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Ty Cobb: A Terrible Beauty by Charles…

Ty Cobb: A Terrible Beauty

by Charles Leerhsen

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If you are a sports fan, especially a baseball fan, then this is an interesting read. It was great to listen to during the post season as the KC Royals battled the Houston Astros. I love baseball so I really enjoyed this book. ( )
  MHanover10 | Jul 11, 2016 |
We are in a golden age of baseball biographies. From Jane Leavy's brilliant The Last Boy to Neil Lanctot's sublime Campy: the Two Lives of Roy Campanella, I seem to spend more time these days reading about baseball than watching it.

Add to that list, Charles Leerhsen's new biography of Ty Cobb. And I think I want to put it at the top. Leerhsen manages to enter a crowded field and write something completely original, as well as something as daring as his subject was on the base paths. His biography of "King Cobb," as he was known in Detroit, is subtitled a "Terrible Beauty," but it really should be the "Smearing of Ty Cobb."

Make no mistake. Leerhsen is not a Ty Cobb apologist. He is simply a very competent public defender assigned to the task of taking up the side of the monster. What Leershen finds is that many of the crimes Cobb is accused of were simply made up by hack writers looking to sell a story. Everyone knows Cobb killed three people in Detroit, right? Never happened. Everyone knows that Ty Cobb tried to rape a cocktail waitress in Nevada. Tommy Lee Jones portrayed it in the movie of Cobb. Only thing is that it was simply made up by the screenwriter. Leerhsen even disproves the myth that Cobb sharpened his spikes.

Leerhsen does not argue for sainthood. But he passionately and scrupulously makes the point that Ty Cobb is not a boogeyman of whom any random evil dead to spice up baseball history with a villain. Again, Leerhsen never attempts to sugar coat. He just discovers over and over that so many of the Cobb crimes don't stand up when the sources are tracked down. Cobb's greatest moment of infamy, his alleged attack on an African-American groundskeeper, appears to have been simply made up by a player who had been brutally hazing a young Ty Cobb in cahoots with a manager that was trying to convince Detroit's ownership to trade young Ty for a veteran bat.

Leerhsen does not sweep anything under the rug. He goes in search of as much dirt as he can find and continually comes up empty. Was Ty Cobb a virulent racist? Leerhsen can find no primary sources. While Cobb, a product of his era, subscribed to the prevailing notions of white supremacy in his day, Leerhsen finds more evidence that Cobb was slightly better than the norm. HIs father, a Georgia politician, had helped defeat a KKK initiative to de-fund African-American schools. In his later years, Cobb would express unconditional support for Jackie Robinson and called for the fair treatment of the pioneering African-American baseball players. ( )
  byebyelibrary | Jul 3, 2015 |
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"Finally-- a fascinating and authoritative biography of perhaps the most controversial player in baseball history, Ty Cobb. Ty Cobb is baseball royalty, maybe even the greatest player who ever lived. His lifetime batting average is still the highest of all time, and when he retired in 1928, after twenty-one years with the Detroit Tigers and two with the Philadelphia Athletics, he held more than ninety records. But the numbers don't tell half of Cobb's tale. The Georgia Peach was by far the most thrilling player of the era: "Ty Cobb could cause more excitement with a base on balls than Babe Ruth could with a grand slam," one columnist wrote. When the Hall of Fame began in 1936, he was the first player voted in. But Cobb was also one of the game's most controversial characters. He got in a lot of fights, on and off the field, and was often accused of being overly aggressive. In his day, even his supporters acknowledged that he was a fierce and fiery competitor. Because his philosophy was to "create a mental hazard for the other man," he had his enemies, but he was also widely admired. After his death in 1961, however, something strange happened: his reputation morphed into that of a monster--a virulent racist who also hated children and women, and was in turn hated by his peers. How did this happen? Who is the real Ty Cobb? Setting the record straight, Charles Leerhsen pushed aside the myths, traveled to Georgia and Detroit, and re-traced Cobb's journey, from the shy son of a professor and state senator who was progressive on race for his time, to America's first true sports celebrity. In the process, he tells of a life overflowing with incident and a man who cut his own path through his times--a man we thought we knew but really didn't"--… (more)

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