Clearing the Bases: The Greatest Baseball Debates of the Last Century

Overview

Who was better, Mickey Mantle or Willie Mays? Who was the best right-hander of the '60s, Bob Gibson or Juan Marichal? Who is the greatest starting pitcher of all time? At his peak, who was more valuable, Joe DiMaggio or Ted Williams? If Lefty Grove, Sandy Koufax, and Roger Clemens had pitched at the same time against the same hitters, who would have won the most games? If Jackie Robinson had been white, would he be deserving of the Hall of Fame? Is Pete Rose overrated? Has Tim Raines been underrated? Who is the ...

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Clearing the Bases: The Greatest Baseball Debates of the Last Century

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Overview

Who was better, Mickey Mantle or Willie Mays? Who was the best right-hander of the '60s, Bob Gibson or Juan Marichal? Who is the greatest starting pitcher of all time? At his peak, who was more valuable, Joe DiMaggio or Ted Williams? If Lefty Grove, Sandy Koufax, and Roger Clemens had pitched at the same time against the same hitters, who would have won the most games? If Jackie Robinson had been white, would he be deserving of the Hall of Fame? Is Pete Rose overrated? Has Tim Raines been underrated? Who is the best hitter of the game today-- Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, Ken Griffey, Jr.? Is today's pitching really that bad? Why can't modern pitchers go nine innings? Which are more valuable-- good starters or good relievers? How important is the stolen base? What are the myths that still surround Babe Ruth? What was the most talented baseball team of the twentieth century? Which twentieth-century championship team has been most slighted by baseball historians? What has been the real impact of black and Latin talent on Major League Baseball? Is baseball more competitive now than it was one hundred years ago? Or fifty? Or twenty-five? Who was the greatest all-around player of the last century? Find the answers here.

Clearing the Bases is the first book to tackle these and many other of baseball's most intriguing questions, plus it offers hard, sensible answers-- answers based on exhaustive research and analysis. Sports journalist Allen Barra, whose weekly sports column, "By the Numbers," has earned him millions of readers in The Wall Street Journal and whose outspoken opinions on Salon.com are discussed regularly on National Public Radio, takes on baseball's toughest arguments. Using stats and methods he developed during his ongoing tenure at The Wall Street Journal, Barra takes you to the heart of baseball's ultimate question, Who's the Best?, in this, the ultimate baseball debate book. It is guaranteed to spark thousands of heated debates and to supply the fuel for thousands more. While including bits on Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Roger Clemens, Lefty Grove, Willie Mays, and Ted Williams, among others, Barra even finds time to argue the case for great players from other sports such as Bart Starr in football and Wilt Chamberlain in basketball.

Regardless of what stand you take in these debates, you'll never think about baseball's greatest stars in the same way again.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Relive baseball's greatest controversies as Allan Barra, sports columnist for the Wall Street Journal, explores the facts surrounding each case. From heated comparisons of Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams to the true worth of the Babe, Clearing the Bases presents Barra's opinionated, passionate perspective on baseball's longest-running debates. Backing up his views with stats and technical analysis, Barra manages to blend a fact-filled rehashing of these hot topics with an entertaining commentary on the nature of the game itself.
From the Publisher

"Using hard evidence as a snowplow and logic as a compass, Barra pushes aside the accumulated debris of a century's assumptions to see things as they were. Bill Russell did not beat Wilt Chamberlain; stop saying that. It is easy for living sportswriters to be bullied by dead ones; they were so large when we were small. Barra calls on us to stand on our own two feet and wrestle with the hard questions left over from the generations of sports history. A wonderful collection of thoughts and essays."--Bill James, author of The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract

"If my sins at last caught up with me and I were confined to the smallest room in my house, I can think of no finer companion there than Allen Barra's engagingly contentious Clearing the Bases."--Roger Kahn, author of The Head Game and The Boys of Summer

