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Cooperstown Confidential: Heroes, Rogues, and the Inside Story of the Baseball Hall of Fame Hardcover – June 9, 2009

3.8 out of 5 stars 29 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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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Review

“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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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA; 1st US Edition edition (July 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1596915455
  • ISBN-13: 978-1596915459
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.1 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #654,718 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Dave Schwinghammer VINE VOICE on July 16, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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.
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Format: Hardcover
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.Read more ›
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By acs on January 26, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
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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Format: 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.
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