A New York Times Notable Book; Spitball Award for Best Baseball Book of 1994; Basis for a major Hollywood motion picture. Now in paperback, the biography that baseball fans all across the country have been talking about. Al Stump redefined America's perception of one of its most famous sports heroes with this gripping look at a man who walked the line between greatness and psychosis. Based on Stump's interviews with Ty Cobb while ghostwriting the Hall-of-Famer's 1961 autobiography, this award-winning new account of Cobb's life and times reveals both the darkness and the brilliance of the "Georgia Peach." "The most powerful baseball biography I have read."--Roger Kahn, author of THE BOYS OF SUMMER
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24. Cobb : A Biography by Al Stump (1994, 428 pages, read Apr 15-May 14)(foreword by Jimmy Reese)Baseball was just starting, the bible was a pain to read, and that Early Reviewer autobiography on Jim Abbott was so much fun that it just made sense; this was a year to read about baseball. So, I picked this one up at The Friends of Houston Public Library book sale and then quickly started it. The experience was mixed. On one hand this is a very interesting biography; a psychologically penetrating study of a disturbed…well, not just disturbed, but a truly psychotic early baseball star. But, Cobb was such a dislikable person, that reading about him wasn’t fun, and it spoiled the game of baseball more than it added to it. And I should stop there, and keep this review short. But…there is so much more to talk about. Ty Cobb is commonly on the short list of all time best baseball players and still holds record for the highest lifetime batting average. He played in the dead ball era, when the same ball was used through the whole game. Home runs were scarce, and scoring was about getting on base and making things happen. Cobb could hit, bunt for a hit, steal bases, he likely had track-star speed, and he was game-sharp with a knack for outwitting the opponent. In one game he stole home base while a third baseball tossed the ball up in the air to himself, not paying attention. (Someone stole home base this year, once, and it was big news.) And Cobb was mean. He injured players seriously and intentionally, sometimes to get on base and sometimes just to make a point. Cobb wasn’t a player who turned it on at game time. He was always on, a fighter who couldn’t let go and couldn’t relax. He got in numerous fights with everyone – opponents, teammates, umpires, fans, hotel bellmen. These were serious affairs where the loser ended up needing medical attention. Many of the non-player victims were black, as Cobb’s intense racism only heated up his anger. At the same time he was a star, Cobb was roundly hated by most players around the league because of all the dirty plays, his angry demeanor and his penetrating insults. He was also hated by his own teammates, who simply couldn’t stand him. Some long time teammates would later say he ruined the game for them. His own teammates would wonder both about his sanity and whether he would ever let go or wear out. He didn’t do either. He was good, and for a long time. And that wasn’t at game time. He was also fiercely successful off the field, financially. He invested widely and successfully. Among other successes, he was an original investor in Coke. He became the first millionaire ball player (his $20,000 was far higher than regular players, but clearly not enough to make him a millionaire). But happy he was not, at any point. He spent his retirement in apparently the same psychotic state, getting divorced at least twice with accusations of abuse, alienating all his children, and eventually burning bridges with all his fellow players and most of his close friends. If we can believe Al Stump, only three players from his time attended his funeral.There are three problems with the book. The first, and main one in my opinion, is the subject. Cobb was such a dislikable person that he turned me off of baseball. I had to ask myself why I watch this game where any idiot can get famous just because he’s got the right athletic construction. The second problem was that it was too long. Stump covers every lunatic activity by Cobb, including every major fight he got in, and every publicity stunt he screwed up and so on. There was a lot to cover. And the third was that I don’t know how much I can believe Al Stump.Stump ghost wrote Cobb’s autobiography, which was hardly reliable, published shortly before Cobb’s death. Stump brings a lot of his personal experiences with Cobb into the book and into the psychological breakdown. And these stories are spectacular. (Stump was also able to interview many players from his generation.) Yet, Stump waited another thirty years, and a year before his own death, before publishing this volume. Alas, in 2010(!) there were accusations against Stump of forgery and of inaccuracies in his book. Unfortunately, I didn’t find this out until after I was almost done, and I never did find out whether the accusations were legitimate. A few on Club Read include a category in their reviews about who should this book they are reviewing. I would only recommend this to someone either obsessed by Ty Cobb or someone not actually interested in baseball.more