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Cooperstown Confidential: Heroes, Rogues,…

Cooperstown Confidential: Heroes, Rogues, and the Inside Story of the Baseball Hall of Fame (edition 2009)

by Zev Chafets

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686388,080 (3.11)5
The first book to draw back the veil on the Hall of Fame, combining an insider's history of the Hall and its players with a consideration of baseball's place in culture.
Title:Cooperstown Confidential: Heroes, Rogues, and the Inside Story of the Baseball Hall of Fame
Authors:Zev Chafets
Info:Bloomsbury USA (2009), Hardcover, 256 pages
Collections:Your library, Wishlist

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Cooperstown Confidential: Heroes, Rogues, and the Inside Story of the Baseball Hall of Fame by Zev Chafets


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In his first baseball-related book, Cooperstown Confidential: Heroes, Rogues, and the Inside Story of the Baseball Hall of Fame, Zev Chafets reveals the American institution's inner workings and complex history through a 21st century lens of favoritism, racism, and institutionalized privilege. A lifelong Detroit Tigers fan, Chafets skillfully tracks seven decades of hypocrisy in the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

From the very beginning, it required no professional criteria beyond a ten-year career for admission. Founder Stephen Clark and then current baseball commissioner Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis, who was installed by the owners after the 1919 Black Sox scandal, unofficially insisted that inductees be “men of integrity, virtue, and character.” Even with such criteria, the first class of inducted players included two racist cheaters (Ty Cobb and Tris Speaker), a notorious womanizer (Babe Ruth), a legendary drunkard (Grover Cleveland Alexander), and a key figure in baseball's strict segregation rules (Cap Anson). The character ruling became official in 1944, though that never stopped the inclusion of later players of questionable morality such as Gaylord Perry, Al Simmons, Jimmie Foxx, Dizzy Dean and Leo Durocher. Considering this band of cheats, drunks, bigots, and hedonists, Chafets successfully argues for Hall inclusion of steroid-era stud hitters Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire and the banned-for-life, all-time hits leader Pete Rose.

Through fascinating stories and interviews with players and baseball experts, Chafets masterfully exposes a system fraught with favoritism and political wrangling, and supported by institutionalized bias. Insightful sequences highlight the Hall's often shoddy treatment of African-American, Hispanic, and other minority ball players.

Even while revealing baseball's flawed soul, Zev Chafets manages to maintain a nostalgic, almost spiritual sense of reverence. A worthy addition to any baseball library, Cooperstown Confidential ultimately exposes the unacknowledged, ugly truths of American society that the Hall as much as the game it celebrates reflects.

This review originally appeared in The Geek Curmudgeon, August 10, 2010. ( )
  rickklaw | Oct 13, 2017 |
The book is full of facts and information, but there is little meat behind any of it. A lot of the information is shined up, glossed over or half truths to better fit the authors thesis that the HOF is nothing but scandalous. I wish the author would of taken more time to fill in the gaps regardless of where the stories led.

A few of the middle chapters like "the monks" and "the Haul of Fame" are worth reading. However I just got into the final chapter where he debates that steroid users should be let into the hall of fame and you could shoot a missile between all the holes in his arguments.

Saying that Bonds did not enhance his career anymore than Babe Ruth because %26 of Bonds Hrs came in his last 6 seasons and %28 of Ruths Hrs came in his last 6 seasons is ridiculous. Of course most of Ruths Hrs came later in his career because in his early career he was a pitcher and playing in the deadball era, but this is not mentioned.

"If only one side has access to a (supposedly) magical potion, it would obviously change the balance. But what if both sides are using the same thing? Doesn't that even things out?" Um, Mr. Author not everyone was juicing in the steroid era so no it does not even everything out.

For more in depth arguments about the HOF and who should or should not have been elected I would suggest reading Whatever Happened to the Hall of Fame by Bill James.

Just checking the index - a book about the HOF and not one mention of Lee Allen, hmm ok. ( )
  ZinnBeck | Jun 22, 2013 |
So far, the first 75 pages have piqued my interest. I just finished the section about Native American baseball players that I found especially interesting. A lot of research and statistics went into this book. After I finish the book I now hope to go to Cooperstown, Hof; in the summer of course!
  jbarouch | Mar 13, 2013 |
Zev Chafets is a mensch. He has written a story that needed to be told. No sport is more full of bs than baseball and the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown turns out to be the shrine to bs. Chafets shows that all of the arguments used regarding the character of potential Hall of Famers such as Pete Rose are moot. The Hall has enshrined crooks, gamblers, drunks, racists and possibly a murderer since its inception. Chafets also argues persuasively that all of the hand-wringing that goes on regarding what to do with steroid users is silly. There is no proof that steroids actually enhance performance and furthermore Chafets shows that drug use has been a part of baseball for many many years. It was great fun to read a book that takes a pin to the hot-air balloons of pomposity that surround our "national pastime."My only regret is that this book did not exist five years ago so that I would not have wasted my money going to the Hall of Fame. ( )
  markfinl | Oct 16, 2011 |
Shining light on the unclean hands of the Baseball Hall of Fame, Cooperstown Confidential is a very good sociology of baseball and the United States. Chafets is full left, pro-labor, pro-racial equality, and anti the character clause. Very well written starting with the Jewish identification with Hank Greenberg to the outrage against the PED outrage, the only surprise was the chapter applying the character clause to Hugo Chavez. I'm a big-Hall guy who only would have exempted Pete Rose. Chafets has changed my mind. OTOH, Steve "Padre" Garvey should be kept out; not because of "Padre," but because he wasn't good enough of a ballplayer. I'm not that big-Hall of a guy. ( )
  DromJohn | Oct 11, 2010 |
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That Chafets... loves baseball (and his hometown Detroit Tigers), there is no doubt. But here he gives a very fair and critical view of the hall, recalling the tribute not only to the game, but some of the more unsavory characters who were admitted -- such as the racist Ty Cobb, who holds the major league record for highest career batting average.
The approach throughout this short book is breezy, jokey and anecdotal, rather than exhaustive or earnestly finger-wagging.
Zev Chafets’ Cooperstown Confidential, a slender book that serves as both a revisionist history of the Hall and a polemic in favor of socially liberal admission policies (Pete Rose and steroids users will rejoice if Chafets has any impact on voting patterns), manages to be earnest and playful, though not in the traditional ways... Earnest because it spends more time addressing issues like racism and commercialism than whether Bert Blyleven deserves a plaque; and playful because it gleefully spits in the face of anyone who thinks the Hall’s (very thin) Puritanical sheen is anything but a “public relations sham.”
Cooperstown Confidential brims with excellent reporting, cogent analysis, and delicious dish. At times it's awfully funny (one widely respected player was married, writes Chafets, "but he wasn't a fanatic about it"). And it demonstrates that the Hall of Fame is more hollow than hallowed.
added by Shortride | editFortune, Daniel Okrent (Jul 7, 2009)
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The first book to draw back the veil on the Hall of Fame, combining an insider's history of the Hall and its players with a consideration of baseball's place in culture.

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