Picks and Pans Review: The Baseball Encyclopedia
This seventh edition of the baseball reference work has gotten attention for inspiring research by psychologists Diane F. Halpern of California State University in San Bernardino and Stanley Coren of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. Among the things they have noted after studying baseball players' statistical averages in the book is that right-handed people seem to live longer than lefties—by an average of eight months or so. (One of their theories is that lefties might have more accidents because they live in an environment designed for right-handers.) Never mind that kind of stuff. This volume—all eight pounds, 2,875 pages of it—is for looking up important information. It's food for thought to read that the National Association, which lasted from 1871 to 1875, boasted such teams as the Fort Wayne Kekiongas, the Elizabeth Resolutes, the Middletown Mansfields and the Keokuk Westerns. It's interesting that outfielder Tom Hughes hit .373 for the 1930 Tigers in his rookie season and never played another game. It seems profound that pitcher Dick Littlefield played for nine different teams in his nine major league seasons. Noting that Del Wilber has a perfect record as a manager—one win in one game with Texas in 1973—arouses questions about why nobody has hired him full-time. Yes, in an uncertain world full of unfathomable judgments and futile speculation, this book offers pure facts about 112 seasons and 13,123 players. These aren't the specious statistics of Bill (The Baseball Abstract) James and his fellow extremists, who count up things like how many times Darryl Strawberry has said he is the most wonderful person in the Western world and act as if the total means something. This book, edited, as all Encyclopedia editions have been, by ex-sportswriter Joe Reichler, is the real thing, an oasis of precision for lovers of baseball and of detail. (Macmillan, $45)
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