NY Times Book Review
If you love the game for what it is...step up and dig in.
Publishers Weekly
Barra's primary intent with his latest book is to spark intelligent, well-reasoned debate about some of the most contentious, if essentially insignificant, issues in pro sports. And who better to make such an effort? Writing for both the establishment (the Wall Street Journal) and the counterculture (Salon.com), Barra constantly challenges his readers to think outside the bounds of conventional sports analysis, using a seemingly innocuous but ultimately deadly combination of statistics ("the life blood of the sport") and common sense. Barra writes for thinking people, not simply by slaughtering baseball's sacred cows, but by demonstrating to the reader that anything less would be dishonest. Barra rips Babe Ruth's record to pieces, demonstrating at once that Ruth was a tremendous hitter, but that the accepted account of him as savior and "lively ball" progenitor of baseball is "an American creation myth." He uses a dazzling array of statistical comparisons among second basemen to vividly illustrate that the most popular argument against Jackie Robinson's inclusion in the Hall of Fame that he wouldn't be there if he had been white is nothing but racist rhetoric. Barra even manages to undermine his own religiously held belief in the superiority of Willie Mays, using a thorough statistical analysis to demonstrate Mickey Mantle's incomparable greatness. It is a rare sportswriter who can cite Branch Rickey and Irish writer/revolutionary Se n O'Faol in in the same work, but Barra does it with ease for an audience that has learned to demand nothing less. (Apr.) Forecast: With readers coming from both Salon and the Journal, Barra's take on baseball debates will reach a broad baseball readership. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Barra, a popular sports columnist for the Wall Street Journal and Salon.com, holds forth on a variety of baseball subjects and debates, from the mysterious disappearance of the high leg-kick by pitchers, to spirited comparisons of all-time greats like Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio, Roger Clemens and Lefty Grove, and Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays, to an unveiling of Barra's stealth candidate for Player of the Century. (You'll never guess.) With an introduction by Bob Costas and even a couple of football opinion pieces thrown in for good measure; for all sports collections. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Opinionated pieces by Wall Street Journal and Salon.com columnist Barra (Inventing Wyatt Earp, 1998, etc.) lovingly examine baseball's most enduring controversies. The dozen or so long-standing arguments examined here, all now a part of baseball lore, are not squabbles over brushback pitchers, lost homerun balls, or pine-tar incidents, but involve our more or less permanent understanding of the stature of baseball's greats. Barra ponders whether Babe Ruth truly deserves his legendary fame; compares Joe Dimaggio and Ted Williams; imagines how much greater Jackie Robinson would have been had he been allowed to compete in the Major League sooner; revives the debate about whether Mickey Mantle or Willie Mays was the greatest ballplayer of the '50s; revisits the Maris/Mantle homerun derby of 1961; elevates the often underrated Phillies third baseman Mike Schmidt to be a candidate for "Player of the Century"; and mourns the premature demise of the fluky, lovable 1986 New York Mets. Using statistics to bolster his arguments, he re-evaluates the scandal-brushed 1919 Chicago "Black Sox" and their leader, "Shoeless" Joe Jackson; draws favorable comparisons between pitcher Roger "The Rocket" Clemens and such legendary hurlers as "Lefty" Grove and Sandy Koufax; and champions the majors' first Latin star, White Sox outfielder Minnie Minoso. Barra argues that while baseball fans like to think that today's players can't match up to the heroes of yesteryear, greater demographic and ethnic inclusion in the game at the highest levels and superior diet and training have actually created more consistently superb ballplayers. He also refuses to share the common view that expansion has thinned out MajorLeague talent. A knowledgeable sportswriter and radio personality who strives to bring fresh perspectives to his criticism, Barra is in top form here, and his obvious passion for his material makes him unfailingly fun to read. A bit technical and statistics-oriented for the uninitiated, but sports buffs and bleacher bums will delight in Barra's unconventional essays.
The New York Times
“If you love the game for what it is . . . step up and dig in.”—New York Times
The Houston Chronicle
“[Barra] goes about the job with meticulous care, with energy and delight. Every conclusion is supported by a wealth of data, well-balanced. Great book for the armchair athlete.”—Houston Chronicle
The Boston Globe
“A real hackle raiser, but utterly fascinating.”—Boston Globe
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312265564
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 5/3/2002
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 5.64 (w) x 8.74 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Allen Barra is also the author of the critically acclaimed biography Inventing Wyatt Earp: His Life and Many Legends. In addition to his column for The Wall Street Journal and Salon.com, he is a monthly columnist for American Heritage magazine and a frequent contributor to the Los Angeles Times Book Review, The Washington Post Book World, Playboy, The New York Times, and The Village Voice. He is also heard regularly on Major League Baseball Radio.

