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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Chafets takes a controversial stand
Rule Five in the charter determining who gets elected to the baseball Hall of Fame states, "Voting shall be based upon the player's record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played." Zev Chafets, a former sports columnist for the NEW YORK DAILY NEWS, would like to see Rule Five eliminated, making...
Published on July 16, 2009 by Dave Schwinghammer

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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The politics and intrigue of Cooperstown
Most casual fans of baseball know little about how the Baseball Hall of Fame came into existence and fewer still have any idea of the machinations and politics involved when it comes to inducting members into the Hall of Fame. "Cooperstown Confidential" seeks to explain the politics of Cooperstown, particularly some of the more unseemly conflicts over who gets in, who is...
Published on July 23, 2009 by Todd Bartholomew


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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Chafets takes a controversial stand, July 16, 2009
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Rule Five in the charter determining who gets elected to the baseball Hall of Fame states, "Voting shall be based upon the player's record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played." Zev Chafets, a former sports columnist for the NEW YORK DAILY NEWS, would like to see Rule Five eliminated, making room for such players as Peter Rose, Barry Bonds, and Shoeless Joe Jackson.

Chafets bases his argument on some of the characters already in the Hall who don't meet Rule Five standards. Ty Cobb and Tris Speaker conspired to fix a game and Judge Landis helped with the cover-up. Speaker was also a member of the Ku Klux Klan. Grover Cleveland Alexander pitched while drunk and there are several cocaine addicts in the Hall. Sports writer Red Smith recommended they blow the Hall up and start over again.

Perhaps the most entertaining part of the book is the first section, where Chafets is less belligerent. He shows how the Hall of Fame came to be. Cooperstown was supposed to be the place where Abner Doubleday originated the game. This proved to be a flight of the imagination of Al Spaulding one of the first great players in the National League and an owner of the Cubs. Cooperstown was also founded by James Fenimore Cooper's father and was home to the Clark family whose forefather was a lawyer for Isaac Singer, the inventor of the sewing machine. The Clarks still own most of Cooperstown and run the HOF.

While he's not ranting about steroids, Chafets talks to some of the members of the veterans of the women's baseball league who are sitting in the lobby signing autographs for five bucks a pop. When Chafets asks about their signatures and the HOF designation, they get all huffy, but women haven't been admitted as of yet. He also gives us a look at the memorabilia industry. Goose Gossage was just elected as Chafets was writing the book and his autograph was suddenly worth triple what it was and his speaking fees went way up as well.

To emphasize the Hall`s hypocrisy, Chafets shows us the fake ball that Doubleday used in that first game. Perhaps Chafets's strongest argument regarding steroids use is that other professions use performance enhancing drugs. Scientists use "smart" pills; surgeons and pilots use pills to improve their alertness. Even the great Hank Aaron has admitted to popping a "greenie" to help him break out of a slump.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The politics and intrigue of Cooperstown, July 23, 2009
Most casual fans of baseball know little about how the Baseball Hall of Fame came into existence and fewer still have any idea of the machinations and politics involved when it comes to inducting members into the Hall of Fame. "Cooperstown Confidential" seeks to explain the politics of Cooperstown, particularly some of the more unseemly conflicts over who gets in, who is kept out and why. The picture Chafets paints is not an entirely complimentary one and it puts many of the people associated with Cooperstown in an unflattering light. Rather than being viewed as guardians of baseball's rich legacy they're portrayed as scheming Machiavellis, zealously ensuring that baseball is presented in the most favorable light, truth be damned. This is rich stuff to be mined, from the notoriously vague criteria for admission to the Hall of Fame, to the deliberately non-transparent voting process, the notable omissions from the Hall and the equally questionable admissions. Readers will find themselves asking "Just whose idea of baseball is this?" The problem unfortunately is compounded by Chafets's obvious lack of objectivity throughout the book. It's clearly a polemic and Chafets wants Cooperstown to reform for the sake of baseball's future, if not to redeem its past. But Chafets's bias has other manifestations, particularly when it comes to the subject of the use of "performance enhancing drugs" which has become endemic in baseball. Chafets is part of the minority of sports writers that feels performance enhancing drugs have gotten a bum wrap and to that end he sounds more like an apologist than a true fan of the sport. At times his anger at the management of Cooperstown and the Hall of Fame process smacks of Chafets being a conspiracy theorist and it comes close at times to histrionics. If there truly were secret conspiracies someone surely would have talked by now or news would somehow have leaked out. Certainly some of what Chafets presents here is undoubtedly true, but his lack of objectivity weakens his arguments and damages the enjoyability of the book in the process. It is interesting, but hardly nuanced, reasoned or the whole story.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Cooperstown Social Issues, August 5, 2009
When Mr. Chafet's book first came to my attention, I was particularly intrigued by the subtitle of "Heroes, Rogues, and the Inside Story of the Baseball Hall of Fame." I thought this would be an opportunity to learn more about the inside workings of the Hall and read some juicy stories. However, things did not work out as well as I had hoped. I would describe myself as an ex-baseball fan. I played the game seriously through high school and always loved it. Now I find that I rarely watch it on TV, and I stay somewhat familiar with the season as it goes along.

