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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.