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The Numbers Game: Baseball's Lifelong Fascination with Statistics Paperback – April 21, 2005
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From Publishers Weekly
Sports journalist Schwarz brings to the fore this intelligent, smartly researched and often hilarious look at the use of statistics in baseball, which Schwarz definitively shows to "date back to the game's earliest days in the 19th century." It will delight any fan who memorizes the numbers on the back of trading cards or pores over newspaper box scores. The book's success is rooted in its focus on the people "obsessed with baseball's statistics ever since the box score started it all in 1845," rather than being about the statistics themselves. The reader is presented with enthusiastic but unvarnished looks at such key figures as Henry Chadwick, whose love for numbers led to his inventing the box score grid that remains, Schwarz shows, "virtually unchanged to this day"; Allan Roth, the numbers man hired by the Brooklyn Dodgers who was as important to the team's success as its famed GM Branch Rickey; and the all-but-forgotten work of George Lindsey, one of the first people to apply statistical analysis to weigh various baseball strategies. Delivered in a delightfully breezy and confident style, this volume also serves as an excellent alternate or parallel history of the sport, as we see how the statistics influenced the game itself—such as the banning of the spitball—as much as they were used to detail individual games.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
“One of the most engrossing histories of baseball ever.” ―From the Foreword by Peter Gammons
“A romp . . . Schwarz merrily keeps ratcheting up the book's wows-per-page average.” ―The Washington Post
“The pastime behind the national pastime . . . a very human look at generations of baseball fanatics.” ―The Philadelphia Inquirer
“A riveting history of the search for new baseball knowledge.” ―Michael Lewis, author of Moneyball
“The language of baseball is statistics, and Alan Schwarz gives us an unprecedented look at one of the world's great romance languages. Schwarz deftly illuminates the history and relevance of baseball statistics and is at the tops of his game introducing the people behind the numbers.” ―Tom Verducci, Sports Illustrated
“Alan Schwarz makes statistics as interesting as games and the people who play them. Who knew that numbers could have such personality?” ―Sally Jenkins, author of Funny Cide and the bestselling It's Not About the Bike
“One of the very best baseball journalists working today, (Schwarz) has written a wonderful history that will appeal even to those with no particular interest in the game . . . Remarkable.” ―The New York Observer
“An enormously entertaining and engrossing book that should be read by everyone.” ―The Seattle Times
“An essential book for any baseball library, one that simultaneously makes for breezy reading and holds up as an essential piece of research.” ―The Chicago Sports Review
“What sounds potentially dry -- a stat freak family tree -- is instead a lush landscape of eccentric scientists, pack-rat alcoholics, back-stabbing partners and a minimum-wage night watchman whose essays created a sensation (perhaps you've heard of Bill James).” ―The San Jose Mercury News
“Reads like a whodunit . . . with a season-full of heretofore under-reported facts, nuances and stories.” ―Long Beach Press-Telegram
“Intelligent, smartly researched and often hilarious.” ―Publishers Weekly
“Alan Schwarz turns the numbers of baseball into musical notes. He makes you understand them, he makes you care about them, and in the end, he makes you share his passion for them.” ―Mike Lupica, New York Daily News
Top customer reviews
Baseball has always been preoccupied with the numbers. Since its inception, fans have always tried to use various data to define a player's value or lack thereof. As the sport evolved so did its stats, from "hand outs" and "bound catches" to "OPS" and "runs created." The Numbers Game by Alan Schwarz painstakingly details this evolution of game with the same precision maintained statisticians themselves.
Numbers infiltrate every aspect of the game: fans to argue and defend, analysts to inform the masses, managers to set lineups and rotations, GM's to find trades and draft picks, and players to negotiate contract. Anyone interested in baseball numbers will love this book. Though it might not be as riveting as Moneyball by Michael Lewis, The Numbers Game presents the history of baseball through the stat sheets of its most devout and geeked out fans.
I read Alan Schwarz' "The Numbers Game" just before I read Michael Lewis' "Moneyball", and I'm better off because of it.
Schwarz was acknowledged by Lewis in his own book (while Schwarz was writing this one), and there are a few passages that are strikingly similar.
Lewis is a better writer; Schwarz is a little more "clumsy" I guess. Not as elegant.
But still, he tells a story of such breadth it's a bit staggering. He does so with deft, concise descriptions. They're often funny as all get out.
The two books work like two hands, interlocking. The depiction of "baseball" is more detailed after spending time with both. Schwarz places "Moneyball" in a bigger perspective; Lewis brings "The Numbers Game" down into every day baseball.
Here, Schwarz starts with the guy who invented baseball statistics, Henry Chadwick. He then leads us through decades of baseball theory, the development of baseball cards, Strat-O-Matic and Rotisserie (fantasy) baseball, computers, SABR, baseball reporters, fans, players, politics, coaches, the Internet and a whole host of wacky baseball enthusiasts who become hopelessly addicted to the world of baseball stats. Roth, Cook, Dewan, James, Podesta, Evans, Beane...
And this in less than 300 pages. This is nothing short of amazing.
While I raced through this book, I thought of two close friends of mine.
One, a man of about 60, who on occasion has waxed rhapsodically about the box score.
How he loved to simply peruse the newspaper and consider each game in it's two-inch square recapitulation...HE belongs in this book.
Another, a guy my age (41), shared my pre-adolescent love for baseball by going to Dodger games, watching the All-Star games together, playing Little League and collecting baseball cards. He continued on with his fascination by playing Strat-O-Matic, high school ball, and getting involved with Rotisserie leagues where I did not. HE belongs in this book.
Now that I think about it...they both already are in this book. These are the guys who fill every paragraph of this tome.
Baseball isn't just "baseball."
To those who do not "get it", that statement is simply moronic; to the rest of us, it makes all the sense in the world.