August 3, 2021

Psst… Wanna know a secret?

April 20, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

“Wanna know a secret? A lot of your heroes weren’t the men you thought they were. The reality of the game they played differs from your ideal picture too. OK, I guess that’s not really a surprise. But more often than not, histories paint romantic pictures of yesterday’s stars. Perhaps some childhood mischief or an 0-4 day snuck into the story. Rarely is there reason to worry about anything that would besmirch your favorite hitter or pitcher in most retrospectives. Zev Chafets’Cooperstown Confidential“ is a delightful dastardly exception.

Read this book because:

1. You will discover that the origins of baseball were far different from the game you know today.

There is plenty of conjecture regarding the founding father of baseball. However, even the opposition had a hard time finding fault with the accepted founder, Abner Doubleday. Doubleday, after all, grew up in the sleepy village of Cooperstown; he was a Civil War hero who wrote scores of essays. That none of his literary works mentioned anything about baseball was apparently of little consequence. Would you believe that Honest Abe Lincoln himself, as part of getting his affairs, which included baseball, in order, beckoned Doubleday to his bedside before he looked death square in the face? Some folks did.

Inspired by The Hall of Fame for Great Americans, Cooperstown residents set about marking the historic birthplace with a museum and artifacts. Fortune smiled on the prospectors near the turn of the 20th century. Museum chairman Stephen Clark paid a visit to the home of the game’s first prophet and preserved the shrine’s first relic before a crew demolished the house. Clark plucked a worn, cloth ball, which as far as anyone knew, was baseball’s first projectile.

2. Chafets surprises readers with tales about who is in the Hall of Fame and how they got there.

We all know the basics about Hall of Famers like Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner and so on, but what about Bresnahan, Jennings, Delahanty and Brouthers? If the names don’t sound familiar, there’s a reason. By 1946, arbitrator Connie Mack (McGillicuddy) had welcomed his Irish brothers with open arms. Chafets writes, “The dump of 1945-46 changed the balance of the hall. In a stroke it became less exclusive, less familiar to modern fans, and less logical.” (Cooperstown, 40-41) Credit the Veterans Committee with Rube Marquard’s inclusion as well. The journeyman pitcher won only 201 games in 18 seasons.

In the late 60s and early 70s, Frankie Frisch and Bill Terry made it a point to reward their former teammates with a hall pass. Historian Bill James called these picks “simply appalling” and “absurd” (42).

3. Conversely, “Cooperstown Confidential” tells of baseball figures, who, try as they might to gain induction, don’t stand much of a chance.

Players union head man Marvin Miller helped and hurt a lot of people. In 1965, a group of retired baseball players asked Miller to help them fight for pension rights. Miller went way beyond that request, rankling owners in the process. He educated players about how they were grossly underpaid, given the game’s prosperity. In 1975, Miller’s work on behalf of Curt Flood paid off for players and socked owners in a big way. Miller continued to go to bat for players well after he retired, and he suffered as a result. Seven of the 12 officials on the election committee are former baseball management. “People call up and tell me I’m a sure thing, and it makes me laugh,” Miller said. (147)

Connect with “Cooperstown Confidential” to learn more about the game, its heroes and its villains.

Sam Miller is a graduate of the University of Illinois where he worked with various teams in sports information and received the Freedom Forum – NCAA Sports Journalism Scholarship for his achievements. During the 2009 season, Miller served as communications intern for the Angels’ Triple-A affiliate. Prior to that, he worked as a communications intern for USA Basketball and as an associate reporter for MLB.com.

Comments

One Response to “Psst… Wanna know a secret?”
  1. Yeti says:

    Great post Sam! I might just have to get this book for my wife.

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