Cooperstown Confidential does a good job of giving the history of the Hall of Fame but really does not do much towards helping those of us who have never been there get a clearer picture of what the Hall is really like. Much of the history in the book covered things I had read before, and the description of the town of Cooperstown seemed familiar. Mr. Chaftets covers the expected ground of Ty Cobb, Shoeless Joe, Abner Doubleday, Pete Rose, etc., but I was hoping for more insight.

As I progressed through the book, I felt that the author was taking more and more of a personal stand on various issues and was attempting to prove his points. He spends a great deal of time on Rule Five of the Hall's charter, i.e., the criteria for determining who is eligible for election. He clearly believes that the criteria of integrity should not be a determining factor and recommends that Rule Five be eliminated entirely, thus opening the door for Pete Rose and others. He also spends a lot of time on the question of steroids. Should known steroid users be eligible for admittance to the Hall? Mr. Chafets believes that they should be. He tries to make the points that we really don't know if steroids benefit baseball players or not and also that we really don't understand whether or not steroids cause serious medical problems. He justifies his arguments by using examples of people in other lines of work who take pills to help them get through life.

I just got tired of reading his opinions about social issues. I wanted more baseball and more information about the Hall of Fame itself.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Personal Rant About Baseball Hall Of Fame, November 8, 2009
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The author seems displeased about virtually everything related to the Hall Of Fame. He doesn't like those who run it or many of those who vote for members. He spends a lot of pages lamenting that there are less African American players than there used to be. He argues that Latin American players are being exploited. He's favorable to Marvin Miller's legal work that greatly increased ballplayers financial situations. He doesn't think that the use of steroids or performance enhancing drugs are necessarily bad for baseball. After all if both pitchers and batters are enhanced they cancel each other out. And enhancements don't help the bat hit the ball. With regard to African American participation many of that race feel the game is too slow for them. They prefer the fast moving excitement of basketball and football. No conspiracy there. As for Latin exploitation why are so many here? Maybe they see better financial rewards and opportunity here than at home. Marvin Miller and salaries, my personal feeling is that athletes make way too much. If we're to come down on the windfalls made by some Wall Street types and others why should athletes today make astronomical amounts? Maybe we need wage controls in this country. On the positive side I liked his appendex that showed the years players were inducted. I had never seen that information. Also, I'm glad he called attention to the Hugo Chavez fiasco where the anti-American dictator offered to sponsor a permanent exhibition of Hispanic Baseball exhibit. It's beyond comprehension how the HOF went along with that. So, all in all, I don't think this is at all a definitive book on the HOF. Still, I enjoyed reading it.
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25 of 35 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars RICK "SHAQ" GOLDSTEIN SAYS: "THE BASEBALL HALL OF FAME THROUGH THE EYES OF A CONSPIRACY THEORIST & STEROID APPROVER", June 14, 2009
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This is a book about the Baseball Hall Of Fame (HOF) at Cooperstown New York... but the story starts off before the HOF even existed. In fact it starts off before baseball even existed. And right from the beginning the reader will become aware that the author's main objective... is to either dispute everything that an average baseball fan has come to accept... or share his personal beliefs of disagreement... and/or deep seated conspiracy theories... in relation to every player in the HOF... every player out of the HOF... and players that are in the HOF... but in his opinion... should be out of the HOF. From who really invented baseball... to who should vote for the players that will be enshrined... to his strongly stated... and unsettling views on performance enhancing drugs... as they relate not only to HOF enshrinement... but how they should be handled in perpetuity. The author attacks the baseball writers who vote... he attacks all the different incarnations of the veterans committee who voted in old-timers... he assaults the HOF when he feels there weren't enough black players voted in... and he attacks the HOF when he feels too many black players were voted in simultaneously. He continually quotes scorned players such as Dave Parker as if every word out of his mouth is gospel.

