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Red Sox executive will give Naismith lecture

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

LAWRENCE — The University of Kansas Department of Health, Sport & Exercise Sciences welcomes Bill James as keynote speaker at this year’s James Naismith Lecture Series. 

This year’s lecture, “Transitioning from Naïve to Professional Research,” will be given by James, senior baseball operations adviser for the Boston Red Sox. The lecture will take place at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 15, in Woodruff Auditorium of the Kansas Union. The event is free and open to the public. 

James is one of the most prominent authors on the subject of baseball from a statistical perspective. Though not a statistician by trade, he is credited with coining the term “sabermetrics” and pioneered the field with his insightful, articulate, creative, knowledgeable, occasionally comical and always idiosyncratic writings on a plethora of baseball-related subjects, many of which he invented himself. James has been called the “Sultan of Stats,” Major League Baseball’s analytics pioneer. 

“Given the pioneering role of James Naismith in sports and physical education, it is truly fitting for Bill James to serve as the 2017 Naismith lecturer. We are honored,” said Joseph Weir, chair of the health, sport & exercise sciences department. “In addition to being a proud Jayhawk, his pioneering statistical work in baseball led to the creation of what is now the field of sport analytics, and it has fundamentally changed how teams assess all aspects of their programs.”

James received bachelor’s degrees in English and economics in 1973 and a bachelor’s degree in education in 1975. In 1977, he wrote and self-published 1977 Baseball Abstract: Featuring 18 Categories of Statistical Information That You Just Can't Find Anywhere Else. He turned his ongoing work into an annual publication.  In 1978, he sold 250 copies. By 1982, Ballantine Books was publishing his yearly stats and views in a book called “The Baseball Abstract.”

James received an Alumni Distinguished Achievement Award from the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences in 2009.

The James Naismith Lecture Series was established in the spring of 2008 to honor the legendary founder of the game of basketball and first chair of the department. Since the first lecture the department has hosted multiple lectures on topics including:

  • exercise physiology
  • sport psychology
  • sport management & administration
  • sports medicine
  • health & physical education
  • KU’s athletic history and tradition

More information on the James Naismith Lecture Series can be found here.  

The Department of Health, Sport & Exercise Sciences is housed in the School of Education, a nationally ranked school preparing educators and health/sport/exercise professionals as leaders.    

Photo: Baseball sabermetrician and Boston Red Sox executive Bill James, 2010. Photo courtesy of dishfunctional, via Flickr.

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