What: "The Worst Baseball Pitchers of All Time: Bad Luck, Bad Arms, Bad Teams and Just Plain Bad" by Allen C. Kaufman and James S. Kaufman.
Price: $23.95. Available from McFarland and Co. Publishers, Box 611, Jefferson, N.C. 28640.
The topic is irresistible, and the authors combine extensive research with engaging commentary and tender care of the losing pitchers they profile.
The authors bestow the "Skunk Stearns Award," an anti-Cy Young Award, on the pitcher they deem worst each year. But a retroactive and often posthumous award based on arbitrary and uncommon statistics makes phrases like "winning the Skunk Stearns race" downright silly--there was no race in any given year, and there still isn't.
The book provides surprising evidence that bad pitchers are often good pitchers, supporting the clubhouse cliche that a pitcher has to be good to lose 20 games or else his team wouldn't keep pitching him. Don Larsen, who in 1956 pitched the only perfect game in World Series history, went 3-21 in 1954. Denny McLain, the last 30-game winner at 31-6 in 1968, went 10-22 in 1971.