I picked up Cait Murphy's Crazy '08 at Half-Price Books a few days ago on a whim. I like baseball and I like history. A book about the 1908 baseball season is right up my alley. Of course I didn't expect the book to live up to it's dust cover hype.
I was wrong. For 299 pages Ms. Murphy brings the spring, summer, and fall of 1908 to life. Just like it was happening right now. The book is about the baseball season (referred to as the greatest in baseball history) but the time period naturally shows through as well.
Starting during the winter following the 1907 season, Crazy '08 follows the off-season maneuvering of teams trying to get that final piece to the puzzle or just a few players better than the previous year. The Cubs look to prolong their World Series dynasty, the Giants look to dethrone the Cubs, several other teams might sneak in under the radar. In the American League there is much more parity and much more flux as teams swap players and scout young talent while trying to scheme their way to the top. Proposals are voted on or ignored at the owner's meetings.
Spring Training lasts for a little over two months. Seems like a long time now but it was little enough for players who didn't work out all winter as they do now. The drama increases with rookies and worn-out veterans trying to make the rosters. More well-established players such as Ty Cobb and Honus Wagner stage their own holdouts. Fans rejoice when Wagner gets a raise and mutter when Cobb does.
Opening Day and the season is off. Through the twists and turns of the campaign Ms. Murphy brings the players, fans, executives, and ball parks to life. While most of the emphasis is on the National League the American League does get a little ink as well.
With the season coming down to the wire, the American League sees the White Sox, Tigers, and Naps (later the Indians) in contention. The race is decided in the last days. In the National League the Cubs, Giants, and Pirates are in the mix up until the last day of the season. The race there is a bit more exciting due to the controversy surrounding the Cubs-Giants rivalry.
Ms. Murphy ends her book with a quick overview of the 1908 World Series - perhaps the only part of the season which does not rate well when compared to other years. Some of the fall-out of the season is explained and a series of short biography's of the major names rounds out the book.
Crazy '08 lives up to it's dust cover hype. I found it to be impossible to put down and one of the best baseball books I have read in some time. Published in 2007, the book serves as a fitting 100th anniversary observance of what it makes a compelling case was the greatest season in Major League Baseball history.