Bill James and the Cock-Lebur

A Tragicomedy in Precisely Two Acts.

Like any serberista worth his fashion spectactles, I spend about 90% of my day within arm’s reach of Bill James’ collected works. Or, okay, maybe collected works is an exaggeration — but at least a whole bunch of them.

Anyway, when I find a moment of leisure, I’m not averse to reaching out my arm, extracting from the bookcase one of James’s aforementioned works, and reading the frig out of it.

Which, I was doing that just now, when I came across a passage that will be of interest to the NotGraphs readership.

The passage in question comes from James’ Baseball Book 1990. In that Book, there’s a section called the Draft Adviser, in which section James provides brief capsule-type analysis for probably like a thousand players.

One such capsule is for Charles Hudson, and it looks almost entirely like this:

CHARLES HUDSON
Detroit

Ouch. I detest pitchers like this. Hudson is one of those guys who looks great — five times a year. The rest of the time he loses. Basically, I’d rather have a cocklebur in my underwear than Charles Hudson on my pitching staff.

Two notes on this. Or, at least two.

First, let it be known that Hudson’s story is actually a kinda not-inspiring one. After some success in 1983 and 1984, his career went the wrong direction — until 1989, when he had more walks than strikeouts. Adding a very literal injury to the insult that was his career at that point, Hudson was involved in drunk-driving accident at the end of the year and never pitched again in the Majors.

So, I recognize that’s unpleasant. One-hundred apologies.

There is, however, a second, decidedly more LOL-ish, side to this particular story. Notably, it’s this: owing to the layout of the text, the word cocklebur is actually split in half, so that it reads cock-lebur. To the eye of a male, between the ages of 18 and, say, infinity years old, a cock-lebur is a very different thing than a cocklebur.

I’ll leave it to the reader’s imagination exactly what it might be, but it’s almost definitely something that shouldn’t be in Bill James’ underwear, that much is clear.




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Carson Cistulli occasionally publishes spirited ejaculations at The New Enthusiast.

2 Responses to “Bill James and the Cock-Lebur”

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  1. ChrisDTX says:

    Oddly, Charles Hudson was one of the starting pitchers in the first baseball game I ever attended (’84 Phillies), and later also started the first game in which I saw my favorite team (’89 Tigers). I always thought he was a cock-lebur. It’s nice to have confirmation of this from a third party.

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  2. Choo says:

    In Malay, “lebur” means “dissolved”, so “cock lebur” could be something as simple as chicken broth. Or it could be the most horrendous chem lab catastrophe imaginable.

    Also, in France, Coldcock Malt Liquor is known as “Cock Le Burr.”

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