Tuesday, March 28, 2017

JerReads: Ty Cobb

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that not too many of you Mareathoners will want to read the book I just finished. But since Mare has trouble with gifts for me when it comes to something sports related, I bet some of you will appreciate this review because it’ll give you a gift idea for the baseball fan in your life! 
Ty Cobb is unquestionably one of the greatest baseball players who ever lived. The questions that have always surrounded him are about his character on and off the field. His career was from 1905 to 1926 and the record books say he was amazing. In fact, he was part of the inaugural class inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame and even had the most votes that year. Yes, even more than Babe Ruth! But since he played a century ago, there isn’t a lot of official material about him outside of his career numbers. Therefore, some very nasty stories have stuck with Cobb all these years later. Things like, he would sharpen the spikes on his cleats to deliberately hurt other players. He was horribly racist and once beat a black groundkeeper to death. Also that almost nobody showed up to his funeral in 1961. 

Ty Cobb: A Terrible Beauty attempts to find out the truth about Cobb and in my opinion does a remarkable job! My view on him has certainly changed. A lot of these stories were either lies or they took on a life of their own over the years and bear little resemblance to the original events. For example, in appears that he wasn’t racist as he employed a black bat boy who he considered a friend throughout most of his career and was in favour of the integration of baseball in the 1940’s. As for his funeral, it was at a very small church, so yes, it was not attended by many. But 100 or so people stood outside while thousands lined the streets of his hometown for the processional through town to the church. A big reason why a lot of people believe all the horrible stories about Cobb is because of how he’s been portrayed in movies over the years. For example, in 1994’s Ken Burns: Baseball documentary, respected baseball historian Daniel Okrent called him, “an embarrassment to the game.” Many sensationalized books and movies have portrayed him this way and that is what we came to believe about a man who played the game generations ago. 
In my opinion, since Charles Leerhsen’s book is so well researched, I no longer believe all the stories I’ve heard. Make no mistake though, Cobb had a hair triggered temper, got into plenty of fights and played the game harder than almost anyone, but that doesn’t mean he was trying to purposefully spike players and that he pistol whipped a black man for simply being on the same sidewalk as him.

In conclusion, any fan of baseball history will adore this book as it tears apart many terrible stories told about Cobb. It also goes into great detail about his astonishing career, so you’ll learn a lot about the man who still has the best career batting average in baseball history.

Play ball! 
- Jeremy

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