Roberto Clemente's name adorns the annual Major League Baseball award for the sport's most humanitarian athletes. Not just the first great Puerto RicaRoberto Clemente's name adorns the annual Major League Baseball award for the sport's most humanitarian athletes. Not just the first great Puerto Rican baseballer (and some would argue still the greatest) to play in the United States, Clemente famously and often quietly displayed the best of humanity. In this emotionally moving biography, the Puerto Rican Wilfred Santiago magnificently chronicles the often tragic life of this icon. Beginning with Clemente's final game, where he collected his 3,000th hit, Santiago quickly hearkens back to Clemente's poverty stricken childhood of homemade bats and practice with soda caps through his disturbing journey into the minor leagues of the Jim Crow era of institutionalized racism and onto his life as a star outfielder for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Santiago expertly traverses Clemente's tribulations, losses, and success with ease and skill. His portrayal of the baseball games rank among the finest ever attempted in this medium. Under the masterful hands of Santiago, 21 evolves into far more than just a biography of a sports figure. It showcases a life worth emulating....more
In his first baseball-related book, Cooperstown Confidential: Heroes, Rogues, and the Inside Story of the Baseball Hall of Fame, Zev Chafets reveals tIn his first baseball-related book, Cooperstown Confidential: Heroes, Rogues, and the Inside Story of the Baseball Hall of Fame, Zev Chafets reveals the American institution's inner workings and complex history through a 21st century lens of favoritism, racism, and institutionalized privilege. A lifelong Detroit Tigers fan, Chafets skillfully tracks seven decades of hypocrisy in the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.
From the very beginning, it required no professional criteria beyond a ten-year career for admission. Founder Stephen Clark and then current baseball commissioner Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis, who was installed by the owners after the 1919 Black Sox scandal, unofficially insisted that inductees be “men of integrity, virtue, and character.” Even with such criteria, the first class of inducted players included two racist cheaters (Ty Cobb and Tris Speaker), a notorious womanizer (Babe Ruth), a legendary drunkard (Grover Cleveland Alexander), and a key figure in baseball's strict segregation rules (Cap Anson). The character ruling became official in 1944, though that never stopped the inclusion of later players of questionable morality such as Gaylord Perry, Al Simmons, Jimmie Foxx, Dizzy Dean and Leo Durocher. Considering this band of cheats, drunks, bigots, and hedonists, Chafets successfully argues for Hall inclusion of steroid-era stud hitters Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire and the banned-for-life, all-time hits leader Pete Rose.
Through fascinating stories and interviews with players and baseball experts, Chafets masterfully exposes a system fraught with favoritism and political wrangling, and supported by institutionalized bias. Insightful sequences highlight the Hall's often shoddy treatment of African-American, Hispanic, and other minority ball players.
Even while revealing baseball's flawed soul, Zev Chafets manages to maintain a nostalgic, almost spiritual sense of reverence. A worthy addition to any baseball library, Cooperstown Confidential ultimately exposes the unacknowledged, ugly truths of American society that the Hall as much as the game it celebrates reflects.