If baseball is America's national religion, then the Hall of Fame is its High Church. Being named among its 286 inductees makes you the closest thing our country has to an undisputed hero - even a secular saint. But the men in the Hall of Fame are no angels. Among their number are gamblers, drunks, race-baiters, at least one murderer, and perhaps the greatest collection of bona fide characters ever to be dignified by an honor of any kind.
This is the book the Hall of Fame deserves. Along with the story of the institution comes a smart, irreverent discussion of some of the great barstool questions of all time (Why did Jim Bunning make the Hall but not Mickey Lolich? How much is it worth to a player's autograph-signing career to get in? Did Ty Cobb really kill somebody?) and a fresh look at some of the Hall's most and least admirable characters. Taken in all, it amounts to a shadow history of America's Game, shown through the prism of its most sacred spot. Written with a deep love of the game and a hardened skeptic's eye, this is a book to incite both passionate conversation and a fresh appreciation of baseball as a mirror and catalyst for our nation's culture.
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.