The Numbers Game by Alan Schwarz

I wish I had a better love for history.

My college roommate was a history major and loved the stuff. He understood it, thrived in learning more about it, and was able to process all the events he learned about in a way that gave him a maplike understanding of the past.

The Numbers Game is a history book – and it’s my lack of total love for history that kept me from really getting into this book.

Before I go any further – this is a great book about the history of statistics in baseball. Schwarz – who you probably know from his work with Baseball America, ESPN.com,  the New York Times and other publications – does his homework and takes you on a detailed tour of record keeping, not just from the who developed this or that stat, but why they did it, how it was received by the baseball community and public at large, and how keeping certain statistics effected the game.

It’s a brilliant work – thorough, cleanly written, and fairly easy to read and follow.

However – if you don’t have the history bug, it might be tough to enjoy.

I really enjoyed what Schwarz talks about in his book — seeing the way that statistics affects the bigger game and business of baseball is very interesting. But to get to that, you have to peel through a lot of layers of history and details that if you don’t really love the details of history, just make for more stuff to read. Not that I don’t love reading (obviously), but I also subscribe to the theory that says why say in 300 words what you can say in 30, or better yet in 3?

I freely admit that this often times results in me getting distracted by details – and I know that there’s a lot to learn in the details. Nevertheless though – with time being at a premium, I really want to get to the core of the message as fast as possible and learn what is really important and then go back for the details.

If you love both history and statistics – this may be one of the best books you’ll read. But if you don’t have that love for history and details – you might find yourself more frustrated than educated.

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