Oklahoman book review: 'The Cooperstown Casebook' by Jay Jaffe
"The Cooperstown Casebook" by Jay Jaffe (St. Martin's Press, 408 pages, in stores)
Almost 31 years ago, I was hired by The Oklahoman as a high school sportswriter. Back then, I was the low man on a three-man totem pole of high school beat writers.
The pecking order was Mike Baldwin, Mike Sherman and me. Baldwin is now retired and writing books. Sherman left, then came back years later to become the sports editor, and now has taken his talents to Tampa Bay, Florida. I am still here.
Other than all of us being sports writers, the biggest thing we had in common was that we all liked baseball. Well, I liked baseball. Mike and Mike obsessed over baseball. They could spit out baseball statistics like a computer and spin them harder than a Sandy Koufax curve ball when making their case for a player's worth.
Baldwin is a Kansas City Royals fan who named his son Brett. Sherman is a Baltimore Orioles fan who named his son Brooks. I am a St. Louis Cardinals fan, but at no time was Ozzie a name I ever considered for my son.
Back in the day, the three of us frequently would walk from The Oklahoman and have lunch at restaurants in the downtown tunnel. (It was so long ago that the best dining establishments downtown were underground.)
Our lunch conversations frequently would turn into debates about baseball. Who should be in the Hall of Fame and who shouldn't? Should there be a designated hitter in baseball? Who was the greatest third baseman of all-time?
The last one was a hot topic of discussion between Mike and Mike. While the Mikes argued, I usually sat quietly and dined on my lemon chicken and fried rice. It was not like they were going to listen to me, anyway.
Which brings me to the point of this book review.
I wish 30 years ago there had been a book such as Jay Jaffe's “The Cooperstown Casebook: Who's in the Baseball Hall of Fame, Who Should Be In, and Who Should Pack Their Plaques.” Perhaps I could have gotten a word in edgewise.
Jaffe, a contributing baseball writer for SI.com, uses his own ranking system to decide the greatest players of all time at each position. He also makes a case at each position for players who should be in the Hall of Fame but are not.
I applaud his choice for catcher, former Cardinals great Ted Simmons. His defense was maligned, but the guy could hit.
In “Cooperstown Casebook,” which just hit the stores last week, Jaffe provides a history of the Hall of Fame, how it ended up in a sleepy little upstate New York town and some of the controversies surrounding it.
If you are still someone who likes reading the box scores and who occasionally buys a pack of baseball cards just out of nostalgia, you will like this book. And if you have friends like Mike and Mike, you will have more ammunition to take to your debates.
And by the way, we can finally settle the argument of who is the greatest third baseman of all time, George Brett or Brooks Robinson. Jaffe agrees with me. It is Mike Schmidt.
Sorry, Mike and Mike. Finally, I get in the last word.
— Ed Godfrey, The Oklahoman