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Thorn: It’s stories that matter, not stats

Babe Ruth et al

John Thorn, the new historian for Major League Baseball, seems to have changed his approach to baseball and baseball history: instead of stressing stats as a way to reference baseball, he’s now arguing for a focus on the great stories associated with the game.

As regular readers of this site know, we much prefer discussions and stories relating to baseball rather than stats and fantasy ball: as a leisurely sport, baseball is the perfect place for listening to some of the best storytelling left in the sports world. 

Thorn, an author of the original Total Baseball (a statistical analysis of the game), now says that sabermetrics and statistical analysis aren’t the best ways to approach the game. He writes in Bleacher Report:

For a whole generation of fans and fantasy players, stats have begun to outstrip story and that seems to me a sad thing. Even the unverifiable hogwash that passed for fact or informed opinion in baseball circles not so long ago seems today wistfully enticing, for its energy if nothing else….

OK, maybe Abe Lincoln did not urge Abner Doubleday with his dying breath to “keep baseball alive; America will need it in the trying days ahead.” So what?

Frankly, in today’s baseball writing I miss such Sternian balderdash: the wink and the nudge of a Barnum or the tall-tale bluster of a Davy Crockett. Amid today’s mix of straight-on account and sabermetric analysis, I miss the fun.

We couldn’t agree more. Our favorite memories of the game include discussions of Singing Ed Nottle on Colorado Rockies practice fields, listening to Tommy Lasorda hold court at the Dodgertown dining room, chatting with old-school scouts in Great Falls and Dunedin, and comparing notes at a Rochester Red Wings game with passionate fans like Gary Larder. These are the things that make baseball such a great game, not a listing of intentional walks issued with the bases empty.

Image courtesy of Library of Congress, LC-DIG-ppmsca-18459. From left to right: Babe Ruth, Ernie Shore, Rube Foster and Del Gainer when playing for the Boston Red Sox. Ruth, of course, changed the game and was responsible for a whole host of stories and legends over the years; Shore returned to his hometown of Winston-Salem and had a minor-league ballpark named for him. That ballpark is now Wake Forest Baseball Park. H/T: Rod Nelson.

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