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A premier baseball analyst and brand name, James (The Bill James Player Ratings Book, The Bill James Guide to Baseball Managers) releases a revised edition of his 1985 classic, with expanded player and team histories and reconsidered commentary. Divided into two sections, "The Game" and "The Players," this comprehensive and opinionated tome describes the evolution of the sport over the decades (uniforms in the 1890s, best minor league teams of the 1930s, the Negro Leagues, etc.) and the characteristics of its players (stats, injuries, habits and proclivities). The thumbnail player sketches in the second section (the 100 greatest players at each position) vary widely in content and tone: the entry on Lefty Gomez includes a page on his public-speaking abilities, while of Kevin Brown, James merely writes, "I don't root for him, either, but he is a great pitcher." (James has assigned the rankings according to a statistical rating formula he calls Win Shares, which he explains conceptually and mathematically.) The game section, though, is the standout. It may not contain detailed statistical leaders or standings for each year, or even who won each World Series, but it does offer information on new stadiums, the competitiveness of different leagues and shifts in the way the game was played. At the end of each chapter, a "decade in a box" lists major statistics and Jamesian awards, varying from the quantitative (the team with the best record) and the qualitative (the best switch hitter) to the quirky (the decade's ugliest player). (Dec.) Forecast: There are enough baseball and Bill James fans to ensure steady sales, and the pub date near enough to the World Series might encourage a few extra readers. A uniquely personal, even iconoclastic guide, this belongs in baseball libraries to counterpoint The Baseball Encyclopedia and Total Baseball. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Baseball's most celebrated scholar is back in full flower with this revised and fully updated version of his influential 1985 masterwork.
True to form, James's new Historical Baseball Abstract is filled with often fascinating and frequently quirky evaluations and insights regarding the history of baseball. Starting with the 1870s, James explores, decade by decade, how and where the game was played and who played it. He discusses nicknames, top minor-league teams, and the most admirable superstars, among other matters. At the close of the initial 13 chapters, the author highlights each ten-year period "in a box," with a player or two tagged as the best-looking, the ugliest, the fastest, the slowest, and so forth. The last half of the book presents James's evaluations of the top 100 or more players at each position. Some are expected, with Lou Gehrig and Jimmie Foxx, for example, deemed the top first basemen. But Hank Greenberg is slotted in only at eighth place, and then James spends most of his time ragging on the great slugger's performance as the Cleveland Indians' general manager from 1949 to 1957. In other instances, the description of a player's on-field antics is melded with curious social commentary. All of this makes for a sometimes illuminating, occasionally exasperating book certain to engender controversy among baseball aficionados. For general libraries. R. C. Cottrell, California State Univ., Chico Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.