The greatest baseball player of the dead ball era, and the most widely despised, tenderly remembered by his grandson.
Herschel Cobb grew up the middle child of alcoholic parents, his father a near-300-pound bruiser who physically and mentally tortured him until a heart attack put an end to the madness when the boy was 8; his mother, cruelly indifferent to the abuse, disastrously remarried and continued to administer her own brand of emotional pain. The only solace came from his Granddaddy’s occasional visits, phone calls, letters and, most of all, from summers spent with the old man at Lake Tahoe. There, Herschel learned lessons in humility, persistence, charity, self-reliance and responsibility. By then, Ty Cobb was well past his baseball heyday, at arm’s length from his surviving children, alone with his fabulous wealth from prescient investments in Coca-Cola and General Motors. He appeared to acknowledge the hash he’d made of his personal life—“Hersch, it was my fault. It was my fault”—and he reached out to his grandchildren in a way quite at odds with his ferocious reputation. A large part of this narrative’s charm lies in the little boy’s gradual awakening to his grandfather’s towering achievements in baseball and to his controversial legacy: “Granddaddy, what did you do? Who are you really?” The question turns out to be not so easily answered. Ty, almost pathologically competitive, famously played with a sharp-elbowed, spikes-high intensity that earned him many admirers and few friends. Particularly for those whose image of the Georgia Peach derives solely from the infamous Al Stump biography and the ensuing Tommy Lee Jones movie, this portrait of the lion in winter will come as a surprise.
A gentle, affecting memoir.