Sandomir: Removing the fangs from Ty Cobb’s notoriety

From Richard Sandomir at the New York Times on May 31, 2015, on SABR member Charles Leerhsen:

When he began work on a new biography, “Ty Cobb: A Terrible Beauty” (Simon & Schuster), Charles Leerhsen expected to uncover fresh depictions of the player as a racist and a spikes-sharpening attacker of opposing infielders. If Cobb was the meanest man in baseball flannels, additional animosity would not be difficult to find.

“I thought I’d find new examples of monstrous monstrosity,” Leerhsen said in an interview last week. “Instead, I found a very different person than the myth. I was a little disappointed at first. He’s more normal than I thought.”

Leerhsen’s research found neither a saint nor a Rabelaisian character like Babe Ruth. Sure, Cobb could be unpleasant and overly sensitive. He had a temper and fought with his share of people, including a fan who heckled him mercilessly. But Leerhsen did not unearth a bigot primed to attack black men or a brandisher of carefully filed daggers beneath his shoes.

“It’s a warts-and-all biography,” Leerhsen said, laughing. “But they’re warts, not tumors.”

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Originally published: June 1, 2015. Last Updated: June 1, 2015.