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Audio book review


            Charles C. Alexander’s Ty Cobb is an illuminating review of the legendary early Twentieth Century baseball superstar.  This audio book, read by Walter Zimmerman, is written more like historical biography than a baseball book

            Alexander dispels many long-held Cobb myths.  Cobb was mean and nasty, but not nearly the ogre of legend.  In fact, Cobb was a devout Christian (Baptist), very well spoken, a man who cared about his public image, and engaged himself in many acts of on and off-field kindness.  Caricatured as a savage racist by revisionist history, Cobb actually was kindly in his relations with the many black people he grew up with in Georgia, some of whom worked for his family.  He had no patience for blacks he considered uppity.  He was not Branch Rickey, but he was not the Grand Dragon of the K.K.K., either.  Miserly?  Sometimes, but without fanfare he took care of players who had hit the skids.  A spikes-sharpened demon?  You bet, but Ty also shook hands with his combatants after the dust settled, and performed various acts of dovish peacemaking for the benefit of hostile fans.

            Alexander is not a psychiatrist, but it is obvious that the fact that Cobb’s mother killed his father in what may not have been an accident, during an incident that occurred because Mr. Cobb suspected Mrs. Cobb of having an affair, shaped Ty’s combative nature.  What has been lost over the years is that Cobb became friendly with Babe Ruth (common legend holding that he always hated him).  Cobb was a shrewd millionaire investor who never needed to work after baseball, therefore separating himself from regular contact with people while living in huge mansions that were too big for him, after his wife left.  Most telling is the relationship Cobb had with his two male children.  He raised them strictly, and because of baseball travel left much of the child rearing to his wife.  When he retired, they were grown up and on their own, and Cobb had genuine regrets for “missing” their childhood’s.  He wished he had been a doctor, so he could have been home for his kids, and when one of his sons went into medicine, Cobb lamented that if he, too, were a doctor they would have something in common.  With all that baggage in tow, Cobb had to endure the premature deaths of both of the boys from untimely illnesses, living the last 20-odd bitter years of his life blaming himself. 

            Cobb may have been hard to live with, but this book empathetically explains some of the demons that drove the man into becoming a brilliant stock manipulator, a taskmaster father, an unfeeling husband, a reviled teammate, a hated opponent, and in the opinion of those who saw him, perhaps the greatest baseball player who ever lived!