Levi’s clearly been too busy picking apples and hanging out with supermodels to post Bill James excerpts recently (and he’s probably had to return the book to the library by now), but as usual, I’m here to pick up the slack. As he threatened in one of the comments here, my father sent me his Bill James book collection, which consists of the Baseball Abstracts for 1984 through 1988 and The Baseball Book 1990. I’ve been flipping through the 1984 book today, and while the sabermetrics have been making my eyes glaze over, the introductory essays are very amusing. Take the Seattle Mariners, for example…
Whew! Am I glad O’Brien’s gone! Danny O’Brien had been conducting for three years a dastardly campaign to confuse the sportswriters and sports fans of this country, to render them utterly and hopelessly unable to keep straight who his players were. The Mariners had playing for them at the start of 1983 a double-play combination of Cruz and Cruz, Julio Cruz and Todd Cruz. He dispatched both of them in midseason, sending them (suspiciously) to the two teams which were on their way into the playoffs, causing further identification problems for anybody who might have trouble keeping them straight. The two best hitters on the team were two outfielders named Henderson, Dave Henderson and Steve Henderson. In addition to a “Todd” Cruz and a “Julio” Cruz, or “Steve” Henderson and a “Dave” Henderson, he had on his roster in 1983 a “Rod” Allen and a “Jamie” Allen, a “Jamie” Nelson, a “Rickey” Nelson, and a “Gene” Nelson. His roster included an inordinate number of people with names like “Moore,” “Clark,” “Thomas,” “Putnam,” and “Reynolds” and enough people named Bill, Bob, Jim, Dave, and Rickey to staff the reunion shows of “Ozzie and Harriet,” “Leave It to Beaver,” “Father Knows Best,” “My Three Sons,” and “Lost in Space.”
Further, the Baseball Abstract staff of investigative reporters has now uncovered evidence that many of these people were, in fact, not major league baseball players at all, but hired “ringers” or “rhymers,” as they are called, imported specifically to confuse the public. An unnamed source has told us that, as recently as August of 1981, eleven members of the 1983 Seattle Mariners were working in the tobacco industry. Investigator Paula Fastwon in Strawberry Hill, North Carolina, found this advertisement in the help-wanted section of the August 17, 1981 edition of the Strawberry Sunday News:
Growth-oriented company looking for a few young men to come help us fight forest fires in the Pacific Northwest. We have a lot of spare time to kill, so only those with some familiarity with American sports jargon need apply. Prefer applicants to have at least average manual dexterity and foot speed; those forest fires can come at you pretty fast, you know. Contact Dan at P.O. Box 1392, Strawberry Hill. (Emphasis mine)
Don’t think that’s suspicious? Well, consider this: 47% of the people in Strawberry Hill, North Carolina, are named “Henderson”! Apparently, O’Brien hoped, once he had the rest of the league properly confused, to get seven people on his roster named “Dave Henderson,” and then go to the winter meetings and start trading them; promising each opposing general manager that he was getting that Dave Henderson. O’Brien planned to keep the real Dave Henderson, release everybody in his system named “Nelson” or “Allen,” and make his bid for The Sporting News Executive of the Year award. The plan was uncovered by an alert security guard at the Kingdome, Dick Henderson, who contacted Danny Kaye, who passed the word to George Argyros. O’Brien pleaded for a chance to see his plan through, but was fired after uttering the unforgivable words, “What else did you expect me to do, you moron, you can’t make a ballclub out of moussaka.”
Elsewhere in the book, James predicts, “Some terrible things, unimaginably terrible things, are going to be done with computers in the next thirty years. Do not kid yourself that it’s not going to happen; deal frankly with the fact that it is going to happen.” Amazing how eerie this prediction was — it only took 10 years until spam came about and 20 years until this web site was founded.