It took Bill James to teach me how good Mike Schmidt was. I was talking to a guy at work who was a little older than me in the summer of 1982 and he said something about good ballplayers not being as dominate as before. I agreed with him. I probably used Schmidt as an example. He has all those home run titles but hit 40 or more home runs only once.
Then next spring a bought the Bill James 1983 Baseball Abstract. I had seen the 1982 abstract in the store, but Bill had written something about the Twins I didn’t like, and I didn’t know who Bill James was anyway. I glanced at the 1983 abstract and took it home with me to read. I was in a whole knew world. Things I thought I knew but couldn’t explain Bill explained them. Also, some things I thought I knew and was wrong Bill wrote that also. However, he was able to explain what was wrong. I don’t know how many of you will guess what the first thing I did after work the next day. I went to the store and bought Bill’s 1982 abstract that had been setting there on the shelf for a year. That took care of the only copies of Bill James’ books in the store.
Another story, about buying the Bill James Abstract. In 1987 I was working at Fort Hood. One of the big national bookstores at the time had a deal if you bought a Baseball Book between certain dates you would get the whole major league schedule. That year I knew what day Bill’s abstract was going to hit the stores. I went after work and there was the book. The schedule was advertised in two or three different places in the store. I went to the counter and the clerk rung me up. She didn’t give me a schedule. I mentioned it. She said she didn’t know if it was a Baseball book. I said Baseball was in the title. She said she had to go talk to her boss. This took about 10 minutes and the line behind me was growing longer. She manager finally came up front and the clerk said this customer wants a calendar is this a baseball book. The manager said sure and left. The clerk threw my schedule in the bag. I look back and the customers behind me were more amused than anything. One guy showed me he had a baseball book. I looked at my schedule later and it had a lot of books on the schedule and one was Bill James’ Baseball Abstract.
After I learned to appreciate Mike Schmidt as a player, I went to Philadelphia for training. I realized that Mike Schmidt had a restaurant near our hotel. We didn’t have rental cars, but the hotel was near a lot of restaurants. I convince one friend to go with me. It reminded me of Cheers on TV, but it was more of a family restaurant even though it had a bar. Mike Schmidt was there doing a radio interview. I didn’t talk to him, but he did talk to people at a couple of tables. The food was good, and the atmosphere was nice. This was at least 25 years ago, and I have no idea whether the restaurant is still there.