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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Cait Murphy observes that 1908 is an important season in the history of baseball in America. She closes the book with the statement (page 288): "In the sweep of baseball's history, 1908 is not the end of an era, nor the beginning of one. It is, however, the end of the beginning." She starts the work by answering why she explores 1908 (page xiii): "The best season in baseball history id 1908. Besides two agonizing pennant races, it features history's finest pitching duel, hurled in the white heat of an October stretch drive, and the most controversial game ever played." I'm not sure that I buy 1908 as the apogee of baseball; however, Murphy does make a nice case.

The book begins with some context, looking at the earlier years of the National League and American League just after the turn of the century. She also looks at the evolution of gloves and bats and the other artifacts of the game. There are glimpses of stadia of the time.

Also nicely done are the character sketches of some key figures from 1908--from Manager John McGraw of the Giants to John Evers and Frank ("Husk" or "The Peerless Leader") Chance of the Cubs to Honus Wagner and so on. The book takes a chronological look at the season thereafter, from opening day through the great replay of the tie game (when Fred Merkle didn't touch second base, leading to a tie score) to a brief afterword on the World Series (not much time spent on it, since it was a blowout, with the Cubs winning their last World Series over the Detroit Tigers).

Some interesting tidbits are scattered throughout: the seemingly large number of players who committed suicide (pages 66-67), the amazing variety of interests of Cubs' players on one train trip (if accurately portrayed by a reporter)--"Doc" Marshall reading a book on dentistry, Johnny Evers reading a biography of Savonarola, two players discussed how to raise alfalfa, Ed Reulbach reading a chemistry book, five playing poker, and so on.

There is the portrayal of some of the great moments of the season, for instance, Young Fred Merkle not touching second base after an apparent game-winning hit against the detested Cubs (pages 189-191).

There are also several "time-out" inserts that provide interesting side-bar discussions. One of these looks at Chicago and its bawdy politics of the early 1900s; another examines the howler that Abner Doubleday invented the game of baseball. An Epilogue briefly describes what happened to key players after the 1908 season, including Mordecai "Three-Finger" Brown (there is a picture of his misshapen hand in the volume, suggesting how he might have created interesting movement on his pitches), Frank Chance, Hal Chase, Fred Merkle, "Cy" Young, and so on.

All in all, a nice detailed view of a fascinating season in baseball history.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Cait Murphy has composed a splendidly written chronicle of a year in the life of baseball. "Crazy `08" builds fast with a sweeping history of the years preceding '08. It then ties together story after fascinating story, breathing life into the dead ball era. This is not simply a baseball book, it is a book about life, competition, egos, culture, and a nation. The portraits are not always pretty, because baseball (and life) are not always attractive. However Murphy's paintings of these pictures are striking and eye-catching.

Reviewer: Bob Kellemen, Ph.D., is the author of Beyond the Suffering: Embracing the Legacy of African American Soul Care and Spiritual Direction , Soul Physicians, and Spiritual Friends (and an avid Cubs' fan!).
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on May 14, 2007
I have read other books reviewing the 1908 baseball season such as "The Unforgettable Season", but Cait Murphy's effort is the best by far. She has done a masterful job in bringing the significant individuals back to life from this time period. In addition, her description of the fans (bugs or cranks), and their loyalty to their home team is outstanding. This book made me feel as though I was right there taking part in what the game of baseball was like in 1908. It is really a "You Are There" description. Her humorous method of writing throughout the book is precious with laughs on many pages. The book focuses mainly on three National League teams (Giants, Cubs, and Pirates) that are fighting for the pennant while one chapter is devoted to the three American League teams (Tigers, White Sox, and Indians) battling for the A. L. flag. The text, itself, is 298 pages long and is very hard to put down. I have read hundreds of baseball books, and this is one of the very best. If you want a taste of what the game of baseball and its fans were like 100 years ago this is a wonderful book for you to read. Also, if you have a youngster around 10 years old who enjoys reading about the game's history I would highly recommend this book. I know I am ordering extra copies for just that purpose. In addition, present major league players would do well to introduce themselves to what the game was like 100 years ago along with learning about the men who made up the game's colorful past. Get busy on another one, Ms. Murphy.
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22 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on May 11, 2007
Baseball is one of my favorite subjects, and the early 20th century is my favorite time period, so I was eager to read this book. The author's writing style, however, leaves this fascinating subject matter in shambles. Ms. Murphy has a maddening tendency to change tense multiple times in the middle of paragraphs. She often, in fact, changes tense in the middle of sentences. It makes me think that modern day publishers can no longer afford proofreaders. Any journalism professor I ever had would have failed me outright if I'd handed in a work like this. I really WANTED to like this book, but it left me with my head on the table, unable to get through to the end.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on November 23, 2007
From the preamble with its loving lament to her late Dad to the gripping epilogue, this is an astonishingly readable book, far more than readable, as Cait Murphy has achieved a distinctive style, a voice that combines the banter of baseball with enormous erudition and an authority born of massive research. It's archival journalism at its very best. The result is a history not only of a great baseball season but of an era when, as Murphy notes, the sport we know today and the corporate culture of 20th century America itself took shape. Sidebars on Tammany corruption in New York and a lady mass-murderer in Chicago provide context, and far-distant baseball characters like John McGraw, Honus Wagner, Mordecai "Three Finger" Brown (the photo of his pitching hand alone is worth the price of the book), the disbeloved Ty Cobb, Christy Mathewson, the Rubes Marquand and Waddell, and Tinker and Evers and Chance are all brought to life. Fred Merkle too, yes.
This is the best baseball book since Jim Bouton's Ball Four in 1970. It's in fact better. Bouton's book was a beautiful bingle. Cait Murphy has hit a grand slam -- no mean feat for 1908.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on January 21, 2008
I needed to fill the void left this offseason by an anticlimatic end to the 2007 season. This book did the trick,I was floored. We've all seen pictures of the early days of baseball; and this book brought those pictures to life. What amazed me was how similiar, yet different the game was 100 years ago. I was transported to the year 1908 and became a fan of each team involved in that pennant race (as a side: as a met fan it was great to read how terrible the yankees were). Any critics of the author's style of writing should be ignored. This is a fun, fast paced book that has enough detail to bring the games alive. Can you imagine a pitcher winning 37 games, or another giving up 1 unearned run only to lose a pennant deciding game because the opposing pitcher threw a perfect game?!?! 6 teams, going down to the wire, only 2 will make the Series! In the modern era of wildcard play, divisions and 8 teams making the playoffs, a season like this may not ever happen again. Great book I am telling all my friends about this one! Go Cubs in '08 :)
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on July 26, 2008
This is a marvelous effort. If the author focused only on the pennant races of a century ago this summer, it would be a good book, but probably little better than previous efforts on the subject. But she takes her work to another step. She places baseball within the context of the world of 1908. She reminds you that Christy Mathewson walked the same streets with Teddy Roosevelt, with the remaining minions of Tammany Hall, and with Arnold Rothstein long before 1919. Someday, a future generation may be treated to a history of the 2001 season against the backdrop of September 11. That future author will do well to emulate the style of Cait Murphy.

