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Crazy Good: The True Story of Dan Patch, the Most Famous Horse in America Paperback – Bargain Price, June 2, 2009
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From Publishers Weekly
In this spirited narrative, Leerhsen, an editor at Sports Illustrated, tells the now-forgotten saga of Dan Patch, a race horse that at one time drew an estimated 60,000 people to a single event in 1903. Admitting from the outset that the events of this book may seem as if they transpired on another planet, Leerhsen delivers a mesmerizing look into a strange corner of American sports and folk history when Dan Patch became a household word, earning roughly $1 million a year at a time when, Leerhsen notes, the-highest paid baseball player, Ty Cobb, was making $12,000. The arc of Dan Patch's career involves a range of often unscrupulous entrepreneurs: his first owner, Dan Messner Jr., who overpays by mistake for an injured pace horse and whose drunken decision to breed the pace horse with a wild stallion results in Dan Patch's birth; the horse's second trainer, Myron McHenry, who despite his conflicts with Messner grooms the horse for success; and M.W. Savage, the horse's final owner, who makes millions from Patch-related merchandise while overworking an obviously tired animal. But the heart of the book is Dan Patch himself, a horse with an almost human capacity for calm and determination that deserves to be rediscovered by a modern audience. (June)
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* It is difficult for the contemporary mind to fathom that there was a time when harness racing—trotters and pacers—was king in America. Yet from about 1885 to about 1915, an era when the horse and buggy were the most common form of transportation, harness racing was more popular than Thoroughbred racing, baseball, and boxing, hands down. And in the middle of that era, the undefeated pacer Dan Patch was the king of harness racing. After he ran out of equine competition, he paced against the clock, setting and repeatedly lowering track, state, and world records while drawing crowds up to 117,000 and pocketing appearance fees of up to $21,500. His most lucrative activity, netting up to $1 million a year at a time when the dollar was worth 20 times its current value, was “endorsing” scores of products ranging from tobacco tins to washing machines. Leerhsen tells the story of Dan Patch and his connections—the series of scoundrels and self-promoters who served as his owners and drivers—with humor and a fine sense of detail. The author no doubt owes a debt to Laura Hillenbrand’s Seabiscuit, which created both the mold and the audience for a certain kind of exhaustively researched book about a horse and his people; but that doesn’t make his work any less fascinating. --Dennis Dodge --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
On the down side, it would have been nice to have had an Appendix in the back listing all of the races and exhibitions that formed Dan Patch's career so you can grasp the chronology of events. Sometimes it's important to get a handle on time. Another down side is the profanity interspersed throughout the book. It detracts from the flow of the text without adding anything of value to the story. All in all, it's a good book for someone that wants to get an idea of what life was like just before the advent of the automobile--a more profound change to lifestyle than the computer ever was.
Why does it matter what trotters and pacers do on the race track? Nobody really knows for sure. It just does. That's why you should read this book.
Leehrsen did an exceptional job of giving us a context for Dan Patch. I thought I knew a lot about American history and rural topics, too. Many times he revealed history to me that I was completely unaware of. That alone makes it a good read by my standards.
I think he bogged down a bit, however, with the relentless statistics...especially nearer the end of the book. He probably had to as those times were very important in the world of pacers and trotters, but he could have organized the statistics in a more palatable manner with some charts or something. Working through those stats became the readers' equivalent of a pacer running on a difficult track. I'd hoped to make better time on those laps.
Even so, some of the criticism in these reviews seems a bit unfair. Dan Patch is way more removed from researchers than was Seabiscuit, for instance. Leehrsen couldn't find people to interview who were directly involved in Dan Patch's life, or even his times. That's a much harder challenge. He was mining documents to create his story. I think he did a decent job of it and I really enjoyed reading his book.