Tuesday, July 20, 2010

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

For anyone who enjoys baseball, you know that the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, New York is the ultimate shrine to the nation's pastime (other than Fenway Park, of course ... but that's another story).

Cooperstown is synonymous with baseball -- its origins, its memorabilia, its timelessness. It's a small, quiet town in the middle of upstate New York, surrounded by mountains and gorgeous greenery, and its folksy homes and Main Street seem frozen as an Eisenhower-era Mayberry photo. This book rubs the gilded edges and soft focus off of all that, revealing the politics and manipulation that go into an MLB player getting his name and record immortalized on a gold plaque. The owners, the players, the media, and even the civic leaders of the town itself are exposed for their contributions to this grand manipulation.

Chafets has a candid, easy-to-read journalistic style. Bringing this along on our trip to Cooperstown Dreams Park this summer, I found the book a pleasant read that went down smoothly. Some of the material I was familiar with already from having seen the Ken Burns documentary Baseball (1994), but Cooperstown Confidential is enjoyable for anyone who digs the sport and isn't afraid to see his or her baseball "heroes" with some egg on their face, warts and all.

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