Ty Cobb

  • by Charles Leerhsen
  • Narrated by Malcolm Hillgartner
  • 15 hrs and 33 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Finally - a fascinating and authoritative biography of perhaps the most controversial player in baseball history, Ty Cobb.
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.


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Two Cobb Books, One Review of a Maligned Legacy

I purposely waited to review this book until I had read both, War on the Basepaths: The Definitive Biography of Ty Cobb (Tim Hornbaker) and Ty Cobb: A Terrible Beauty (Charles Leerhsen). When purchasing, I couldn't decide between the two so I hope this review helps you to decide.

Bottom Line Up Front (BLUF): I thoroughly enjoyed 'War on the Basepaths,' (4 stars) which I read first, but 'A Terrible Beauty,' (5 Stars) has more detail and apparent research to counter some of the more colorful Cobb History. Both books counter the tainted Cobb legacy of a racist, jerk, and spiker.

Regarding both narrators: I listen at 3x speed and neither narrator appealed to me more than the other. If narration performance is important to you, I really can't help you decide. I gave both 4 stars for performance since I could clearly hear both without adjusting the speed.

Since I read 'War on the Basepaths' first, I almost felt like I didn't need to read the other, but I committed myself to it and this review. Despite both books being about 15 hours (1x speed) the biggest difference is focus of the book. As previously mentioned, 'Terrible Beauty' provides more context and theory to Cobb's upbringing, personality, motivations, and day-to-day life minutia. I felt that 'War' covered more baseball statistics but missed some key information that I got from 'Terrible Beauty' (e.g., circumstances around Ty's Father's death, post baseball life with 2nd wife, personal finances and wealth growth).

It was nice to listen to both books and I didn't feel like it was repetitive; in fact the juxtaposing of the two books helped inculcate me to Ty's life. Both books dispel myths of Ty's alleged racism (which by today's standard is Racism, but he grew up and lived in a different time (not excusable, but understandable)), his unpopularity with baseball contemporaries (see Field of Dreams quote), as well as the most enduring Cobb legacy as a spike sharpener and spiker of competition when sliding into base (until Rickey Henderson, Ty Cobb was considered the greatest base-stealer of all time even though two others had more stolen bases).

If you have time, read both. If not, read 'A Terrible Beauty.'
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- Jonathan Love


This is a hard review to write as the book overall is well written and the narration is fine --- but Leerhsen puts his own spin on the Cobb story and it's not backed up by much (well, not enough for me) substantial information. Yes, he discredits the old Al Stump biography (and is not the first to do so) but throughout this book Ty Cobb is painted as some saintly, unbiased, almost gentle at times, non-racist, not so very violent tempered --- and there is very little but Mr. Leerhsen's conjecture to back it up. He'll state that Cobb was not racist yet tell stories of him beating African Americans. He'll say Cobb didn't go out of his way to hurt opposing players ("right to the bag") but then lists many times he put good players in the hospital. He dismisses these accounts as fiction (some accounts may be exaggerated or may or may not be true) but has nothing but his own personal opinion to back up his best intentioned --- but own personal opinion.

And what does he have against Christy Mathewson? He makes up a story that Mathewson attended a lynching and bases this account on what? I really wonder. The only time that I am aware of a lynching that Mathewson was anywhere near was a tiny blip in a news account that the Giants were invited to one. NOTHING in ANY account backs up that ANY Giant ACTUALLY ATTENDED that or any such even and Mathewson certainly did not. As, literally, world's expert on Christy Mathewson I can unequivocally say that there is zero evidence that Matty never attended such a thing and much reason to believe that had he ever had the opportunity to do so he would not have. Ever. And, Leerhsen multiple times refers to Mathewson as a "goody two shoes." Something that was fabricated by the press and, again, inaccurate. Mathewson was thrown out of well over a dozen games in his career for "swearing a good oath." Does Mr. Leerhsen know that Ty Cobb considered only Mickey Cochrane and Christy Mathewson his only true friends "in baseball?" Matty enjoyed Cobb in the times they briefly spent together (his favorite time during a spring training with the Reds that is barely mentioned in this book --- and there is NO mention that Mathewson was the Reds manager when Cobb spent that last part of Spring Training with him).

Cobb was certainly NOT the monster that history has portrayed him to be but there is little reason to think that so many accounts of his temper and the fact that so many in the game disliked him does not paint a historical picture of a less hostile personality. There is too much evidence to support a less likeable Cobb. Leerhsen brushes almost ALL of these off accounts as embellished or made up. Al Stump's accounts have been largely discredited but, really, unless there was a small element of truth to some of it why would HE have such an ax to grind when there was no money in it? Yet ANYONE who can sit through even 10 minutes of the horrible Tommy Lee Jones movie based on Stump's accounts can see that you can't believe much of anything that HE wrote (Stump). But even if ALL of Stumps words are thrown out as if never written there is much to support many of the "Cobb myths," as Leerhsen implies.

Had Mr. Leerhsen done just a tad more research (and I'm not saying he didn't do a lot --- this book is VERY WELL written and interesting to listen to --- I'm not dismissing it --- and he does not discount ALL negative Cobb accounts) he may have spoken with me and been able to base his take on Cobb's gentler and more likeable side by basing his opinion on what a person that was NOT a goody-goody but a true friend of Cobb's (Christy Mathewson) thought about and had to say about the man. And Mathewson did have good things to say about Cobb.

As I listened on and on to the subjective opinions and dismissals of accounts in this book --- it really annoyed me to no end.

Two small notes on the narration (and this only bothered me because I am an expert on the era) --- Malcolm Hillgartner is a terrific narrator and I liked his cadence and style. But he mispronounced Honus Wagner's name repeatedly. It is NOT "HONE-US" but "HAHN-US" ... based on the old German Johannes, Johan, "Hans" ... thus Honus. The Wagner family has also verified this with me so I'm not just throwing out my own opinion. So it bothered me. Many seem not to know the pronunciation of Wagner's name and where the name comes from and he was SO FAMOUS that this is just too bad. The other mispronunciation is NOT so well known (thus hard to blame Mr. Hillgarner). The pronunciation of the old time fireballer Jack Chesbro. His last name is not pronounced "CHEZZ-bro" but "CHEESE-bro." A small thing, but it bothered me. There are others but these are the two that stood out to me.

I DO RECOMMEND THIS BOOK as it has many wonderful accounts of Cobb's career and is written in a fine narrative style. I just have to recommend you take Leehrsen's take with a grain of salt based on what I stated above --- you cannot rewrite history based on opinion (even if it is interesting to think about --- I think that it was probably Leerhsen's intent ... to give that opinion and let the reader mull it over --- but it came off as throwing subjective ideas onto the reader as fact). I would love to meet him someday to chat old baseball and try to find out what got in his craw to try and turn Cobb into "gentle man" and Mathewson into some sort of pompous goon. Cobb did have a gentler side and Mathewson could be aloof but both loved the game and had a fire that help elevate them to the pantheon of not just the sport but American history as well.
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- Eddie38

Book Details

  • Release Date: 05-12-2015
  • Publisher: Brilliance Audio