The Case of Ty Cobb: How the Media Rewrote the Biography of an American Legend

Character assassination is at the heart of the American ethos. While we love to hero worship, we also like the fall. Nothing sells like a good scandal or fall from grace. And it appears this isn’t new. A new book about Ty Cobb, a man many baseball fans consider a monster, shows just how skillfully a good man can be taken down by lies about his character.

Charles Leerhsen’s “Ty Cobb: A Terrible Beauty” leaves readers with a new and compelling understanding of Cobb. The Boston Globe summarizes it like this: “Cobb was a loyal teammate and straight-arrow ballplayer, tough but fair, something of an intellectual (or what passed for same in World War I-era baseball), and — please pause after reading this so you can absorb it fully — a racial moderate in favor of fairness for black ballplayers.”

That’s a far cry from the version fans have come to accept. Cobb was supposed to have been a racist murderer, a cheat, and a man who sharpened the spikes on his cleats to cut up infielders he might slide into when rounding the bases.

After researching Cobb’s character, though, Leerhsen found no support for the accusations. “I don’t know how many times I tagged Ty out at second base,” Roger Peckinpaugh, a shortstop of the period, said, “yet he never so much as spiked me.”

Burt Shotton, another who played against Cobb, said he was “the roughest, toughest player I ever saw, a terror on the basepaths . . . He was not dirty, though.”

Leerhsen goes on to talk about the wisdom of Cobb’s early investments and his unacknowledged charity. The man who had bought Coca-Cola stock in the earliest days could afford to give kids on the street dollar bills in an era when a dollar bill was a lot of money.

“Evidence that Cobb was a virulent bigot is slim to nonexistent,” the Globe writes. “To be sure, Cobb, who was born and raised in the Jim Crow South, shared many of the racial views of his contemporaries, but in a sensational job of detective work, Leerhsen has tracked down the famous stories of Cobb insulting and assaulting African Americans, and in some cases discovered that the targets of Cobb’s alleged wrath were not black.”

“I see no reason in the world why we shouldn’t compete with colored athletes,” Cobb once told a reporter.  “In my book, that goes not just for baseball but for all walks of life.”

“The Negro,” Cobb said, “should be accepted and not grudgingly but wholeheartedly.”

In the end, Leerhsen comes to a stunning discovery. Most of the lies were invented in articles and in a biography written by sportswriter Al Stump.

And that’s the ultimate message of the book. Cobb’s celebrity was dismantled by Stump. Why? That is a mystery still. Yet Stump concocted stories that made it into print, where they were treated as fact.

Leerhsen makes his case in a well-crafted video below. It is a must-see for a baseball fan, and a solid study in media ethics for everyone else.

Calling Good People "Racist" Isn't New: the Case of Ty Cobb

Ruining someone's name is very easy. So is calling them a "racist". Take the case of Ty Cobb, one of the greatest baseball players ever. Cobb is known as a racist and a dirty ballplayer. Is it true? Read Charles Leerhsen's book, "Ty Cobb: A Terrible Beauty"👉

Posted by PragerU on Monday, April 3, 2017