At times the author gives only part of the details such as when he demeans the fact that Jim Bunning is in the HOF and Mickey Lolich isn't. The author writes: "BUNNING PITCHED A NO-HIT GAME, BUT LOLICH WON 3 GAMES IN A WORLD SERIES, A MUCH RARER AND MORE IMPORTANT ACHIEVEMENT." That statement is only partially true. JIM BUNNING ACTUALLY PITCHED *TWO-NO-HITTERS*... ONE IN *EACH LEAGUE*... ONLY FIVE PLAYERS IN THE HISTORY OF BASEBALL HAS EVER DONE THAT. ADDITIONALLY ONE OF THE NO HITTERS WAS A PERFECT GAME WHICH HAS ONLY BEEN ACCOMPLISHED SEVENTEEN TIMES IN THE HISTORY OF BASEBALL... AND JIM'S WAS THE FIRST IN EIGHTY-FOUR YEARS. WHEN BUNNING RETIRED HE HAD STRUCK OUT THE SECOND MOST BATTERS IN THE HISTORY OF BASEBALL. Don't get me wrong... I am not a Jim Bunning fan... but this is the type of off-the-cuff logic the author uses throughout the book to back up his conspiratorial allegations.

The author vehemently states that all the qualified steroid users such as Bonds and Clemens should be allowed into the HOF without a second thought. In fact... (pause... pause...) he states (I swear he actually wrote this!) "RIGHT NOW, EVERY PLAYER IS A SUSPECTED CHEATER. LEGALIZE THE USE OF PED'S (PERFORMANCE ENHANCING DRUGS), AND THE CLOUD GOES AWAY. THE PLAYERS SHOULD BE OPEN ABOUT WHAT THEY ARE DOING TO IMPROVE THEIR PERFORMANCE - *LIST THE SUBSTANCES ON BASEBALL CARDS.*"

There are times when the author seems to go off into outer space such as when he says: "BASEBALL'S DISTANCE FROM BLACK AMERICA IS EVIDENT EVEN IN THE NAMES OF ITS PLAYERS. FOOTBALL AND BASKETBALL ROSTERS ARE PACKED WITH LeBRONS AND CARMELOS AND TAYSHAWNS. AT THE START OF THE 2007 SEASON THERE WERE SIXTY-NINE AFRICAN-AMERICANS IN MLB. ONLY TWO, DONTRELLE WILLIS AND LaTROY HAWKINS, HAD WHAT COULD BE NBA-WORTHY NAMES." How can you take someone's arguments seriously... when off the wall statements (which could be considered offensive) such as these are given equal weight by the author? It's hard to tell if the author wants to be taken seriously when he states: "IF THE PRO FOOTBALL HALL OF FAME DISAPPEARED TOMORROW, NOBODY EXCEPT THE CANTON CITY COUNCIL WOULD NOTICE." Now I love baseball... but football has passed baseball as the national pastime... and I'm sure there are millions upon millions of people who would be quite upset if the Pro Football Hall of Fame disappeared!

The author's writing style is engaging... but his credibility... after absorbing the cumulative effect of reading many... many... more examples than I've listed above... is akin to someone who claims to have been abducted by aliens.

Note: In Appendix 2: HOF Members. He lists the years that Jackie Robinson played as 1945, 1947-1956. This at first seems incorrect. Jackie did not play in the Major Leagues until 1947... after a headsup from a reader I was made aware that they included Negro League play later in the Halls existence.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable despite my disagreements, July 5, 2010
Zev Chafets has written a witty and flowing history of the Baseball Hall of Fame, bringing to the surface the election process and inconsistencies that I had never read about anywhere else. The book alternates between being anecdotal as he discusses the HOF with Goose Gossage or Steve Garvey to analytical when he discusses the politics that have enshrined some very marginal players and ignored some worthy stars.

