The Numbers Game: Baseball's Lifelong Fascination with Statistics / Edition 1

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Overview

In this unprecedented new book, Alan Schwarz, provides the first-ever history of baseball statistics, showing how baseball and its numbers have been inseparable ever since the pastime's birth in 1845. He tells the history of this obsession through the lives of the people who felt it most: Henry Chadwick, the nineteenth-century writer who invented the first box score and harped on endlessly about which statistics mattered and which did not; Allan Roth, Branch Rickey's right-hand numbers man with the late-1940s Brooklyn Dodgers; Earnshaw Cook, a scientist and Manhattan Project veteran who retired to pursue inventing the perfect baseball statistic; John Dewan, a former Strat-O-Matic maven who built STATS Inc. into a multimillion-dollar power-house for statistics over the Internet; and dozens more.
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Editorial Reviews

George F. Will
… if you do not even know who A-Rod is, you will still enjoy the story of baseball's progress to today's information abundance as it is told by Alan Schwarz, a senior writer for Baseball America, in The Numbers Game. Its lessons extend beyond baseball to politics and much else. It is an Information Age story about how new abilities to measure things beget new behaviors. The evolution of that cornucopia of information from its birth in 1845 to today's iterations is, in Schwarz's lively telling, a history of the game's path to the present.
The New York Times
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. Agent, Esther Newberg. (July) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Beyond even the pleasure of a big win for the home team, what baseball fans really enjoy is debating the relative merits of players, and that comes down to statistics. Schwarz, a writer for ESPN.com and Baseball America, gives us not statistics themselves but their historical progression to the center of the game. He shows their evolution from a time when about the only thing fans could find out about their favorite batters was how many times they appeared at the plate and how many runs they scored, to the computer-enhanced age when we can discuss a hitter's OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) and a pitcher's "true" value based on his SNWL (Support Neutral Win-Loss). Along the way, the author introduces the men who steadily refined the state of the art of baseball statistics, the teams who first began using statistics other than mere ERA and batting average to make personnel decisions, and the controversies begat by the march of statistics (Is on-base percentage more important than batting average? Is clutch hitting merely a function of chance?). Casual fans will almost certainly find something here to pique their interest, while raving statistics buffs will devour it. Recommended for most medium to large public libraries.-Jim Burns, Jacksonville P.L., FL Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
From the Publisher
"The Numbers Game is a riveting history of the search for new baseball knowledge. The amazing thing about that search, as Schwarz ably demonstrates, is that it was conducted not by baseball insiders, but by the ordinary baseball fan."

- Michael Lewis, author of the best-selling Moneyball

"Alan Schwarz has written one of the most original and engrossing histories of baseball you could ever read."

- From the Foreword by Peter Gammons

"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 top of his game introducing the people behind the numbers. The cast is an eclectic mix of baseball linguists, including an alcoholic pack rat, a military strategist and one of Albert Einstein's faculty colleagues. You don't need a slide rule or pocket protector to appreciate the tales Schwarz has unearthed — gems such as Babe Ruth's long lost 715th home run abound — but you will become more fluent in baseball."

- Tom Verducci, Sports Illustrated

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312322236
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 5/2/2005
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 346,209
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.65 (d)

Meet the Author

Alan Schwarz is an investigative reporter for The New York Times and the author of The Numbers Game: Baseball's Lifelong Fascination with Statistics and Once Upon a Game: Baseball's Greatest Memories.

He was a finalist for the 2010 Pulitzer Prize in Public Service for his reporting on the effect of concussions in sports, which was credited with improving safety policies both among athletes and the military.

Before joining the Times in 2007, Schwarz was known primarily as the Senior Writer of Baseball America magazine, a columnist for ESPN.com and a frequent contributor to dozens of national publications.

Read other articles by Alan Schwarz.

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Table of Contents

Foreword ix
Introduction xiii
1 Bless Them, Father 1
2 The Second Generation 22
3 The Sultans of Stats 43
4 Darwins of the Diamond 67
5 Big Mac 92
6 Bill James 111
7 From Field to Front Office 133
8 All the Record Books Are Wrong 155
9 The Arms Dealer Goes to War 173
10 Luck and Where to Find It 195
11 The March of On-Base Percentage 215
12 In God We Trust; All Others Must Have Data 234
Acknowledgments 255
Index 257
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