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Crazy '08: How a Cast of Cranks, Rogues, Boneheads, and Magnates Created the Greatest Year in Baseball History Paperback – February 19, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. It's been almost a century since the loopy shenanigans of 1908 that produced what Fortune magazine editor Cait Murphy calls "the year that baseball comes of age," but the resultant drama has hardly faded with time. Although baseball books tend to sag with nostalgia, Murphy's wisecracking yarn digs right into the era's brawling, vivid ugliness with little regard for such niceties, and is all the better for it. Her book is so rife with corruption, greed, stupidity and downright weirdness that it makes today's sport of sanctimony and clean behavior look positively sleepy in comparison. This isn't surprising, given that 1908 was not just the last year that the shockingly victorious Chicago Cubs made it to the World Series, but also the year when a game would be called a tie through sheer Rashomon-like confusion and when a game day riot would take the lives of two people. The titanic matches between the rival Cubs and New York Giants are thrilling enough, but what really makes Murphy's book an addictive pleasure is the joy the author takes in the colorful asides where she fills in the chaotic blanks of an America discovering not just the joy of its national pastime but its very character. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
*Starred Review* Fans knew they were seeing the end of a marvelous season when they watched the Cubs claim the National League pennant by defeating the New York Giants on October 8, 1908. But with the advantage of historical perspective, Murphy recognizes that the '08 fans actually witnessed baseball's decisive turn toward modernity. In a tale peopled with colorful characters--including the regal Christy Mathewson and the boozy Hal Chase--Murphy unfolds the formative events of this frenetic year. Readers will relish the infamous "Merkle game"--a game apparently won by the Giants, but later declared a tie because of a base-running blunder. Almost as riveting is the season-ending replay of the controversial tie, a replay that so aroused fans that some snuck into the game through the sewers, and many stayed to assault the victorious visitors. A writer of exceptional verve when recounting the heroics of the diamond, Murphy evinces a shrewd intelligence when scanning the cultural forces remaking the world beyond the ballpark. She unravels the malign dynamics behind Ty Cobb's violence against blacks, and she limns the parallels between early-twentieth-century anxieties about immigrant anarchists and twenty-first-century fears of foreign terrorists. A book that will long claim the attention of serious sports enthusiasts. Bryce Christensen
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top customer reviews
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.