Most baseball fans, players and even team executives assume that the National Pastime's infatuation with statistics is simply a byproduct 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 unprecedented new 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.
Almost every baseball fan for 150 years has been drawn to the game by its statistics, whether through newspaper box scores, the backs of Topps baseball cards, The Baseball Encyclopedia, or fantasy leagues. Today's most ardent stat scientists, known as "sabermetricians," spend hundreds of hours coming up with new ways to capture the game in numbers, and engage in holy wars over which statistics are best. Some of these men - and women -- are even being hired by major league teams to bring an understanding of statistics to a sport that for so long shunned it.
Taken together, Schwarz paints a history not just of baseball statistics, but of the soul of the sport itself. The Numbers Game will be an invaluable part of any fan's library and go down as one of the sport's classic books.