Thursday, July 23, 2015

Review of "Ty Cobb: A Terrible Beauty"

From the recommendation of several of my friends in the Goodreads Baseball Book group, I decided to pick this book up when it became available at my local library.  I can see why my friends there were raving about this book - certainly one of the best sources of information on Ty Cobb that is backed up by solid research and sources.  Here is my review of "Ty Cobb: A Terrible Beauty."

“Ty Cobb: A Terrible Beauty” By Charles Leerhsen

Baseball, history, biography, Tigers

Publish date:
May 12, 2015

465 pages

4 ½ of 5 stars (excellent)

Ty Cobb the baseball player is unquestionably one of the finest players to have put on a uniform and he has the statistics to back that up.  He was in the first class of players to be voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame and even got more votes than Babe Ruth.  However, Ty Cobb the person does not have as positive a reputation as it has long been accepted that he was purposely trying to injure other players and was also a racist who would pick a fight with anyone regardless of color.

The talent as a player is confirmed and the reputation is debunked in this extensively researched biography of the “Georgia Peach” by Charles Leerhsen.  Drawing upon numerous solid sources, Leerhsen lays out each of the assumptions about Cobb one by one and disputes the findings published in previous books and articles about Cobb by showing how his sources of information contradict the myths.  For example, twice Leerhsen describes fights between Cobb and another man that supposedly showed his bigotry.  But Leerhsen cites proof that either the other man was another white man or that the race of the combatant could not be proved.  Without this proof, how could one prove Cobb was bigoted? 

Not only does Leerhsen set out to show these character flaws were not proven, he also paints the picture of a very complex individual who endured much in his young life.  He entered professional baseball at a very young age, became fatherless when his mother killed her husband, and was also very self-conscious about his flaws and did not take to criticism kindly.  Add this information in with solid research and writing on Cobb’s on-field performance and it makes an excellent source of information for this baseball legend.  

While this didn’t make the book less enjoyable for me, when Leerhsen was questioning the validity of information in other books on Cobb (most notably those written by Charles Alexander and Al Stump) I found it a bit odd when he would call out those authors by name when doing so. I understood why he did this, as those authors had published the information he was disputing. That was something I had not seen done before in a book such as this one.  Nonetheless, this is the book that should be added to a baseball library for the best source of information on Ty Cobb.
Pace of the book:
This book was one that I had to read much slower than my usual speed as Leerhsen’s writing is more scholarly than most baseball books and also because it contained very detailed information, I wanted to make sure I absorbed all of it as it was important to understand this in order to understand Cobb. 

Do I recommend? 
While this certainly is the book I recommend for information on Ty Cobb, it should only be read by serious baseball fans or readers who will take the time to fully grasp the complexities of the man. It is not an easy read to undertake just to pass the time away.

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  1. Maybe I misunderstood but are you saying Leershen didn't debunk the legend that Cobb was purposely trying to injure players? Because in my opinion Leershen did debunk it. He demonstrates that Cobb would do anything to win, get an edge, intimidate other players, but never deliberately spiked a player or tried to injure a player.

    1. I did mean that his talent as a player is confirmed and his reputation, both as a racist and injuring opponents on purpose is debunked, but I saw that was not clearly stated. Thanks for the input as I have now edited that part. I can see why you believed I disagreed with you but not at all...hopefully this states that better

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