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Sunday Book Review: How Bill James Changed Our View of Baseball

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What started as a simple question -- "Why would Bill James, of all people, appear on Time Magazine's list of the one hundred most influential people in the world?" -- quickly developed into a project all its own as editor Gregory F. Augustine Pierce began reading some of the responses. It turns out that Bill James has been instrumental in influencing a new generation of thinking, both inside and outside of baseball. As it turns out, the genius of Bill James -- though he would never proclaim his work as such -- has never been about what he has done, but rather how he has done it. His gift to baseball (and other sectors of society, we learn) is that we no longer accept conventional wisdom simply because of convention.

=> Vitals

# of Pages: 144
Publisher: ACTA Sports
Suggested Retail Price: $19.95
ISBN: 978-0879463175

=> What's Inside?

Lots of stories about Bill James. If you don't like reading about Bill James, you probably won't enjoy this book. If you appreciate baseball just a little bit more because of Bill James -- and almost all of us do, whether we realize it or not -- then you'll probably appreciate this collection of experiences and anecdotes.

  • "Freeing My Mind" by Alan Schwarz
  • "Ten Things I Learned from Bill James" by Dave Studenmund
  • "The Arrogance of Bill James" by Gary Huckabay
  • "Prove It" by John Thorn
  • "James, Tenace, McGraw and Kluszewski" by Hal Richman
  • "Selling My Soul to Bill James" by Sam Walker
  • "Slapping Myself on the Forehead" by Steve Moyer
  • "The Collision of Sabermetrics and Fantasy Baseball" by Ron Shandler
  • "Baseball, Basketball, Whatever" by Daryl Morey
  • "Ready for the Next Question" by Susan McCarthy
  • "The Bill James Way of Life" by Rob Neyer
  • "Bill James Is Worth the Wait" by John Dewan
  • "The Last Word" by Bill James
To be clear, this book is not a 150-page tongue-bathing of Mr. James. It isn't a collection of love-letters from hopeless sycophants. These are genuine thoughts from people whose lives Bill James has affected -- some directly, some indirectly -- and in bringing them all together, the editor (Pierce) paints a picture of the man who, behind all of the numbers and all of the facial hair, basically just loves the game of baseball.

=> Why Should You Buy It?

Either (a) because you love Bill James and want to know why a bunch of other people do, too, or (b) because you're on the fence about Bill James and want to know what all the fuss is about. Or, possibly (c) that you think Bill James is an overrated hack and would like to know which other baseball visionaries you should avoid reading or mentioning during your ESPN chats or Sunday Night Baseball broadcasts.

It's a fun read which even a casual reader could polish off in an evening, and is a nice companion to James's own writing which should already be liberally sprinkled throughout your baseball library.

=> Where to Buy It?

Support the hard-working folks that bring you great basbeall books like this one by buying direct from the publisher, ACTA Sports. You can also save a few bucks by getting it through Amazon.com.