Sunday, February 28th, 2010
The complete title of this book is: “Crazy ‘08 – How a Cast of Cranks, Rogues, Boneheads, and Magnates Created the Greatest Year in Baseball History”. That’s kind of a long title. The author is Cait Murphy. It was published in 2007.
I would first like to share with you how this book moved to the head of the line, bypassing all others on my bookshelf. It was all because of the back cover.
The testimonial at the top of the back cover is from George Will:
- “A rollicking tour of that season that will entertain readers interested in social history, will fascinate students of baseball and will cause today’s Cub fans to experience an unaccustomed feeling – pride.”
The next testimonial, from the Washington Times, states:
- “If you’re any kind of fan, you ought to relish and revel in this wonderful book.”
And, at the bottom of the back cover, accompanying a photo of the author, her mini-bio includes the following:
- “Cait Murphy….A former Little League infielder, Murphy played softball at Amherst College, where she received her degree in American Studies. She does not throw like a girl.”
Based upon those three indicators, I decided to read this one next.
Ms. Murphy dedicates the book:
- “To my two biggest fans: my father and mother.”
Among the acknowledgments, the author states:
- “My father, John Cullen Murphy, did not live to see publication, but it is to him I owe the idea behind ‘Crazy ‘08’.”
In the Foreword, Robert W. Creamer observes about the author’s work:
- “She gives you the boisterous City of Chicago…as it was almost a hundred years ago, before the proliferation of radio, television, airplanes, automobiles, computers, cell phones, ATMs, BlackBerrys, and the like.”
Mr. Creamer adds:
- “Her spring training, for example, isn’t the antiseptic, analytical baseball laboratory of today….It’s a rowdy, ramshackle, often badly organized, sometimes dangerous, sometimes hilarious adventure.”
I should point out that, although Ms. Murphy’s dad grew up near Wrigley Field, he moved with his family to New York in 1930 and switched his allegiance to the Giants. Cait herself was born and raised in New York City as a Mets fan. Her bias in this story of the 1908 season (if she has one) might be somewhat New York centric. I mean that in a good way.
I must say that Cait Murphy is fluent in the idioms of baseball and is able to coin an insider’s turn of phrase, for example: “Score it a run-off home run.”
In addition to describing the action on the field, the author includes in the discussion: racism in MLB, suicides associated with MLB, “The Irishness” of MLB, anarchists, coal mining, gambling, hoo-doo, and other related story lines.
Here are some of my favorite quotes from the book:
- “Baseball never sleeps; instead, it huddles around the metaphorical hot stove to rehash the past and dicker about the future.”
- “The rule of thumb seemed to be that when bosses joined together, that was red-blooded capitalism; when workers tried to do so, that was anti-American socialism.”
- “A young ballplayer looks on his first spring training as a theaterstruck young woman regards the stage,” wrote Christy Mathewson. Veterans see it for what it is: “the hardest five weeks’ grind in the world.”
- “The fans of 1908 would have boggled at that description. Their Cubs are not lovable and they are not losers; the players would have kicked in the teeth of anyone who dared call them the ‘Cubbies’.”
- “They were grizzlies, these Cubs,” a Washington sportswriter would write. “Ursine Colossi who towered high and frowningly and refused to reckon on anything but victory.”
- “Baseball is a sport whose moral boundaries are, to put it diplomatically, ill defined.”
- “The area has one great advantage, being at an intersection for numerous trolley lines, which is how the Brooklyn “Trolley Dodgers” got their name.”
- “I have never been much of an AL fan – the designated hitter and the Yankees being the two main reasons.”
- “There ain’t much to being a ballplayer,” Wagner says, “if you’re a ballplayer.”
Ms. Murphy includes a comprehensive twenty one page bibliography or list of sources which will be referred to in the future.
The edition which I have also includes a ten page Q & A with the author at the back.
So, what can I tell you about “Crazy ‘08”? Well, both of my grandfathers were 13 years old in 1908. One of them was living on the north side of Chicago at that time, and was probably a Cubs fan.
The language of 1908, which Ms. Murphy recalls so well in “Crazy ‘08”, is the language which those grandparents spoke in my lifetime.
I enjoyed reading “Crazy ‘08” for the baseball stories, and for the collateral related topics as well.
I would like to thank the publisher, HarperCollins/Smithsonian Books for providing me with a copy of the book to read and review.
I recommend Cait Murphy’s “Crazy ‘08” very highly, particularly to those with an interest in putting on their history goggles and going for an adventure.
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