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Watching Baseball Smarter: A Professional Fan's Guide for Beginners, Semi-experts, and Deeply Serious Geeks Paperback – March 27, 2007

4.2 out of 5 stars 173 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. "Professional fan" Hample (How to Snag Major League Baseballs), who falls squarely in the "deeply serious geek" category, has put together an invaluable resource for armchair fans. A former college shortstop, four-time attendee of Bucky Dent's Baseball School and an obsessive baseball collector, Hample covers basics like what to watch for in pitchers, catchers, hitters, fielders and base runners; he also provides answers to such nagging questions as why spectators stretch in the seventh inning and why most ballplayers grab their crotches. He explains the difference between a change-up and a split-finger fastball, breaks down a box score and offers an extensive glossary of baseball slang that defines both a "courtesy trot" and a "dying quail." Other sections address free agency and fair balls, umpires and uniform numbers, stadiums and superstitions. Trivia abounds, including the names of the 10 switch hitters honored in the National Baseball Hall of Fame and a record of inside-the-park homeruns. Hample hits the equivalent of a reference-book homerun with his witty, loose and readable style-taking a friendly for-a-fan-by-a-fan approach that doesn't hide his enormous depth of knowledge. Highly recommended for baseball watchers, Hample also schools amateur players and coaches with well-illustrated examples of some complex pitching, hitting and base-running scenarios.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Hample is known in the blogosphere as the foremost snagger of major-league baseballs (read all about it at snaggingbaseballs.mlblogs .com). Here he turns to ink and paper with a Baseball for Dummies-type guide that, thanks to its irreverent, tongue-in-cheek style, will also appeal to fans who left the dummy stage long ago. He covers such topics as the amateur draft, grips for various pitches--slider, curve, splitter, etc.--and what managers talk about on their visits to the mound. There is discussion of the seemingly obvious (the role of starting pitchers) and the more arcane (when not to slide), and there is plenty of genuinely fascinating historical trivia (how the letter K came to be the scorekeeper's symbol for a strikeout). All in all, this is a light but informative tome that will be just the ticket to get fans in the right frame of mind for opening day. Wes Lukowsky
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (March 27, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307280322
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307280329
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (173 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #17,715 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Steven Peterson TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 20, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The subtitle of this well crafted work: "A Professional Fan's Guide for Beginners, Semi-Experts, and Deeply Serious Geeks." For the first two categories, right on! Geeks are not going to learn a whole lot that they already do not know. That aside, though, this is a nice work.

Examples of what is in some of the chapters: Chapter 2 focuses on "Pitchers and Catchers." The first part of the chapter describes basic pitches (and how they are thrown)--fastball, curveball, slider, change-up, split-finger fastball, knuckleball, screwball, spitball (naughty, naughty!), eephus, and gyroball (does it even exist?). Each is described, with a bit of humor added here and there.

Chapter 5 explores "Fielding." There are brief descriptions of what each position has to do. As an old second baseman, I enjoyed reading about the basics of the double play and so on.

Chapter 6 examines "Stadiums" (but should this not be "Stadia," to use the proper Latin term?). One of the more enjoyable features is the description of some unique fields. Think Fenway Park or Wrigley Field. But why not talk about the cool stadium in Cleveland?

Chapter 9 takes a peek at "Random Stuff to Know." E.g., Why K for strikeout on scorecards? What about uniform numbers? The seventh inning stretch? And so on.

This book is a lot of fun. Even hard core baseball fans might enjoy it for its style, even though they may not learn a great deal that is new. For beginners and intermediate fans, though, this will be quite a pleasure!
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Format: Paperback
I really liked this book a lot...I learned quite a bit about baseball and I enjoyed the author's sense of humor. I don't think the book quite lives up to its subtitle: ...for beginners, semi-experts, and deeply serious geeks. It probably won't be quite basic enough to totally please the absolute beginner...but still not a bad choice either. Likewise I think that most semi-experts and serious geeks are going to be looking for something more than what is offered here. Nevertheless, I'm sure there are a lot of people out there that will really enjoy and learn from this book, the way I did. I'd recommend it for people with at least a very basic knowledge of how baseball is played, who want to learn more about a truly fascinating game.
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It's easy to read and entertaining. The book is well-edited - chapters are split up in such a way that makes it easy to find immediate answers during a game, yet it flows cohesively enough to make it an entertaining read on a quiet night. I like the extensive dictionary of baseball terms and phrases. It has lots of whats, but frequently also includes the whys behind things like the history of certain stats and the main reason the MLB did away with spitballs. There's lots of insider info, interesting facts and anecdotes; everything from how to read a box score to unusual attributes of ball parks. This book is loaded, and any baseball fan will enjoy it.
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Format: Paperback
this book is a must read for anyone interested in getting the most out of watching a baseball game. even the most knowledgeable fans will find lots of new and interesting information in this extremely thoughtful book...but not to worry, it is extemely entertaining and funny as well. in addition to the well laid out text there are references in italics linking to a prodigious glossary at the end containing every imaginable baseball term. this is a welcome addition to the literature especially as it comes right at the beginning of the new season.
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I strongly disagree with the reviewer that says that there is not much here that has not been said elsewhere. While I am new to baseball, at the age of 55 vastly more familiar with soccer, football, and basketball, my youngest son loves the game, and I have spent time looking for the perfect book that can both help him see the nuances, and help me follow the game.

This book is nothing less than extraordinary. It would be a superb gift for any high school or college student who loves the game, and for any parent or grandparent new to the game. Personally I think it has a great deal of information that those who consider themselves avid fans have NOT noticed, but you can decide that better than I.

Here are some of the nuggets in this book, which is the tactical complement to the strategic companion by another author, "Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game." The two books together constitute an instant reference library from any baseball affecionado.

1) 1 in 100,000 make it to major leagues from among those who strive to get there.

2) Going to college is a superb way to perfect your skills and shorten the time to selection for minor leagues--a tiny handfull get to go straight to the majors.

3) Five tool players can field well, throw hard (and accurately), run fast, hit home runs, and hit a high batting average.

4) Any major leaguer, however "bad" they might appear on a given day, is the best of the best and has spent a lifetime getting there.

5) Awesome concise clear description of the many kinds of balls that a pitcher can throw to a batter.

6) Runner on second can see catcher's signals and signal to the hitter more often than not. I had no idea.
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