Synopses & Reviews
Most baseball fans, players and even team executives assume that the national pastime's infatuation with statistics is simply a by-product of the information age, a phenomenon that blossomed only after the arrival of Bill James and computers in the 1980s. They couldn't be more wrong.
In this award-winning book, Alan Schwarz - whom bestselling Moneyball author Michael Lewis calls "one of today's best baseball journalists" - 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 19th-century writer who invented the first box score and harped 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 powerhouse for statistics over the Internet; and dozens more.
Schwarz paints a history not just of baseball statistics, but of the soul of the sport itself. Named as ESPN's 2004 Baseball Book of the Year, The Numbers Game will be an invaluable part of any fan's library and go down as one of the sport's classic books.
"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)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"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
"One of the most engrossing histories of baseball ever."
--From the Foreword by Peter Gammons
"A romp . . . Schwarz merrily keeps ratcheting up the book's wows-per-page average."
--The Washington Post
"The pastime behind the national pastime . . . a very human look at generations of baseball fanatics."
--The Philadelphia Inquirer
"A riveting history of the search for new baseball knowledge."
--Michael Lewis, author of Moneyball
"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 tops of his game introducing the people behind the numbers."
--Tom Verducci, Sports Illustrated
"Alan Schwarz makes statistics as interesting as games and the people who play them. Who knew that numbers could have such personality?"
--Sally Jenkins, author of Funny Cide and the bestselling It's Not About the Bike
"One of the very best baseball journalists working today, (Schwarz) has written a wonderful history that will appeal even to those with no particular interest in the game . . . Remarkable."
--The New York Observer
"An enormously entertaining and engrossing book that should be read by everyone."
--The Seattle Times
"An essential book for any baseball library, one that simultaneously makes for breezy reading and holds up as an essential piece of research."
--The Chicago Sports Review
"What sounds potentially dry -- a stat freak family tree -- is instead a lush landscape of eccentric scientists, pack-rat alcoholics, back-stabbing partners and a minimum-wage night watchman whose essays created a sensation (perhaps you've heard of Bill James)."
--The San Jose Mercury News
"Reads like a whodunit . . . with a season-full of heretofore under-reported facts, nuances and stories."
--Long Beach Press-Telegram
"Intelligent, smartly researched and often hilarious."
"Alan Schwarz turns the numbers of baseball into musical notes. He makes you understand them, he makes you care about them, and in the end, he makes you share his passion for them."
--Mike Lupica, New York Daily News
"The Numbers Game" is the first-ever history of baseball statistics--their keeping, their study, their creators--as it analyzes this cultural phenomenon from 1845 until today.
About 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.