Chafets biggest concern with the Hall seems to be the morality clause inserted into the language that is so nebulous that Ty Cobb can be a member, but Pete Rose cannot. This especially irks Chafets when good evidence suggests Cobb actually threw a ballgame for money, something no one accused Rose of doing.

I didn't start disagreeing with Chafets until the second half of the book when he endorsed Marvin Miller for the Hall of Fame, and more importantly, used moral relativism to equate steroid use to alcohol addiction or pep pills.

If I were a pro ballplayer I might not mind that Marvin Miller held baseball hostage through several seasons. As a fan it led to higher ticket prices, frenzied player movement, players who no longer identified with fans, strikes, lost seasons, and performance enhancing drugs to chase the bigger money. Miller's influence can be connected with most of what I don't like about today's game.

I think Chafets make a good point that it's hard to identify every dirty player in the steroids era, but he goes a little too far when he says the HOF shouldn't penalize the known cheaters. I say let the cheaters sleep on their beds of money and wonder if selling themselves was worth the price of exclusion. Unless they learn a way to drive two sports cars at once they may realize that the extra money wasn't worth the banishment. It will give the next generation of players something to consider as well.

Despite my disagreements, I still appreciated Chafets's take on the subject and would recommend it to fans as a good place to start the HOF discussion.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars OPinion, January 26, 2013
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I was looking forward to many stories about the HOF members and some "expose" pieces which tickle the funny bone without being disrespectful of the greats of the past. The book was about half that and half the author's opinion on the steroid era etc.I can form my own opinion on those issues I don't need his and am sorry I paid to read them.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Not So Confidential Story, September 14, 2014
By 
Roger D. Launius (Washington, D.C., United States) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Cooperstown Confidential: Heroes, Rogues, and the Inside Story of the Baseball Hall of Fame (Hardcover)
I have enjoyed the National Major League Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum for many years, having visited there several times. This book promised to reveal something about the gang of superb baseball players ensconced there; many of whom were also rogues while only a few were heroes. What I really learned here was what I already knew. There are a lot of great players who were not so good at life. Everyone knows about Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth. Both drank, caroused, and gambled with the best of them. Cobb was an unreconstructed rebel whose racism was legion. Ruth’s appetites were so base that they would shock even those who were close to him. Rogers Hornsby and many others were best characterized a dicks; bunches of them, including Joe DiMaggio, had ties to gamblers and organized crime. Other players, such as Cal Ripken Jr., Stan Musial, and Christy Mathewson, have squeaky-clean images. Their actual lives seem to match their images.

One of the most important themes of this book is that there are many rogues in the HoF; of course we already knew that. Some great ballplayers that have been exposed as less than stellar human beings have been barred from entry. Chafets profiles Steve Garvey, who has been denied entry despite his comparable statistics to many already in the hallowed Hall. Others, such as former MLB Players Association executive director, Marvin Miller, were repeatedly denied election to the hall for no reason other than that his superb leadership of the players ticked off every owner for a quarter century. There is no doubt that Miller had a profound impact on the game, perhaps the greatest impact of anyone in the latter half of the twentieth century, yet he ended his life still outside the HoF.

Chavets, of course, covers all of the various ironies of the Hall. This includes the pricks who are ensconced, the large number of marginal candidates admitted by the veterans committee, the attempts to overcome the racism of the past by inducting several great Negro Leagues players, the special case of Pete Rose, and especially the really difficult problem of PED use and how it will affect future voting. Through all of this the Baseball Writers Association, the group that votes on inductees with virtually no guidance from the MLB, looms large as a fickle, petty, and poorly prepared group to vote on the HoF.

Already we have seen players whose statistics are clearly Hall caliber passed over because of the suspicion of PED use. Never mind that many of the steroids used were neither illegal nor banned by MLB when the players were using. Never mind that there is no evidence implicating some of the players passed over. I could start with Mike Piazza, Craig Biggio, and Jeff Bagwell but there are several others for which there is really no evidence other than hearsay, third-hand reports, and no attempt at a legitimate investigation. I could go much further, especially concerning Rafael Palmeiro, Mark McGwire, and Roger Clemons, to say nothing of many others yet to be a part of the balloting process.

