Clearing the Bases: The Greatest Baseball Debates of the...

Editor's Choice

July 21, 2002|By Michael Pakenham

Clearing the Bases: The Greatest Baseball Debates of the Last Century, by Allen Barra (St. Martin's, 261 pages, $24.95)

Barra, sports columnist for The Wall Street Journal and widely published elsewhere, writes that he spent much of his early life wondering who or what event was the very best of almost everything in sports. There was no concise source of answers -- just masses of records. So -- as so many wonderful books occur -- he set out to write the book he wanted to read. He goes about the job with meticulous care, with energy and delight. Every conclusion is supported by a wealth of data, well-balanced. Six pages and four tables lead him to conclude: "No matter how you slice it, career-wise or for a peak ten-year period, there is no question that Ted Williams's hitting stats are superior to Joe DiMaggio's." Acres of statistics and clear language draw the finding that Lefty Grove was the "greatest pitcher of the first half of the twentieth century" and Roger Clemens the best of the second half. And he gives the overall nod to Clemens. Great book for the armchair athlete.

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