Bill James Born: October 5, 1949 (Holton, Kansas)
Graduated: Mayetta High School, 1967 / University of Kansas, 1971.
The University of Kansas is always associated with the growth of college basketball. Allen Fieldhouse
is just one of those places that fans from all over the country know because of the sport’s historic ties to
One thing that gets forgotten, though, is KU’s connection to the revolution of the analysis of baseball, but
more specifically, with sabermetrics. One person we can attribute this to is Kansas-native, Bill James.
Hailing from Holton, James studied both English and economics in his time as a Jayhawk, both of which
came into play as he began his career in baseball through numbers and publications.
As an avid baseball fan, James picked up writing about the sport after completing his Army service in
the 1970s. From the beginning, his work always took an uncommon approach. Many writers took a look
at the game of baseball based on what the players had to say, or highlights that they would have heard
about. James took the approach of analyzing everything that might go into what makes baseball what it
really is: which types of pitchers and catchers allow the most stolen bases? What are the actual statistics
behind if a hitter is “clutch” or not? What are the other numbers behind just a basic batting average?
James went on to make answering these questions his career, and he completely changed the business of
baseball as a result. In reference to the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR), James coined
the term sabermetrics, and several statistical categories that have evolved over time, such as runs created.
As a result, James has established himself as a staple in the history of baseball.
The use of sabermetrics was largely highlighted in Michael Lewis’ book Moneyball, telling the story of
Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane as he ran the organization from a standpoint that was
largely supported by James’ work. Moneyball became a cult classic film amongst baseball fans, and as a
result, sabermetrics gained widespread use to a whole new generation of baseball fans.
In 2003, James was able to use his statistical analysis of America’s pastime in an office setting after being hired as a senior advisor on baseball operations for the Boston Red Sox. In his tenure with the historic franchise, James helped oversee four World Series championships, with one of these ending their infamous 86-year championship drought. James retired from the organization following the 2019 season.
Please welcome Bill James to the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame.
Biography by: Madelynn Hartley
Photos Courtesy of the Kansas City Star and the Boston Red Sox.