Cait Murphy, 2008
One of the silver linings to traveling so much lately is that I have been able to catch up on some reading. A recent trip to Toronto gave me plenty of time to read “Crazy ‘08” by Cait Murphy. If you are at all interested in baseball in the early 1900’s, or the history of baseball at all for that matter, this book is must reading. It is extremely detailed, researched, well written and funny.
The bulk of the book focuses on the three team race for the National League Pennant in 1908, which was fought between the Pirates, the NY Giants and the Cubs. Yes, the Cubs at that time were not only perennial contenders; they were a juggernaut featuring the famous double play combination of Tinker, Evers and Chance and the pitching of Mordeci “Three Finger” Brown. The Giants were also a perennial power, starring the gentlemanly pitcher Christy Mathewson and the un-gentlemanly manager, John McGraw, as well as the ill-fated Fred Merkle. The chapter about the “Merkle” game is enough to warrant reading the book. The Pirates, meanwhile, were not necessarily a great team, but had perhaps the greatest player of the time, Honus Wagner, who carried them on his back. Being a card nerd, I know all about the famous T206 Honus Wagner card , and had an idea of how good of a player he was. Crazy ‘08 really sheds light on not only what an incredible all around player he was, but also one of the decent men of the game, which after reading this book, looks like was the exception and not the rule.
It seemed like every other page of this book included a fight, threat of a fight, or some sort of heated argument. These were wild, agitated people: players, coaches, umpires, fans and all. 1908 was a significant year in the history of baseball, and after reading Crazy ‘08, it’s hard to argue it wasn’t baseball’s greatest.