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Whatever Happened to the Hall of Fame Paperback – April 6, 1995

4.4 out of 5 stars 43 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

James examines the history, politics and voting decisions surrounding the controversial elections to baseball's Hall of Fame.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.


George F. Will Bill James has a genius for igniting fascinating baseball arguments, and an enviable talent for winning a lot of them. This book demonstrates why, were there a Cooperstown for baseball conversationalists, James would already be enshrined there.

Daniel Okrent Once again, typical James: informative, insightful, amusing, and utterly persuasive. It will, I should add, be absolutely infuriating to the remaining baseball Luddites who don't realize what a genius Bill James is.

Richard Corliss Time For 452 sizzling pages, the game's premier stats solon and most passionate fan stir-fries the old debate about who does and doesn't deserve to be [in the Hall of Fame].

Dan Gutman Newsday Let's just let Bill James decide who belongs in the Hall of Fame. He's proven that he knows more about baseball than anybody in the whole world....

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press (April 6, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684800888
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684800882
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.3 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #777,561 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

By William Hare on May 2, 2002
Format: Paperback
After reading "Politics of Glory" I would like to nominate Bill James for Hot Stove League Commissioner. The Hot Stove League is where baseball hungry fans spend their winter days arguing that "My favorite player is better than yours!" James approaches baseball arguments the way a Philadelphia lawyer evaluates lucrative contracts, by examining every point with microscopic clarity.
A book about the Hall of Fame, with its unending controversies over just who is truly deserving of entry and who is not, is ideal grist for the analytical mind of James. He covers many controversies, two of which surround Dodger pitcher Don Drysdale and Yankee shortstop Phil Rizzuto. Drysdale had been voted into the Hall by the time James wrote his book while Rizzuto was elected just as James was completing his final chapter. The evaluations of both players were so thorough that James concluded his analysis of Drysdale by covering the tall right-hander's performance in pennant stretch drives of the Dodgers as well as in the twelve games James deemed the most crucial of his career excluding World Series performances. Rizzuto's Hall of Fame worthiness was ultimately evaluated by a statistically microscopic comparison of the Yankee star with his counterpart New York contemporary at shortstop, Pee Wee Reese of the Brooklyn Dodgers.
In addition to comparing and contrasting players both in and out of the Hall, James also delves into the politics of Cooperstown. He decries the period of the fifties and sixties for what he deems less than deserving choices made by the Veterans Committee.
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Format: Paperback
Back in the 70s, when Tony Kubek was considered a baseball savant, Bill James began popularizing a rigorous statistical analysis of baseball. In the 80s, when the pedantry of the Elias Baseball Analyst team threatened to remove the ideas from the study of the game, James kept chugging along with his yearlies, and the Historical Abstract (another must read). Later he produced this, probably his best work. For anyone who shakes his head at a player or manager dismissing another's opinion by saying "He never played the game;" for anyone who is not cowed by the received truth of an inside "authority" or eyewitness, for anyone who loves baseball and thinks we can do better by using the tools at our disposal, Bill James is a godsend. If you're a big baseball fan and you don't know who he is, get this for yourself. It will open up your appreciation of the game, its history, and the numbers and debates that keep its history alive.
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Format: Paperback
For anyone who has ever been interested in baseball's Hall of Fame, from being a serious historian of the game to simply being a fan who wanted your favorite player to be honored, this book will teach you a great deal.
Bill James, in a very entertaining style, will show you how some of the game's greatest players have been overlooked for the game's highest honor, while lesser men have been awarded. He will show you the passion of those who promote a certain player for election, while also demonstrating how illogical many can be as they argue for their favorites. He shows the inconsistency of the various voting bodies, the chronyism, the politics, and most other aspects of the long history of the Hall of Fame's process for determining the game's greatest players. It is a subject not often outlined in this depth, and James does a splendid job with it.
There are some flaws. James, as he often does, contradicts his own previously stated views on some players, and does so without explanation, which can be maddening to anyone who has read most of his work. He also has the unnecessary habit of insulting people for no real reason. As a man who can write so well and express his views in such detail and with such clarity, it doesn't appear to be necessary, when citing an example of one fan's opinion about Mickey Lolich, to answer this question:
"Am I the only baseball fan who feels that statistics provide, at best, a meager measure of a player's worth?"
with this answer:
"Well, no, Mr. Miedlar, actually, there are an amazing number of idiots in the world."
Stooping to that level is entertaining at times, but it also serves to convince the reader that James is a bit full of himself, and a bit of a bully to boot.
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Format: Paperback
Bill James is the dean of baseball statistics for a reason, and that reason's readily apparent when he's on a roll. Yet even when he's rolling in "Whatever Happened To The Hall Of Fame," which happens often, his focus is lacking.

This 1995 examination of how the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, N. Y. selects and rejects various players to enshrine offers plenty of statistics and analysis, along with James' signature style, erudite and witty yet accessible. The premise is that the Hall of Fame has let in several players beneath the standard it should uphold, which James points out with detailed analyses of several inductees as well as non-inductees often mentioned as worthy.

"It is tempting to say that had it all not happened so quickly, more thought might have gone into designing a process that would provide consistently defensible results," he writes. "It is tempting, but Hamilton and Jefferson were dead and probably not baseball fans anyway."

Problems as James sees them include fuzzy logic (e. g. taking one inductee as an example why a non-inductee with similar stats should be admitted) and spur-of-the-moment sentiment. James' biggest bone is with the Hall of Fame's safety net for second chances, the Veterans Committee, where a few older men meet to agree on players worthy of induction whom the main induction body, the Baseball Writers Association of America, passed over. As James sees it, too often the Veterans Committee has worked as a back door for players who don't merit the honor but either had friends on the Veterans Committee or else blinding sentiment on their side.

The inductee of the moment when this was published was Phil Rizzuto, the great Yankee shortstop and longtime announcer known as "Scooter.
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