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The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract

4.26  ·  Rating details ·  4,575 Ratings  ·  98 Reviews
When Bill James published his original Historical Baseball Abstract in 1985, he produced an immediate classic, hailed by the Chicago Tribune as the "holy book of baseball." Now, baseball's beloved "Sultan of Stats" (The Boston Globe) is back with a fully revised and updated edition for the new millennium.

Like the original, The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract

Paperback, 1024 pages
Published June 13th 2003 by Free Press (first published 1985)
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Ellis Katz
Jun 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: baseball
This is one book I would rather have in hardback rather than read on my IPAD because (1) it is a book to be enjoyed by reading short sections here and there, although one could certainly read the entire 1,000+ pages straight through, from beginning to end, and (2) the pages are not numbered on my IAD edition, making it very difficult to go back and forth. For example, after I read the section on Mickey Mantle as a centerfielder, I might want to go back and read the section on Joe DiMaggio, The b ...more
Mar 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sports, reference
Great book about Base Ball from the early days to the 90's, a decade by decade snapshot, a top 100 list of players by position, and a lot of stories and of course the numbers.
Steve Rosenberg
Aug 14, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: any baseball fan
They asked me to guess the date I read this book. I put down August 2007. The reality is, I first picked up this book in August 2003 and have not put it down since, except to eat, sleep, good to the bathroom, go to work, etc. etc. etc. It is like a bible to me. Okay, that is putting it mildly. The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract is quite possibly - no, absolutely - the best book written about baseball, ever. Hands down. What is so special, you may ask? Well, the stats, for one. James ...more
Feb 27, 2013 rated it really liked it
I don't think you're supposed to read this book cover-to-cover, but it's an amazing compendium of information and I did anyway. Sometimes James assumes that the reader shares his encyclopedic knowledge of baseball. I don't, but then again, only one of us wrote an encyclopedia.

I'm giving the book four stars rather than five because of some chip-on-James's-shoulder ranting that's great when defending the preposterous lifetime ban on Pete Rose, but not-so-great when defending old-time players' raci
Jun 15, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: baseball fans
I absolutely ADORE this book. Anyone who likes baseball, whether a casual or hardcore fan, should immediately get this book. It's perfect for a bathroom book, even! It goes through baseball by the decade since the 1870s, and makes it INTERESTING! Bill James emphasizes that we love baseball b/c we are emotionally invested in it. So he writes the history of the game in a way that we can be emotionally invested in historical players and teams. It covers teams, players, rules, scandals, births, deat ...more
Int'l librarian
This is my favorite book of all-time. I’ve spent more hours reading this book than any other 10 books combined. I completely wore out my first copy with rereading, and was excited to buy a replacement. It’s my sports Bible.

I love the blurbs about the players, the decade-by-decade league snapshots, and everything to do with how Bill James assesses the value of baseball players and the sport itself.

Bill James isn’t the greatest writer ever – he can fluctuate kind of wildly between hard-nosed cri
Ben Wilson
Oct 01, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: those who love the game of baseball
Shelves: baseball, technology
I love deconstruction. Tear down your idols and your mythology and get right to the meat of it. Understand your history to create a new future. Bill James has done this with baseball. Instead of just slapping hits, runs and errors into a petri dish, he's got his own (well-researched) spin on things and looks at baseball through a totally different lens than his forerunners, making it at one time both a game of statistic and of individuals.

He covers the early days (1850s) up to the present in am
Troy Goodfellow
May 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: loaned
Bill James again brings original insight to historical debates without losing track of what makes baseball the best sport. His closing sections that rank players through the ages will remain readable and valuable for years, and James's own open reconsideration of stands he once took is a testament to his value as a thinker and writer.
Nick Gleason
Jun 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing
There are not enough stars for me to rate this book accurately. It's one of my all-time favorites. If I was ever in that common situation of being stranded on a desert island with a choice of books to have, I would choose the Bible first and this book second.

