Cobb by Al Stump Read Free Book Online

Book: Cobb by Al Stump Read Free Book Online
Authors: Al Stump
reference was to his one-time friend, multimillionaire Max Fleischmann, who’d cheated lingering death by cancer some years earlier by putting a bullet through his brain. Ty spoke of Babe Ruth and Rogers Hornsby, other carcinoma victims. “If Babe had been told what he had in time, he could’ve got it over with.”
    Cobb was well read in poetry. One night he quoted a passage he’d always liked by Don Marquis: “There I stood at the gate of God, drunk but unafraid.”
    Had I left Ty alone that night, I believe he would have pulled the trigger. His three living children—two sons were dead—had withdrawn from him. In the wide world that had sung his fame, he had not one intimate friend remaining.
    But we talked, and prayed, until dawn, and slight sleep came. In the morning, aided by friends, we put him into a car and drove him home, to the big, gloomy house up north in Atherton. Ty spoke only twice during the six-hour drive.
    â€œHave you got enough to finish the book?” he asked.
    â€œMore than enough.”
    â€œGive ’em the word then. I had to fight all my life to survive. Theyall were against me … tried every dirty trick to cut me down. But I beat the bastards and left them in the ditch. Make sure the book says that . . .”
    I was leaving him now, permanently, and had to ask one question I’d never put to him before.
    â€œWhy did you fight so hard in baseball, Ty?”
    He’d never looked fiercer than then, when he answered. “I did it for my father, who was an exalted man. They killed him when he was still young. They blew his head off the same week I became a major-leaguer. He never got to see me play. Not one game, not an inning. But I knew he was watching me … and I never let him down.
    You can make what you want of that. Keep in mind that Casey Stengel said, later: “I never saw anyone like Cobb. No one even close to him as the greatest ballplayer. Ruth was sensational. Cobb went beyond that. When he wiggled those wild eyes at a pitcher, you knew you were looking at the one bird no one could beat. It was like he was superhuman.”
    To me it seems that the violent death of a dominating father whom a sensitive, highly talented boy loved and feared deeply, engendered, through some strangely supreme desire to vindicate that “saintly” father, the most violent, successful, thoroughly maladjusted personality ever to pass across American sports. The shock ticked the eighteenyear-old’s mind, making him capable of incredible feats.
    Off the field and on, he remained at war with the world. To reinforce the pattern, he was viciously hazed by Detroit Tiger veterans when he was a rookie. He was bullied, ostracized, and beaten up—in one instance, a 210-pound catcher named Charlie Schmidt broke the 165-pound Ty Cobb’s nose and closed both of his eyes. It was persecution, immediately heaped upon one of the deepest desolations a young man can experience.
    There can be no doubt about it: Ty Cobb was a badly disturbed personality. It is not hard to understand why he spent his entire adult life in deep conflict. Nor why a member of his family, in the winter of 1960, told me, “I’ve spent a lot of time terrified of him … and I think he was psychotic from the time that he left Georgia to play in the big league.”
    I believe that he was far more than the fiercest of all competitors. He was a vindicator, a man who believed that “father was watching” andwho could not put that father’s terrible death out of his mind. The memory of it menaced his sanity.
    The fact that he recognized and feared mental illness is revealed in a tape recording he made, in which he describes his own view of himself: “I was like a steel spring with a growing and dangerous flaw in it. If it is wound too tight or has the slightest weak point, the spring will fly apart and then it is done for . . .”
    The last

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