Stepping into Da Box ... Rob Neyer

Thursday, April 15 2004 @ 03:05 AM EDT

Contributed by: Mick Doherty

Rob Neyer doesn't pull any punches on his personal Web site, the eponymous, starting out the obligatory FAQ with the simple question, "Who the hell are you, and where the hell did you come from?"

Well, replies Neyer, "My name is Rob Neyer, and since 1996 Iíve written a daily baseball column for Prior to that, I was with STATS, Inc. for about two-and-a-half years, and before that I spent four years working with baseball author Bill James."

If that resume doesn't ring a George Bell for the casual Box reader, Neyer is also the author of books such as Baseball Dynasties (with Eddie Epstein) and the massively titled Rob Neyer's Big Book of Baseball Lineups: A Complete Guide to the Best, Worst, and Most Memorable Players to Ever Grace the Major Leagues, reviewed here on Da Box last June.

In that review, Neyer's former employer, James, was quoted as calling him "the best of the new generation of sportswriters. He knows baseball history like a child knows his piggy bank. He knows how to pick it up and shake it and make what he needs fall out." So it should come as no surprise that James and Neyer have now collaborated on a new book entitled The Neyer/James Guide to Pitchers A Historical Compendium of Pitching, Pitchers and Pitches.

As such, Neyer has generously agreed to spend some time with Da Box, specifically to discuss the new book, and provided a pre-press galley for review. The review, in which he will answer some of the questions Boxers post here in this thread, is scheduled for publication during the week of May 24, just ahead of the book's scheduled official publication date.

Want a little personal baseball insight into Neyer? He's started his conversation with Da Box by answering all the same questions each regular in the Box Lineup has answered. So while you might recall that as recently as last summer he wrote of the Blue Jays, "I think I might have a new favorite team," we now know that's not (yet) true -- but that we might just leap to the conclusion that back in Little League, he was randomly attacking lovable schnitzel-shaped mascots.

Here we go ...

Rob Neyer
Position: LF
Bats: R
Throws: R
Born: 6/22/66, Columbia, Mo.
Resides: Portland, Oregon, USA
Major-League Comp to Little League Career: Randall Simon
Favourite Team: K.C. Royals
Favourite Player (current): Tim Wakefield
Favourite Player (all-time): Bill Pecota
Best Game Attended In Person: Game 3, 1985 ALCS (sorry, Jays fans)
Favourite Baseball Book: The Glory of Their Times (or) Ball Four (or) The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract
Favourite Play in Baseball: Delayed steal (because it never works but they keep trying it)
Favourite Ballpark: Fenway Park
Striding-To-The-Plate Music: Center Field
Three Unshakable Baseball Beliefs: 1. Opening Day should take place within North America; 2. Babe Ruth is still the greatest player ever; 3. Caps with patches look really, really stupid.

So, About This Book ...
The Neyer/James Guide to Pitchers A Historical Compendium of Pitching, Pitchers and Pitches is scheduled to release in late May or early June at 476 pages and is currently listed on for US$16.95 and on for CN$19.60.

From the dustjacket:
"Pitchers, and the pitches they throw, and how they throw them -- these days it's the stuff of constant scrutiny, but there's never been a comprehensive source for such information."

From the introduction:
"Both of us are compulsive collectors of old baseball books ... there were books about pitchers and pitching, of course, but these were hit and miss; finding specific information about a specific pitcher was always a long shot ... We haven't filled in every gap; we haven't thickened every thin spot. We have come astonishingly close ... [winding] up with actual, documented information about the pitches thrown by roughly ninety-eight percent of the pitchers with substantial major-league careers, plus hundreds who had not-very-substantial careers."

From the publicist:
"Like most of their previous work, The Neyer/James Guide to Pitchers is about understanding baseball greatness and baseball weakness. Whether the reader is looking to spark an entertaining debate, compare the players of yesterday to today or just plain obsess over everything and anything to do with baseball, The Neyer/James Guide to Pitchers is the book to have." -- Trina Rice, Touchstone/Firestone

On first glance, the book appears to be an awesome work -- in the literal, not the 1980's teen slang, sense. For instance, the heart of the book is a "Pitcher Census," which lists specific information for nearly two thousand pitchers, spanning all three centuries of major league baseball.

In addition, there are 10 articles about great pitchers who have been overlooked: Tommy Bond, Tony Mullane, Wilbur Cooper, Eddie Rommel, Mel Harder, Lon Warneke, Tommy Bridges, Bucky Walters, Billy Pierce and Bob Friend. These are defined by Neyer and James as "pitchers who pitched at least thirty years ago, are not in the Hall of Fame, have never been the subject of a book-length biography, but had careers of Hall of Fame caliber."

Is this book-length biography of Pitchers, Pitches and Pitching headed for a Hall of Fame career on the bookshelves of baseball fans, prominently displayed next to James' Abstracts and Neyer's Lineups? That's what we'll aim to find out in this review process.

So now, Boxers, it's up to you. What do you want to know about how this book happened? What pitchers, right off the bat (sorry), seem to be missing from that overlooked "List of 10"? What would you expect -- even demand -- from a book with this subject and title before plunking down your twenty bucks to add it to your collection? What else?

As we did with previous interviews with Richard Griffin and Geoff Baker, representative questions will be incorporated into the e-mail "interview" exchange with Neyer. And the results -- and review -- are coming to a Box near you in early summer.