(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

That Tyrus (Ty) Raymond Cobb was perhaps the most hated individual to step onto a baseball diamond in the United States is a truism so hoary as to be enshrouded in moss. Indeed, Cobb’s legendary ability to provoke his colleagues appears as an otherwise inconsequential aside in the 1989 film FIELD OF DREAMS.

In 1961, Al Stump was hired to assist the ailing Cobb in the writing of his autobiography. Cobb’s publisher, however, was less concerned with objective reality than with how the past was perceived by the aging player. Thus, the man widely identified as “Butcher” Cobb presented the story of his turbulent life from the viewpoint of the martyr much beset by lesser beings.

Released from the constraints imposed upon him in his ghostwriter persona, Al Stump has written the book he wanted to deliver more than three decades ago. This is Cobb from the standpoint of a man who spent countless hours in the most intimate of circumstances and thus it represents an improvement over the 1984 scholarly work of Charles Alexander.

Stump does not pull his punches, but neither does he go entirely for the cheap shot. When Cobb was good and decent, Stump agrees; when he was wronged, the villain is identified; and when Cobb is mean, that information is plainly presented. Stump does not neglect the records Cobb set, many of which remain unbroken, nor does he deny that Cobb was deserving of the honors he received. What Stump does assert with considerable authority, however, is that Ty Cobb was far more flawed than almost all of his contemporaries.