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. Read more...
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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.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2015-03-23
- Reviewer: Staff
The legendary Tigers outfielder of the early 20th century, who may have been the greatest hitter in baseball history and is often depicted as a violent racist, comes across as less odious and more interesting than his sinister reputation in this energetic biography. Former Sports Illustrated editor Leerhsen (Crazy Good) depicts the Georgia Peach as a two-fisted man of seething ambition, prickly hauteur, and hair-trigger temper who fought just about anyone: opponents, teammates, a disabled heckler in the stand, an elevator boy, and a waitress. Leerhsen cogently argues that stories of his attacks on African-Americans are greatly exaggerated while his occasional statements of racially progressive views are ignored. Leerhsen also dismisses allegations that Cobb gratuitously spiked basemen. This Cobb is no thug but a reflective, well-read baseball intellectual who combined athleticism and strategic cunning into remarkable on-field dynamism, blending superb batting, hell-for-leather base-running—he once stole second, third, and home on three consecutive pitches—and subtle psych-outs that gave opposing teams nervous breakdowns. Leerhsen wraps his penetrating profile of Cobb in gripping play-by-play rundowns and a colorful portrait of the anarchic “dead-ball” era, when players played drunk and fans chased offending umpires from the field. This is a stimulating evocation of baseball’s rambunctious youth and the man who epitomized it. Photos. (May 12)