I don't usually add books to my goodreads listing that I read before I started on the site. But I had to include this one.
Sep 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Massive amounts of information here.
Took a long time to read, but I feel like
I know baseball even more than I did.
Will be keeping this book close by for future
Steven Belanger
Jul 14, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Love this stuff! I could talk about sabermetrics ALL DAY! In fact, I recently had a discussion with a friend of mine who hates OPS, and I proved why it was important--not to prove that Pujols is better than Johnny Damon, for example, but to show that Gehrig was better than Foxx--in fact, MUCH better. So, anyway, I digress, as Bill James does. A critic has said that James is wasting his brilliant mind on baseball, but of course there's no such thing as wasting anything re: baseball. His writing m ...more
Apr 06, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Bill James says his book should be read like a newspaper: you pick it up, look at a few random pages, find 1 or 2 pages that interest you, and read them. It would make a good bathroom book except that it's so freaking big and heavy.

James and this book have always interested me. I knew I'd read everything in the book eventually anyway. Therefore, I decided to read Parts 1 and 2 in their entirety. Part 3 is mostly statistical tables. I'll skim that, too.

I'm done with Part 1, which is called "The G
Jef Cotham
Aug 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This book should be to ardent baseball fans what the Bible is to devout Christians. Although James ostensibly allows understandable disdain for players such as Rogers Hornsby to slightly affect his judgment (as evidenced by ranking Joe Morgan as a better player than Horsnby), on the whole James probably does the most effective job ever of objectively ranking baseball's greatest players. This is a gargantuan task, arguably one that cannot be done without engendering some sort of conflict. Few peo ...more
Apr 24, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: baseball
I was a big fan of the Bill James yearly abstracts. He then turned to doing this Historical Abstract which reviews how baseball was played decade by decade AND ranks the top 100 players at every position. The book tries to explain the statistics he uses, in some cases, developed. Most of the time he is successful. In one instance, he didn't even try and left it at "it's too far over your head, just believe me it works" which was extremely annoying.

The decade reviews are fun to read and mostly we
Brian S
Mar 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Great book. The all-time rankings, overall and by position, are fun to read through. I wish there was a 2015 update. I’d like to know where James ranks Derek Jeter on the all-time shortstop list, likewise Ivan Rodriguez on the catcher list, etc. James uses some excellent concepts, like secondary average (which is meant to capture a similar thing as OPS) and the basic idea that you need to look at players’ stats in comparison to the other players playing at the same time. A .320 batting average i ...more
May 12, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This book is a very entertaining reference for baseball fans. Bill James has made his name through quantitative analysis of the game, looking for answers to questions that could not be answered, or had unsatisfying/incomplete answers, through "traditional" baseball statistics. James does not mean for this book to be definitive; when he ranks the 100 best players of all time at each position, he provides statistical reasoning, but also funny anecdotes and quotes about the players - just enough fo ...more
ACS Librarian
This is my favorite book of all-time. I 19ve spent more hours reading this book than any other 10 books combined. I completely wore out my first copy with rereading, and was excited to buy a replacement. It 19s my sports Bible.

I love the blurbs about the players, the decade-by-decade league snapshots, and everything to do with how Bill James assesses the value of baseball players and the sport itself.

Bill James isn 19t the greatest writer ever 13 he can fluctuate kind of wildly between hard-no
Davy Cee
Mar 05, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Definitely my favorite in the William James oeuvre. It's too bad he wrote all those books about philosophy and not more like this one about the great american pastime. His brother Henry had to move to England to get away from, "that damn insidious game played by thieves and drunkards and loud-voiced imbeciles, while those who go by that most disharmonious appellation of 'kranks' look on from the bleachers where they shout their vituperations in the most vile abuse of our glorious mother tongue m ...more
Steve Miyamoto
Jul 31, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Best historical book on baseball from the founder of sabermetrics, which is the modern statistical analysis of players. (Zzzzzzzzzz) Yet, it is the stories of the people are what brings life to the book.

From one of the earlier editions he writes about Mordecai "Three Finger" Brown, who was an early 20th century pitcher who lost two fingers in a farming accident. He was able to throw a ball with a motion unlike any other player because of his loss and became a Hall of Famer because of it. James
Aug 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing
What a ride! As far as historical baseball reference books go, "The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract" is second to none. Admittedly, most people don't find terms like "baseball" and "historical abstract", particularly exciting, so don't make this your next book club read. It's not meant for everyone. However, it is the perfect bedside book for the passionate fan with a healthy respect for stats.

