My first paid piece of writing was a handful of player essays for a 1988 book called “Bill James presents the Great American Baseball Stat Book.” It was an interesting time period. Fantasy baseball — we called it Rotisserie Baseball in those days — had exploded onto the scene and created a huge hunger for baseball content. For about a decade, before the arrival of the world wide web, this content came mostly in book form, and I contributed to many of the most popular titles.
In the late 1990s, I began collaborating with author John Thorn, joining his publishing company, Total Sports, when it launched in 1998. I continued to work on book projects after I left there. Much of my later work was on football and other sports. Here are some highlights.
Pro Football Historical Abstract
My 2008 book won the Nelson Ross Award, presented annually by the Pro Football Researchers Association for “outstanding achievement in pro football research and historiography.” I took the analytical methods that formed the basis of my annual football preview books and applied them to past players. The result was an exhaustive look at the history of pro football.
The centerpiece is my rating and ranking of the top players at each position from 1920 to the present. I take a detailed look at nearly a thousand players, with new insight on their playing styles and their strengths and weaknesses on the field.
ESPN Pro Football Encyclopedia
This was essentially the last football encyclopedia that appeared in print. This was a great collaboration, spearheaded by Pete Palmer and Ken Pullis. They spent several years developing a new statistical database, based on an exhaustive game-by-game reconstruction of the historical record.
The encyclopedia also incorporated some of my analytical work, based on my compilation of play-by-play accounts for games back to 1960. The first edition came out in 2006 and we published an update in 2008.
Pro Football Prospectus
The annual Pro Football Prospectus was described by ESPN.com as a “paradigm-shifting work,” and former Green Bay Packers head coach Mike Sherman called it “one of the most comprehensive evaluations on the market.” I created this series in 2002 with co-author Todd Greanier, as a spinoff from the successful and popular Baseball Prospectus brand.
We had a hard time attracting the same kind of following for pro football that those folks developed for baseball. Still, there is some good work in the three editions of this book published each summer from 2002 until 2004. (The book was published with the title “Pro Football Forecast” in its 2004 edition).
Reference books are a collaborative effort, especially when one volume contains 2500 pages. To date, I’ve had a major role in creating seven of these behemoths.
- 2007 ESPN Pro Football Encyclopedia
- 2006 ESPN Pro Football Encyclopedia
- Total Tennis: The Ultimate Tennis Encyclopedia
- Total Baseball (8th edition)
- Total Basketball
- Total Baseball (7th edition)
- Total Baseball (6th edition)
I’ve contributed content to more than a dozen other sports reference books and sports annuals, including…
- Redleg Annual (2013 & 2014)
- 2007 ESPN Baseball Encyclopedia
- 2006 ESPN Baseball Encyclopedia
- 2005 ESPN Baseball Encyclopedia
- The Baseball Encyclopedia (2004)
- Deadball Stars of the National League
- Total Baseball Trivia (two editions)
- Sports Illustrated Sports Almanac (2000 & 2001)
- Baseball: The Biographical Encyclopedia (two editions)
- Big Bad Baseball Annual (1998 & 1999)
- Rotisserie Baseball Analyst (1990 & 1991)
- The Great American Baseball Stat Book (1988 & 1989)