Against this quilt of early 20th century America, the personalities of John McGraw, Frank Chance, and others come alive in a way that others have failed to evoke. If your travel plans include a baseball pilgrimage, this book belongs in your valise.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on June 25, 2007
This a wonderful read for any history buff or baseball fan. Ms. Murphy does a masterful job of spinning the yarn of the 1908 baseball season, with all of its colorful personalities and crazy hijinks, while raising the larger historical context of the social and economic transformations America was undergoing near the turn of the last century. She never misses a beat and keeps the action moving along, blending historical analysis with play-by-play recountings of key games and biographies of the most colorful characters in the game. It's a fun read, but a smart book filled with wonderful tidbits and analysis to please the most intellectual of baseball fans.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on December 28, 2007
While any baseball fan worth his (or her) salt knows about 1919, Cait Murphy has taken a year in baseball, which most of us couldn't comment on, and provided a wealth of interesting information about. Her research is phenomenal and the trivia alone makes it a fantastic read. Excellent writing style and interesting insertions of non-baseball history make this a great book to add to your library. I bought four copies I liked it so much.
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13 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on April 22, 2008
CRAZY `08 is a lot of fun but it's also a disappointment. This is the story of the 1908 baseball season which the author sets out to prove was the greatest season in baseball history. The book is full of color and does a good job of setting forth some of the colorful characters of the time but by page one hundred all those tales of fighting and cheating are rather redundant and, sadly, sometimes boring as well.

One of the key faults of CRAZY '08 is that the author has chosen to pretty much ignore the American League thus denying the reader access to some of the most interesting characters in baseball history such as Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson and Joe Jackson. Obviously giving the American League equal time with the National could have resulted in a much longer book but it need not be so if the author had simply cut some of the redundancy.

What the author does well is to give the reader a good feeling for baseball in the early twentieth century, a time when it was populated by farm boys and college men, by scoundrels and dullards with the odd (and I do mean odd!) genius tossed in. One of the most interesting portions of the book talks about early ballparks and their tendency to burn down told in the context of a time when small wooden structures were beginning to be replaced by the palaces that would serve as the setting for the next fifty years of baseball. The author also includes a few sections, called timeouts, that attempt to put baseball into the context of the time, unfortunately here too the author seems to prefer colorful stories over actually placing the game into a broader historical and cultural context.

What CRAZY '08 does not do is prove it's basic premise that 1908 was the greatest season in baseball history. I think most baseball fans will agree that the greatest seasons have more to offer then a tight pennant race, they include great personal achievements such as the 1961 home run race between Mantle and Maris or the 1941 season that featured both Ted Williams' .400 season and Joe DiMaggio's fifty-six game hitting streak. Most readers will personally remember the amazing 1998 home run race between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa which some have said helped put baseball back on track following the messy labor problems of 1994 and 1995 as perhaps the greatest season of their lives even if the no one remembers the pennant races. For most people it's these compelling personal dramas that set great seasons apart rather then simply tight pennant races.

The book is also a bit dry at times as it's source material is all third person. Ms. Murphy has done a fine job researching old newspaper accounts and tracking down books of the period that the average person simply has no access to and distilling the hyperbole down to a reasonably straight forward mix of fact and legend. What's missing is the human voice, CRAZY '08 could have benefited greatly by including interview material from the players families and baseball and cultural historians. At times it's rather like listening to a ball game play-by-play wit out a color analyst.

I recommend CRAZY '08 as an introduction to a long ago and very different baseball world then we know today. It's good fun, educational and at times very absorbing even if it's basic premise goes unproven. I still prefer the immortal THE GLORY OF THEIR TIMES which, more then forty years after it's publication, remains the standard against which all other books about the early days of baseball will forever be judged.
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