The 1000 page tome contains fascinating anecdotes, statistical wizardry, clever writing, an
Corey Lindstrom
Feb 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
To steal someone else's review: I don't think you're supposed to read this book from cover to cover, it's more intended to be something you pick up now and then and read a little bit at a time. But I just read the whole thing anyway.

To use a beaten cliche: Bill James has forgotten more about baseball than I'll ever know, but he writes about it in a story telling way that never feel feels dry, like you're reading a bunch of facts and statistics of over 100 years of baseball.

It's not for everyone,
Dave Wilson
Nov 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Few writers can claim to have changed the world, but Bill James probably comes as close as anyone, as his musings on baseball changed the way both fans and professionals see the game.

This book is split into a couple of sections, the first looking at how the game has changed over the years, the second providing player ratings. The main interest in the second part is the player essays - James is a good writer, much more than a stats guru, as he has been portrayed. Indeed he has published an entert
Oct 07, 2008 rated it it was amazing
The godfather of modern statistical analysis gives his take on, uh, everything baseball. Team histories, decade-by-decade comparisons, the top 100 all-time players at every position, random essays, win shares, and much, much more. Throw in an acerbic wit and common sense approach to baseball and you've got 998 pages of pure baseball bliss. Yes, its a 998 page baseball encyclopedia and I read it cover-to-cover. Twice. (Just kidding about the "twice" part, but I seriously could read it again if I ...more
Dec 15, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A treasure of a book and the sort to which one can always turn for diversion, whether to read a passage you've missed previously or to reread an argument you've already contemplated. This is not a book you read from start to finish and yet I doubt there is much in it I have not seen. Still, given the data-driven world of baseball analysis Bill James helped create ... there is a lot of unabashed opinion in this book, including the infamous Jeff Bagwell "Pass." For that one word alone James can't ...more
Sep 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I was a big fan of Bill James' annual Baseball Abstract when he started issuing them in the 80s. His statistical analysis of teams and players provided a startlingly unique viewpoint, and his readable writing style was the clincher. This reference (2001 edition) entertainingly summarizes, decade-by-decade, the highlights of professional baseball from the 1870s, then goes on to rate the 100 best players at each position, each with revealing biographical sketches (my favorite section).
Sep 14, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sports-books
Simply the best baseball book of all time. James ranks the top 100 players of all time at each position, providing not just stats, but a few paragraphs synopsis of each player's career and life. He also gives a concise 10-15 page summary of every decade in baseball describing the style of the game during that era, the competetive balance, the demographics of the players, the statistical leaders of the decade, as well as superlatives for each team and player (e.g. fastest player, worst team).
Jake March
Aug 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
Im a avid fan of Bill James and his work after watching the movie "Money Ball" a year or two ago! I think he explains everything quite well and expresses his opinion very well! As a baseball player my self Im quite the stat rat all ways wanting to know my batting avg ops slugging percentage etc etc ... ANd I can relate to it really well also!
So over all this book was a pleasure to read and I'm looking forward to more books by Bill James!
Feb 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sports
Although I am no fan of today's sabermetric groupthink, Bill James has the gift of making things interesting. Even if I may disagree with many things he writes about, he has unique insights that make his books worthwhile reading. Baseball players are rated by position in this huge volume, but James finds interesting angles to pursue which can go anywhere. For the fan of historical baseball this book is a must.
Jan 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sports, favorites
A magnificent book on the history of baseball. The book is divided in two sections, the first is the game broken out by decade, the second explores the best players by position. The stories are remarkable, the scope stunning. James's ability to put time and context into an easy to read format is amazing. I have read and re-read this book many times and each time find something new. Very highly recommended.
Jun 19, 2013 rated it really liked it
I doubt I'd like Bill James in person, he's occasionally wrong-headed and reactionary, neither of which is to my taste. But there's no gainsaying he has been a groundbreaker and puts a lot of work into this volume and it's fascinating and readable. I'd give it a 9 out of 10, and if I were politically conservative (which I'm not) and felt that those types of views should mix with sports (which I don't) then I'd probably give it 10.
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George William “Bill” James (born October 5, 1949, in Holton, Kansas) is a baseball writer, historian, and statistician whose work has been widely influential. Since 1977, James has written more than two dozen books devoted to baseball history and statistics. His approach, which he termed sabermetrics in reference to the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR), scientifically analyzes and st ...more
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