Sunday, April 24, 2011

Sunday Book Notes- The Numbers Game

Alan Schwartz  2004

I'll spare you the cliched diatribe about the beauty of baseball's statistics and how statistics keep baseball connected with it's past and blah, blah, blah.  Simply put, if you are a fan of the numbers aspect of baseball, (and if you collect cards you probably are) then The Numbers Game is must reading. 

Side note:  I realize that I heap praise on pretty much every book I review on this blog.  Keep in mind, I'm just picking out books I've already read and think others will enjoy.  Once I get through those books, I'll start reviewing any book I happen to buy about baseball, and I promise I won't like them all.  For example, I'm reading "The Last Boy- Mickey Mantle and America Something, Something, Something" and it ... is.... freaking.... boring.  Sorry, I'm just not that interested in Mantle and received the book as a gift from someone who assumed that since I was a big baseball fan I would be interested in Mantle.

Back on topic:  The Numbers Game was not only fascinating, but inspiring.  I loved the chapter about Bill James and his realization he could look at stats in ways no one could or would.  And I really loved the section about Hal Richman, inventor of Strat-o-Matic.  Richman developed the game out of a need to entertain himself as a kid, dissatisfied with the baseball games available at the time.  Once he developed the game to his satisfaction, he decided he could sell it to others.  He struggled at first, to the point he had to borrow some money from his father to continue to develop and market the game.  He made a deal with his father that if he didn't succeed with this loan, he would give up on the game and join his father in the insurance business.    
These stories inspire your pal Napkin.   I still flip through this book often and will re-read the whole thing again soon.  It gets my creative juices going and inspires me sit down to a blank excel spreadsheet to see what original takes on statistics are just waiting to come from my brain.  Then, after staring at the blank cells for twenty minutes, I hear the squeaky gears in my head come to a halt and I go check if there are any donuts in the house.

No comments: