I've been reading another great baseball book for the last week or so. It's called Crazy '08 by Cait Murphy. Before I picked it up I had seen it had received more than a couple of very positive reviews. Any book about the dead ball era of baseball that is of good quality will get my attention.
This is baseball before the home run, before radio, before steel and concrete stadiums, baseball just asserting itself as the national past time and it's a game full of characters. That is what really drives this book is the character of the men on the field, umpires, players and managers. The reason there have been so many books written about baseball is because the length of the season and the pace of the game lend itself to storytelling. Because of that the game has always embraced its more colorful people. If you want to tell a good story it helps if the subject of your story is a little off the wall. This is not a problem in 1908. Cranks abound in this story and she brings in wonderful and funny anecdotal stories just as they are needed to illustrate a point she has made. I've always enjoyed baseball books that weave in short funny baseball stories into the main narrative and Murphy does it as good as anyone.
All the best baseball books are always about more than baseball. Baseball has always reflected what is happening in our country and Murphy takes that into account with some chapter length asides called "Time Outs." In each of these she examines what is going on in the United States in 1908. In the first one she describes the beautiful mess that is the city of Chicago and, in another one, she looks at the exclusion of Black Americans from the game and mainstream society.
The season is winding down and I'll probably finish it tomorrow. Now I got to go out there and find my next good read.