The full title of this one is “Watching Baseball Smarter – A Professional Fan’s Guide for Beginners, Semi-experts, and Deeply Serious Geeks”. The author is Zack Hample. It was published in 2007.
Since I’ve been watching a lot of baseball lately, I thought it probably wouldn’t be a bad idea to watch it smarter. This book has helped me to accomplish that.
The author’s back cover bio describes Zack Hample as “an obsessed fan who regularly writes about minor league baseball. He’s collected nearly 3,000 baseballs from major league games and has appeared on dozens of TV and radio shows. His first book, ‘How to Snag Major League Baseballs’, was published in 1999.”
A back cover testimonial from Kevin Baker, author of “Sometimes You See It Coming”, opines: “Will definitely improve your baseball I.Q. Neophytes and old pros alike will find plenty here they didn’t know.”
I have to agree with the assessment of Mr. Baker. Beginners and semi-experts will find plenty here to digest. Serious geeks, (aka “Mr. Experts on Everything”) will also find things here which they either didn’t know or haven’t thought of lately. Although they might not admit it.
And for the one fan in a million who actually does already know everything in this book, that person can appreciate the writing style of Mr. Hample.
The author describes himself as a former college third baseman, so I gotta believe that the first chapter, about the major league draft, the road to the major leagues, etc. comes from personal experience.
The author also describes himself as a “four-time student at Bucky Dent’s Baseball School”. I don’t want to call him a slow learner, but along the way he obviously learned a lot about: Pitchers & Catchers, Hitting, Baserunning, Fielding, Stadiums, Umpires, Statistics, Random Stuff To Know, Random Stuff To Notice, and Baseball Slang.
The book includes “The Fair Ball Quiz”, 11 questions on which, I have to admit, I did pretty good.
In the chapter on Statistics, Mr. Hample introduces a list of stats related to relief pitching thusly: “Now, here are the stats of Ryan Dempster, a reliever whom many people – especially in Chicago – would like to forget:” Did I mention that Zack Hample is a native of New York City? No surprise there.
There is a section about keeping score and reading a box score which is very clearly stated and easy to follow.
Some of my favorite quotes from the book include:
- “Of his ‘62 Mets, who finished 40-120 and remain the worst team since 1900, Stengel said, ‘They have shown me ways to lose I never knew existed’.”
- “Longtime Orioles manager Earl Weaver said, ‘The job of arguing with the umpire belongs to the manager because it won’t hurt the team if he gets thrown out of the game’.”
- “Joe Torre…as an infielder with the Mets…bounced into four double plays in one game, each time wiping out Felix Millan, who batted in front of him and went 4-for-4. ‘What’s everyone blaming me for?’ Torre complained afterward. ‘Blame Felix. I wouldn’t have hit into the double plays if he hadn’t hit singles’.”
- “Bo Belinsky, a pitcher in the 1960s, once said, ‘How can a guy win a game if you don’t give him any runs?’ It was an excellent point (except for the fact that he’d just lost, 15-0).”
- “There’s one word that describes baseball: ‘You never know’.” – Joaquin Andujar, former major league pitcher
- “I remember one time going out to the mound to talk with Bob Gibson. He told me to get back behind the batter, that the only thing I knew about pitching was that it was hard to hit.” – Tim McCarver, former major league catcher
- “If a woman has to choose between catching a fly ball and saving an infant’s life, she will choose to save the infant’s life without even considering if there are men on base.” – Dave Barry, humorist
- “Ninety feet between bases is perhaps as close as man has ever come to perfection.” – Red Smith, Hall-of Fame writer
For those who are really into statistics, there is even a section at the back of the book (“Appendix A: More Statistics”) which contains way more information about hitting, pitching and fielding statistics. Lotta acronyms back here, too.
I enjoyed reading “Watching Baseball Smarter”, and I might have even learned a few things. I recommend it to everyone, including (as the title states) Beginners, Semi-experts, and Deeply Serious Geeks.