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Cooperstown Confidential: Heroes, Rogues, and the Inside Story of the Baseball Hall of Fame Hardcover – June 9, 2009
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From Publishers Weekly
Cooperstown is a sleepy New York village with a population barely eclipsing 2,000, in a location where if you arrive by mistake, you've been lost for forty-five minutes. But Chafets explains why Cooperstown and the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum is a must-see destination for hundreds of thousands of baseball fans each year, diving into more than just the 200-plus players that have received baseball immortality by induction into the Hall of Fame. Chafets (A Match Made in Heaven) briefly explores the history of how the Hall of Fame came to pass, but the real good stuff comes as he dives into the politics of the museum and how race has played a role in who has received election and who has received the shaft. He looks at the monks who oversee the hallowed halls, the writers who act as gatekeepers to the Hall of Fame, and explains how election can make what was once a player's worthless memorabilia into a gold mine. Much of Chafets's subject matter is sure to strike a chord with baseball fans, and many will surely disagree with his stance on steroids as it relates to a player's induction. The relationships he develops with the Hall staff, combined with his accessible style, gives the reader a glimpse beyond what one might see at the exhibits. (July)
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“Chafets brings both a fan's affection and a social critic's eye to his examination of the Cooperstown, N.Y. institution...amusing, sardonic and convincing.” ―Kirkus
“Chafets briefly explores the history of how the Hall of Fame came to pass, but the real good stuff comes as he dives into the politics of the museum and how race has played a role in who has received election and who has received the shaft. He looks at the "monks" who oversee the hallowed halls, the writers who act as gatekeepers to the Hall of Fame, and explains how election can make what was once a player's worthless memorabilia into a gold mine. Much of Chafets's subject matter is sure to strike a chord with baseball fans… gives the reader a glimpse beyond what one might see at the exhibits.” ―Publishers Weekly
“The Baseball Hall of Fame has long been viewed as some sort of pristine baseball palace, a hardball Mecca where the ghosts of greats walk the corridors. In Cooperstown Confidential, Zev Chafets does not merely humanize the Hall and its inhabitants--he paints a fascinating, in-depth, occasionally outlandish portrait to be hung alongside the busts of the Babe and Hammerin' Hank. Chafets knocks this one over the Green Monster.” ―Jeff Pearlman, author of Boys Will Be Boys and The Bad Guys Won
“Put in a couple of dead bodies, an inquisitive professor who looks a lot like Tom Hanks and maybe a car chase or two and Zev Chafets would have sports' answer to The DaVinci Code. Oh well -- we'll have to settle for a literate and provocative climb through the cobwebs, misconceptions and flat-out prejudices that exist behind the shiny exhibits at the Baseball Hall of Fame. Nice work. Maybe Tom Hanks can play Zev Chafets in the movie.” ―Leigh Montville, author of The Big Bam: The Life and Times of Babe Ruth
“Red Smith suggested blowing up the Hall of Fame and starting over, and Zev Chafets has planted the bomb. This smart, tough, funny history uses the flawed temple of the game as a prism to examine the nation as well as its pastime - sex, steroids, stats, and all.” ―Robert Lipsyte, author of Heroes of Baseball
“The story of the Hall is baseball and politics, lust for fame and gain, ridiculous ballyhoo and deadly serious business. Somehow, Zev Chafets got it all -- and told it with toughness, humor, and grace.” ―Richard Ben Cramer, author of Joe DiMaggio: The Hero's Life
“Cooperstown Confidential is not the standard collection of rosy ancedotes about Hall of Fame baseball players. It is a fascinatingly hard-edged look inside the hallowed institution, and that makes it all the more delightful and revealing.” ―David Maraniss, author of Clemente and When Pride Still Mattered
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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.