Ballpark Figures the Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract: Villard; 721 Pages

The Bill James Baseball Abstract 1986 Ballantine; 340 Pages; $8.95

To hear many baseball writers tell it, Bill James is the national pastime's absentminded professor, a slightly bewildered numbers-crunching cult figure who rattles on about such arcana as the Brock6 system, Pythagorean projections and the devil's theory of park effects. The reason is that they find it hard to believe a bearded pseudo-academic, squirreled away with pad and pencil in Kansas, could possibly know more about the game than veteran beat writers, who & regularly trade locker-room gibes with Reggie and Pete and get to provide ringside coverage of Billy Martin's bouts with marshmallow salesmen.

Alas, it is true. James is...

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