Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Cait Murphy's "Crazy '08"

Cait Murphy is an assistant managing editor at Fortune magazine and the author of the new book, Crazy '08: How a Cast of Cranks, Rogues, Boneheads, and Magnates Created the Greatest Year in Baseball History.

She applied the "Page 99 Test" to Crazy '08 and reported the following:
At the top of page 99 is a list of rules from baseball's winningest pitcher, Cy Young. There are six commandments of which the last is: "Until you can put the ball over the pan whenever you choose, you have not acquired the command necessary to make a first-class pitcher. Therefore, start to acquire command."

Those sentences were written in 1908; Crazy '08 is about that baseball season and the America in which it took place. What strikes me about Young's words is that though some of the language is antique (who uses the term "pan" anymore?) the insight is sound. And that points to something about baseball in 1908: It was very good and very sophisticated. If you could go back to a ballgame back then, you would have no problem both following (and appreciating) the game. The same could not be said of, say, football or basketball, which would look primitive and qualitatively different.

Moving down the page, I note that Young pitches a no-hitter on June 30, 1908. He was 41 at the time, and it would be almost 90 years before the record set that day -- oldest man to pitch a no-hitter -- was broken (by Nolan Ryan). I also note of the Red Sox that their nickname "has stuck." That's because it was in early 1908 that Boston's American League team, which had previously been known as the Pilgrims, Beaneaters, Somersets and Taylors decided to make a formal name change and became the Red Sox. A small thing, but a fun and interesting little nugget (I think), and the kind of thing you can find on almost any given page of Crazy '08. So buy a copy (or two or a dozen) and enjoy.
Visit Cait Murphy's website and read an excerpt from Crazy '08.

A former Little League infielder, Murphy played softball at Amherst College, where she received her degree in American Studies. Her baseball card is clear: She does not throw like a girl.

--Marshal Zeringue