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Table of Contents


Foreword   Bob Costas     vii
Introduction     ix
Getting Tough with Babe Ruth     1
The Most Underrated Team of the First Half of the Twentieth Century     25
Gary Cooper vs. John Wayne     31
What If Jackie Robinson Had Been White?     45
One-on-One, Once and for All: Mickey Mantle vs. Willie Mays     65
61*-Or, Should Roger Maris Be in the Hall of Fame?     93
Juan Marichal and Bob Gibson: A Reassessment     101
My Player of the Century     115
The Most Overrated and Underrated Players over the Last Thirty Years-Pete Rose vs. Tim Raines     133
The Dynasty That Never Was: The 1986 Mets     141
Grove, Koufax, and Clemens: A Comparison Across Time     153
Minnie Minoso: The New Latin Dynasty     175
Competitive Balance Through the Century     183
On-Base Averages     193
Baseball's Greatest SLOBs     199
Why Can't They Go 9 Anymore?     207
Ranking Don Shula     215
Pro Football's Greatest Quarterback     221
The Great Forgotten Running Back of the NFL     229
Barry Sanders: Pro Football's Greatest Runner     239
Walter Payton: Pro Football's Greatest Player     243
Wilt vs. Russell: A Reassessment     249
Notes     263
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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 27, 2002

    Barra States the Obvious

    This book would be good for a novice to sports, someone seeking an introduction to the big issues. If you are a learned fan, however, most of this book will not interest you. Barra does state some interesting facts and statistics, but they remain just that. I was not compelled to read another two pages elaborating on each one. Many of the selected topics will forever be opinionated, such as the Mays/Mantle debate, which today is not really a debate as those residing in both camps have solid backing. Most people do not believe Roger Maris should be in the Hall of Fame, and yet Berra attacks this like it is a hot topic. The most confusing chapter was the Tim Raines is superior to Pete Rose one, which provides a plethora of statistical analysis to back up his opinon, but was rather questionable at times. Barra praises Tim Raines for making the All-Star team eight times for the Expos, something he likens to winning the Pulitzer Prize writing for a paper in North Dakota. An eloquent phrase, but it overlooks the fact that each team is garaunteed one All-Star each season, not to mention the fact that Raines would be the likely selection for all Canadian fans, as the Expos are the only Canadian National League team. He also punishes Rose for playing on good teams and compensates for Raines playing on basement dwellers. This can be looked at two ways, however, as maybe it was partly due to Pete's presence that the teams were indeed good. A very small book for the money and without much content. For a young kid wanting to learn about some of baseball's issues, or for a longtime fan who likes to read anything and everything about the sport, this is a good book. For someone looking for a good read, it is useless. It does not capture your attention, and is such a quick read, you feel as though you have wasted your money.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 27, 2013

    Welcome Privates!

    Hello traniees! These are your quarters! You are all to wait here until being called upon by a commander. When a commander calls your name with a group of others to terminate a Nook hostile, you are to go to the result they told you immidietly after you see the message in this result. The group called will pester the hostile and tell all who are violated and in that result to ignore the threat. Wait until all have followed instuctions and then check back to see if the Nook threat has left. Good luck!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 3, 2003

    A waste of time

    A lot of fluff. There is nothing new here. It was pretty boring stuff.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 22, 2003

    Warped Stats and Omitted Legends

    While sports purists worship stats, they overlook the glaring fact that baseball stats mean nothing, because they are compiled in baseball parks with oddly different dimensions. For example, if Ted Williams had played in New York, he might have hit 200 more homeruns, even in a career cut short by five years of military service. And Joe Dimaggio might have hit 200 more home runs if he had played in Boston. Purism of stats, though, can be discerned in Basketball and Football whose games are played on courts and fields of the same dimension, Boston excepted. As to the legendary Sandy Koufax. That's a myth. Koufax was brilliant for just a few seasons. The best lefthander of all time was legendary Steve Carlton (4100 career strikeouts; 27 wins with a team that won 59, etc.) but his knees were broken by AllMedia that didn't like his political views. Objective analysis is not possible for wordsmiths who worship political correctness.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 13, 2002

    A Good Start

    This book is a good start for baseball fans looking for answers to some of the game's greatest debates. Certainly, this material has been done before, but this version is easy to read for fans not versed in the sport's complex manipulated statistics. There are some small points that are debatable, but that is what makes baseball great.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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