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A Slim But Important Volume,
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This review is from: How Bill James Changed Our View of the Game of Baseball (Hardcover)
My favorite Bill James insight has absolutely nothing to do with baseball. It was in the Abstract the year he bought a computer, and the insight was that computers are incredibly dumb. He would type things the way he always had, and then make one mistake and the computer would execute that mistake as perfectly as it had all his correct commands, and he wondered why the computer couldn't learn. And although computers can, in certain instances, learn (which is why Google will suggest that your search was different from the one you misspelled, for instance), they have gotten, in my opinion, even dumber, as you can get a message that is in perfect gibberish that you have to accept or cancel, and you have no idea what it is. Microsoft Word will still prompt me to use "Paste Special" to make something into HTML even though every one of the million times I've used it, I used it to make unformatted text. And everytime computers are dumb, I think of Bill James and his wisdom 20 years ago about computers.
Today, if there were a new Bill James, a community of Bill James lovers would grow up instantly though MySpace pages and the like. There would be a Bill James Web Ring of fan sites and everyone would know everyone else was out there. But for those of us, like the contributors to this book, who were experiencing the Abstracts in real time (I bought the 1982 Abstract at Waldenbooks; I can remember the day), we were all discovering this really good writer who had insights into baseball and into life that we could use in everything else we did. As the books shows, some of them turned out to become engineers as well as sportswriters. I use James's insights and methodologies in my law practice (don't tell my clients).
And it's reading those stories of how each writer came across James and used James and took his lessons to heart and benefited from it that are at the heart of this book. It could have been longer, but every essay in it is interesting and thoughtful. Some criticize James for some things (which would please him) and some get him wrong (which wouldn't surprise him), but the general sense is that this is a labor of love for people just like me for whom the insight has been life-altering without once needing to enter any place more intimidating or serious than what Bull Durham called the church of baseball.