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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.'
15 of 17 people found this review helpful
I chose this title because I'm a lifelong Tiger fan, but more so because I wanted to learn for myself how ruthless, and racially charged Ty Cobb actually was. As a baseball fan I, like many had heard countless times how Cobb was ruthless on the base paths, and would sharpen his spike so he could slash middle infielders on a steal, or how his Georgian-influenced hatred of blacks made him the meanest, nastiest player ever to step into the batters box. He was awful, right? Maybe not.
Unlike the many authors and film makers who have told Cobb's story before, it seems Charles Leerhsen actually did his research. He actually went to the source of many of these yarns and tall tales to see for himself what was true, and what was made up even challenging noted historians such as Ken Burns whom like other, simply wrote down what they had heard and not what was fact. And in turn, (I think) Cobb got a bad rap. He's been misrepresented from the beginning and it took this title, and an author with the gumption to seek the truth to lay it all out. So now, finally, a Ty Cobb biography without prejudice!
There is no doubt that Cobb played the game with intensity and perfection, that which nobody at the time could replicate. He'd steal a base or lay down a bunt, or take out an infielder on a slide just to make his team win. (Sounds an awful lot like Pete Rose). And he gambled too...on baseball...which was generally accepted in those times. He was ruthless to a degree, but darn good at what he did, and no where near how he's been portrayed in the past which in my opinion is shameful. Sure he turns crotchety as he ages long after retirement, but the countless tales of how he meaninglessly attacked blacks, or how he was cheap, or un-caring in any way is distorted by this account, mean spirited, and unfortunately devastating to a legacy that should be embraced. I'm disappointed this title wasn't written 70 years earlier.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful