March 28, 2008

Bill James On 60 Minutes

An interview with Bill James will air on 60 Minutes this Sunday, March 30. Morley Safer interviewed James during spring training while also filming segments with various Red Sox staff, including Terry Francona and Theo Epstein.

I liked what SoSHer Rough Carrigan had to say:
There's the possibility for a fascinating piece. James writes well, speaks well and he can be very glib. There's a great story there about someone who saw ignorance, indifference and tradition ruling a field and created a business where none existed simply by searching for the truth in that field and writing what he found. I hope it isn't another superficial story where they just look to pigeonhole him as that wacky stats guy and get a couple off the wall comments. When he started, there was The Sporting News, SI and baseball digest and if a player had a good batting average then he was a good hitter. If he didn't, he wasn't. Period. And he changed that limited way of looking at things. And he had fun doing it.


L-girl said...

Cool. We can tape it.

Jack Marshall said...

My hero.

GK said...

I had been thinking of asking you this.....
Has Bill James influenced your early baseball thinking ?
I am too young to remember when he came into prominence, but I guess it could be the late 70's and 80's, about the same time you have written about watching and enjoying baseball.

redsock said...

Has Bill James influenced your early baseball thinking?

Early baseball thinking? No. James's first Abstracts (1977-81) were self-published (xeroxed and stapled, really) and sold through a tiny ad in The Sporting News. I have yet to see hard copies of any of those. (WOULD SOMEONE PACKAGE AND REPRINT THOSE, PLEASE??? THEY ARE OUT-OF-DATE, BUT THOUSANDS OF FANS WOULD SNAP THEM UP SIGHT UNSEEN.)

The Abstracts you can find in used books stores and eBay are from 82-88. I had drifted away from baseball for awhile around 1983 but returned for good in 1986. So I bought the 1987 and 1988 editions new and soon went back for the others.

You could make a very strong case that he has had the greatest influence on baseball in the last 30 years.

His Historical Abstract should be on every fan's shelf. His book on the Hall of Fame is also excellent.

I am too young to remember when he came into prominence

When it comes to the media, he's barely in prominence now. Many writers still make fun of him.

One commenter watched two playoff games at our house last year (Ofer) and he was very familiar with James. He grew up in Israel and he said he never had to unlearn all the crap we learned from TV and radio and the media as kids. He got the progressive ideas right away -- and since they are based in common sense, they clicked immediately. It was very interesting.

I would also strongly recommend Alan Schwartz's "The Numbers Game". You'll find that a lot of things attributed to James were done by various sportswriters 100-125 years ago, but the ideas died off.