Cover image for Clearing the bases : the greatest baseball debates of the last century
Clearing the bases : the greatest baseball debates of the last century
Barra, Allen.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Thomas Dunne Books, St. Martin's Press, 2002.
Physical Description:
xxi, 261 pages ; 22 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
GV863 .B26 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
GV863 .B26 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

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Who was better, Mickey Mantle or Willie Mays? Who was the best right-hander of the '60s, Bob Gibson or Juan Marichal? Who is the greatest starting pitcher of all time? At his peak, who was more valuable, Joe DiMaggio or Ted Williams? If Lefty Grove, Sandy Koufax, and Roger Clemens had pitched at the same time against the same hitters, who would have won the most games? If Jackie Robinson had been white, would he be deserving of the Hall of Fame? Is Pete Rose overrated? Has Tim Raines been underrated? Who is the best hitter of the game today - Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, Ken Griffey, Jr.? Is today's pitching really that bad? Why can't modern pitchers go nine innings? Which are more valuable - good starters or good relievers? How important is the stolen base? What are the myths that still surround Babe Ruth? What was the most talented baseball team of the twentieth century? Which twentieth-century championship team has been most slighted by baseball historians? What has been the real impact of black and Latin talent on Major League Baseball? Is baseball more competitive now than it was one hundred years ago? Or fifty? Or twenty-five? Who was the greatest all-around player of the last century? Find the answers here. Clearing the Bases is the first book to tackle these and many other of baseball's most intriguing questions, plus it offers hard, sensible answers - answers based on exhaustive research and analysis. Sports journalist Allen Barra, whose weekly sports column, "By the Numbers," has earned him millions of readers in The Wall Street Journal and whose outspoken opinions on are discussed regularly on National Public Radio, takes on baseball's toughest arguments. Using stats and methods he developed during his ongoing tenure at The Wall Street Journal , Barra takes you to the heart of baseball's ultimate question, Who's the Best?, in this, the ultimate baseball debate book. It is guaranteed to spark thousands of heated debates and to supply the fuel for thousands more. While including bits on Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Roger Clemens, Lefty Grove, Willie Mays, and Ted Williams, among others, Barra even finds time to argue the case for great players from other sports such as Bart Starr in football and Wilt Chamberlain in basketball.Regardless of what stand you take in these debates, you'll never think about baseball's greatest stars in the same way again.

Author Notes

Allen Barra is also the author of the critically acclaimed biography Inventing Wyatt Earp: His Life and Many Legends . In addition to his column for The Wall Street Journal and, he is a monthly columnist for American Heritage magazine and a frequent contributor to the Los Angeles Times Book Review , The Washington Post Book World , Playboy , The New York Times , and The Village Voice . He is also heard regularly on Major League Baseball Radio.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Membership in the fraternity of sports fanatics requires one to possess finely honed debating skills. Mantle or Maris? Ruth or McGwire? 1927 Yankees or the 1999 Yankees? Barra, a columnist for Salon, the Wall Street Journal, and the Village Voice, provides considerable insight into many of the most hotly debated topics of baseball's last 100 years. For example, he tries to set aside his childhood prejudices to pick the greatest center fielder of all time based on statistics and awards. Who's the greatest? The Mick, in a runaway. Barra also lists baseball's most overrated and underrated players, reassesses the career of Giant pitcher Juan Marichal, and examines whether Roger Maris should be in the Hall of Fame. Other highlights include a crisp essay on the inability of today's starting pitchers to complete a game ("Why Can't They Go 9 Anymore?"). Barra is passionate, opinionated, perceptive, and a fine writer. A worthwhile addition to any sports collection. --Wes Lukowsky

Publisher's Weekly Review

Barra's primary intent with his latest book is to spark intelligent, well-reasoned debate about some of the most contentious, if essentially insignificant, issues in pro sports. And who better to make such an effort? Writing for both the establishment (the Wall Street Journal) and the counterculture (, Barra constantly challenges his readers to think outside the bounds of conventional sports analysis, using a seemingly innocuous but ultimately deadly combination of statistics ("the life blood of the sport") and common sense. Barra writes for thinking people, not simply by slaughtering baseball's sacred cows, but by demonstrating to the reader that anything less would be dishonest. Barra rips Babe Ruth's record to pieces, demonstrating at once that Ruth was a tremendous hitter, but that the accepted account of him as savior and "lively ball" progenitor of baseball is "an American creation myth." He uses a dazzling array of statistical comparisons among second basemen to vividly illustrate that the most popular argument against Jackie Robinson's inclusion in the Hall of Fame that he wouldn't be there if he had been white is nothing but racist rhetoric. Barra even manages to undermine his own religiously held belief in the superiority of Willie Mays, using a thorough statistical analysis to demonstrate Mickey Mantle's incomparable greatness. It is a rare sportswriter who can cite Branch Rickey and Irish writer/revolutionary Se n O'Faol in in the same work, but Barra does it with ease for an audience that has learned to demand nothing less. (Apr.) Forecast: With readers coming from both Salon and the Journal, Barra's take on baseball debates will reach a broad baseball readership. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Barra, a popular sports columnist for the Wall Street Journal and, holds forth on a variety of baseball subjects and debates, from the mysterious disappearance of the high leg-kick by pitchers, to spirited comparisons of all-time greats like Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio, Roger Clemens and Lefty Grove, and Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays, to an unveiling of Barra's stealth candidate for Player of the Century. (You'll never guess.) With an introduction by Bob Costas and even a couple of football opinion pieces thrown in for good measure; for all sports collections. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.