Thursday, March 17, 2016

Ty Cobb by Charles C. Alexander

Why I Read It: Baseball has been my passion since I was a very small boy. Ty Cobb was a name I grew up with in my head, but I never really knew who he was.

Summary: A true baseball biography, sometimes a game-by-game account.

My Thoughts: Ty Cobb was disliked, and I think that's where I now stand on him after reading this biography. Other people may go much further, to defining him as despicable or hated. I don't think I want to go that far.

Cobb suffered from a ferocious drive that fueled a hatred for the people around him, sometimes even his own teammates. But it was, unfortunately, what ultimately made him so successful on the baseball diamond. He always had to be better than the other guy, and felt he had to constantly prove that he was through his actions. It was him against the world, and he was nasty about it.

He played on the cusp of baseball eras, the Cobbian and the Ruthian. His was a game of bunts and steals and gamesmanship. Ruth's was of swinging for the fences. Stolen bases came back late in the 20th century, and now we live in a sort of blended age (steroids jerked us back to the Babe's game; we're now settling back toward the middle). He hated everything about the new game, and went to his grave thinking that players who played prior to 1920 were the game's all-time greats.

Had he not shown his cutthroat behavior before he made the majors, we might have cut him some slack for what happened on the eve of his coming of age. His mother blew away his father with a shotgun in what was termed an accident. Cobb had fought his whole youth for his father's acceptance, and was about to prove to him once and for all that baseball had been a wise choice, and his dad was taken away in a gruesome, horrifying scene. Naturally, that stayed with Cobb his whole life.

Cobb died a lonely, angry man, leaning toward repentance at the very end, wondering if he'd made the right choices along the way. The author brings out the best and worst of Cobb, and the book sadly tilts toward the latter, but the facts are the facts. Ty Cobb was not a nice man. He did incredible things on the baseball field, and the records books will always tell us so. He became the first independently wealthy star athlete, and he did much to help those around him with his money. I just wish he had seen the error of his ways long before he did, and could have died a happier man.

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