can't think of an instance where this lost me entirely, but it did break the flow.
However, both versions are highly recommended to all baseball fans.
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The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract
The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract by Bill James (Paperback - 17 Mar 2003)
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