Chavets believes that the HoF should eliminate a clause in his charter that discusses a player’s character. I agree. Someone got all of those hits, homeruns, and chalked up all those wins. Those people rise to the level of a HoFer and should be inducted on into the Hall on that basis. If we want to enforce a morals clause on those inducted, we need to throw out a lot of inductees and the Hall will hold only a very small group.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting but unreliable, August 27, 2010
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Cooperstown Confidential is a light, chatty, entertaining book about the Baseball Hall of Fame.

The most fun material is the first person narrative material, which can be original and quirky. Examples are the author's encounters with Goose Gossage, reports on some oddball research inquiries conducted by the Hall staffers, and eyewitness impressions of how Hall staffers' initial reactions to the Mitchell Report on widespread steroid.

The book's main flaw is that Chafets seems to form his conclusions first and finds corroborating evidence to fit his theory second, typically without even warning the reader that other observers disagree with his observations. Let me illustrate with an extended example. The author argues that racism by Baseball Writers Association of America voters against outspoken African-American players has hurt those players' chances of being inducted into the Hall of Fame. As evidence, Chafets, points to Jackie Robinson (who was just the 8th or 9th player voted in the first year that he was eligible). Chafets points to Dave Parker, Dick Allen, Albert Belle, and Jim Rice, sluggers with 300 - 400 career home runs who are all marginal Hall of Fame candidates as a group, all bring other baggage besides being outspoken, and for whom (given that Rice was voted in) it's not at all clear that they fared worse than could be expected based on their statistical accomplishments. Chafets also points to Sheffield and Bonds as likely future victims of racism in Hall voting even though suspected steroid users who are white, such as Mark McGwire and Roger Clemens are vilified just as much as the black suspected steroid users are.

Frankly, whenever he observes that a borderline player is not voted into the Hall of Fame, including Harvey Kuenn, Curt Flood, or Mickey Lolich, Chafets suspects bias for various reasons instead of just admitting the players' credentials are far from overwhelming.

What this does is destroy Chafets' credibility elsewhere. The author claims that Dale Petroskey was dismissed by the Hall of Fame in 2008 because of poorly mishandling a sponsorship deal that tangentially involved Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan President with anti-American views. However, there's no footnote to that interesting item nor could I corroborate it with an Internet search, so does a reader trust Chafets? Unfortunately, not.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Almost Like Being There!, July 31, 2009
I have driven by Cooperstown several times on cross-country trucking trips - however, it was always at night, or too late in the day to visit. Reading "Cooperstown Confidential" made it almost seem like I finally made it inside, beginning first with a description of the town and its history, then the dispute over who "invented" baseball - Abner Doubleday, or Alexander Cartwright, founder of one of the earliest formal teams, the New York Knickerbockers in the 1849s. (Alexander is in the Hall of Fame, Abner is not.)

Chafets is primarily concerned about the rule demanding that inductees must be ballplayers of ability whose careers embody "integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which they played." He cites evidence that Ty Cobb was a racist (maybe also a murderer), along with his replacement, Tris Speaker, a card-carrying member of the KKK. Both reportedly participated in throwing a game (after their team already had the championship). Then there's Babe Ruth's drinking (along with many others), players having mistresses, out-of-wedlock babies, and using hookers, beating their wives, and of course, taking illegal drugs (eg. Barry Bonds, Mickey Mantle).

Other topics covered include disputes over the quality of some selections (eg. per Bill James), actions of the Veterans' Committee (going several years without selecting anyone) and early biases against Black and Hispanic players.

Chafets recommends that concern over moral temperament be dropped (baseball stars are just like the rest of us), and the Veterans' Committee be closed down after bringing in the top ten non-inducted vote-getters (eg. Pete Rose, Steve Garvey, Curt Flood, etc.).

Actually, no book is likely to be as good as going to the Hall of Fame - I hope to stop by on my next trip. They probably also have a statue of James Fennimore Cooper - author of "Last of the Mohicans, who lived there.
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Cooperstown Confidential: Heroes, Rogues, and the Inside Story of the Baseball Hall of Fame
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