An appreciation of ‘The Baseball Hall of Shame’ books

From Matthew Callan at The Classical on December 13, 2011, on a series of humorous books written by former SABR members Bruce Nash and Allan Zullo:

A trip to Cooperstown at age 12 produced two family photos that I treasure dearly to this day. One features a life-size cutout of Babe Ruth in his classic pose, enormous bat on his shoulder, eyelids heavy with purpose, while my younger brother raises a foot to kick the cardboard Bambino in the crotch. The other photo is of a large mural picturing Kenesaw Mountain Landis, the commissioner who banned the 1919 “Black Sox” from the game for life. As the wild-haired commissioner lifts a baseball in his right hand, readying himself to throw out the first pitch with a gaze stern and unyielding, my cousin mimes sticking a finger up his nose.

I loved baseball fiercely at that age, but I also possessed a blasphemous contempt for some of its most sanctified figures. I knew that Ruth was a boozing whoremonger whose saintly image was a press-sponsored myth, and I knew that Landis was a sanctimonious hypocrite who looked the other way for other accused gamblers like Tris Speaker and Ty Cobb yet would never consider pardoning Shoeless Joe Jackson. In fact, by the time I made this visit to Cooperstown, I was well aware of the fact that the story about Abner Doubleday creating the game in that picturesque upstate New York town was a risible fraud, concocted to give the sport “all-American” origins despite all evidence to the contrary.

That cynicism was entirely the fault of The Baseball Hall of Shame, a series of books that briefly grew into a sarcastic multimedia empire, and in many ways set the tone and format for the modern sports blogosphere.

The Baseball Hall of Shame was the brainchild of co-authors Bruce Nash and Allan Zullo, a pair of baseball fans who had already collaborated on a few projects when they hit upon their idea in the early 1980s. In a phone interview, Zullo, who grew up a Cubs fan, told me the inspiration came when he recalled with a mixture of humor and horror some of the players he was forced to root for in his youth.

“Some of those guys should have been in the hall of shame,” he opined at the time, and the phrase stuck. He and Nash thought the concept had potential, although he conceded that he, “had no idea it was going to become an industry.” And yet, because baseball needed it—and because it was the right idea at the right time—that is exactly what it became.

Read the full article here:

(Hat tip to SABR member Ron Kaplan for the link.)

Originally published: December 22, 2011. Last Updated: December 22, 2011.