There are players in the history of baseball that transcend all of time. No matter how much time passes they are in conversations and debates almost on a daily basis. Names like Mantle, DiMaggio, Williams, Mays, Aaron, Bonds and Rose are all names that will forever be talked about and for the most part held in high regard. Regardless of their transgressions on and off the field they are still beloved by many. There are others that the exact opposite is true of. One such person is Ty Cobb. More than a few books have been written about The Georgia Peach and his exploits and honestly up until now most have not been complimentary. There was a new book published this year that attempts to change how we feel about Ty Cobb.
Charles Leerhsen took on a pretty big task in trying to change Ty Cobb’s image. It seems we as baseball fans and as a society were pretty set in our opinions of Cobb. We accepted the facts that he was a cut throat player willing to win at any cost. We also accepted the fact that he was a raging racist during his life. Basically we all were comfortable accepting the fact that he was an all around SOB. Through other books that were written, most of these facts were able to be backed up by stories and first hand accounts, and even though we now know a few may have been fabrications, we were all pretty set in our opinions. But what if we are wrong?
The author, through newspaper articles, interviews and some of Cobb’s own writings has tried to get to the real man behind the image. He does an in-depth look at the personality and the behavior of the man set in his own era. He attempts to dispel rumors, expose certain truths as fraud and show the gentler, kinder side of ole’ Ty.
This book gets its point across very eloquently and does pose some very interesting questions for the reader. Perhaps the biggest question I had at the end of this is were we wrong? I don’t know for sure honestly, but it definitely has raised some serious questions in my mind. Cobb’s grandson Herschel wrote a book about Ty last year and that to me started the ball rolling in my mind that maybe we have the story a little skewed. I finished the book and still in my own mind have no definitive answers on Ty Cobb, but I have opened up to the possibility that the accepted story may not at the very least be accurate.
I recommend this book to any and all baseball fans because if nothing else it will start to make you wonder. It is written very well and moves along nicely. It is not a mindless biography and it forces the reader to contemplate whether they still accept the opinions we have previously accepted as fact. Maybe someone will also help me figure out what I think about the whole subject, because I am still not sure.
Now we have all heard the negative stories of Ty Cobb. We are only human and usually gravitate toward the negative stories. Fights with teammates, fights on the field, bar fights, gun fights, bizarre behavior off the field. The list with Ty Cobb goes on for miles. Never do we hear the warm and fuzzy side of Ty Cobb….until now!!!
Heart of a Tiger, Growing up with my Grandfather Ty Cobb
By:Herschel Cobb – 2013 ECW Press
Never in my life did I think I would be able to use the phrase warm and fuzzy in the same sentence with Ty Cobb. It just doesn’t seem a natural fit after all the stories you read through the decades about his antics on and off the field. This book does something different for the legend. It gives him a human side that is rarely exposed to the light.
Herschel Cobb has penned his memoir about his childhood that in all reality was not even remotely pleasant. Growing up at the hands of alcoholic and abusive parents Herschel Cobb had a childhood that a savvy therapist could put their kids through college on. Except for the one saving grace that was his grandfather Ty Cobb, Herschel’s childhood was a train wreck of epic proportions.
This memoir that Cobb has written in my estimation served two purposes for him. It gave him the chance to relive pleasant childhood memories in regards to his grandfather. Also, it allowed him to get some closure on childhood demons. The book is heavy in detail about the bad parenting that was present in Herschel’s upbringing. When I say bad parenting, I mean the type of bad parenting that would get his parents a jail sentence for a lot of years if held to todays standards. There are some pleasant memories of Herschel and Ty occurring from some sporadic meetings through the years. These memories are a lot like the ones we all have of our own grandparents through the years.
This book also gives you a look at the more human side of Ty Cobb that usually doesn’t come to light too often. You get the impression that he wasn’t as horrible of a person as what if portrayed in his legacy today. Yes it is warm and fuzzy memories, but they are coming from his grandson after all. If anyone reads the book you can make the decision as to the memories being seen with any sort of bias or not. The book was a little light on Ty Cobb stories and I hoped that wasn’t going to be the case. It has a lot of detail about the author’s childhood separate from Cobb and some details are horrible. I was hoping the book wasn’t going to use Ty Cobb’s name as some sort of draw to sell it, but in the end, the details are light and time sparse with Cobb, so it probably helped sell a few copies.
Fans looking for a true solid baseball book, this may not be the one for you. You will not really get much of a feel for the player Ty Cobb or any real link to the baseball glory. If you are looking for a touching childhood memoir with some disturbing details about a dysfunctional family, you will really enjoy this. It was well written and I am sure a very difficult topic for the author to write about.
You can get this book from the nice folks at ECW Books