Will the Real Ty Cobb Please Stand Up?

Many baseball fans don’t know who the real Ty Cobb was. They’re familiar with the stats he posted season after season and how they reflected the intensity with which he played. 4,189 hits, 897 stolen bases, and a lifetime batting average of .366 are only a few of the numbers Cobb posted during his career. Unfortunately, Cobb’s reputation has suffered from outright lies. Al Stump, who ghostwrote an autobiography with Cobb, later wrote a deeply flawed biography about The Georgia Peach. Initially a New York Times Notable book, Stump’s biography fabricated much of the book’s stories to increase sales. Many of those stories, regrettably, remain true in the mind of many baseball fans.

Fortunately for Cobb’s memory, Charles Leerhsen’s 2015 biography Ty Cobb: A Terriblereal ty cobb Beauty discredits most of the false stories about Cobb while stressing other facts about the Hall of Famer that include his endorsement of integration, the $15.8 million in college scholarships to Georgians that came from his estate after his death, and his deep and sincere appreciation for his fans. Leerhsen’s book debunks most of the slanderous stories about Cobb with amazing detail. But despite Leerhsen’s fresh take on Cobb, many still have their doubts about who the real Ty Cobb was.

Last year I wrote an article arguing that Ken Burns Owes Ty Cobb’s Family a Redo. Leerhsen’s biography, which won the 2016 Casey Award, persuaded me to challenge the purported stories about Cobb in Burns’ documentary. Despite his best intentions, I argued that Ken Burns should revise his take on Cobb. There were, however, a few issues with my article. I made the assumption that Burns and his research staff relied heavily on Stump’s biography of Cobb. That was inaccurate. I also assumed that most of the inaccuracies in Burns’ documentary were primarily in the Third Inning episode. The Sixth Inning episode also made questionable claims about Cobb. Many of the stories baseball fans have heard about Ty Cobb are not true, including the story that Cobb once assaulted a black man who tried to shake his hand.

The Real Ty Cobb Could Be Brutal, But He Wasn’t Alone

Although Cobb wasn’t the man Stump’s portrayed, he was violent at times. During a game against the New York Highlanders in 1912, Cobb assaulted a fan named Claude Lucker, a disabled man who had lost all but two fingers in a printing press accident. Lucker allegedly called Cobb a “half-nigger” and insulted his mother. In his rookie year, Cobb’s mother accidentally shot and killed his father after she mistook him for a prowler. The shock of his father’s death stayed with Cobb for the rest of his life. After enough heckling, Cobb charged into the stands where he violently assaulted Lucker. It’s easy to criticize anyone who beats up a man with no hands. It’s also easy to understand why Cobb assaulted Lucker for what he said. Many historians and critics alike, however, see this incident as the sum of Cobb’s character. Opposing viewpoints centered around this incident make it difficult to know who the real Ty Cobb was. Some see it as an attack by a lunatic on a defenseless man. Others see it as a man defending his honor.

In response to the beating, American League President Ban Johnson suspended Cobb. Cobb’s disregard for Lucker’s disability is the primary source many of his critics have wielded in their contempt for him. But Cobb’s defenders point out that Lucker was also a well-known heckler among Highlander fans who targeted Cobb. Did Lucker assume Cobb wouldn’t retaliate because of his disability? While nothing can excuse hitting a man who has physical disabilities, the words with which he accosted Cobb would likely have made anyone retaliate violently. Additionally, many of Cobb’s critics omit the fact that other Hall of Fame players, including Babe Ruth and Cy Young, also assaulted fans at one time or another.

Many Still Find The Real Ty Cobb Objectionable

“I’m convinced that an attempt to whitewash Cobb’s playing years by ascribing charitable works to him in his retirement years doesn’t quite do it,” John Thorn, Major League Baseball’s official historian told me in a January 2018 phone interview. “Ballplayers who were on his team with him, his opponents, they said he didn’t have a friend in baseball.” Thorn, who said he hasn’t read Leerhsen’s biography, made it clear “not to presume that I have a horse in this race.” Thorn’s opinions on Cobb are based on the primary sources, specifically the baseball classic The Glory Of Their Times by Lawrence Ritter. Ritter’s book is a collection of vignettes told by veteran players like Harry Hooper and Sam Crawford and is regarded as one of the finest books ever written about the game.

Former public editor of the New York Times and baseball writer Daniel Okrent is one whose views of Cobb have changed after reading Leerhsen’s book. “Leerhsen…rattled the support for the arguments that Cobb was the truly horrible person that many people, including me, have assumed for many, many years,” Okrent told me in a January 2018 phone interview. “His research was phenomenal, and his revelation of Al Stump’s unreliability was wonderful. Particularly, the number of stories about Cobb’s behavior … A lot of people believe what they believe about Cobb because Stump’s portrayal makes it seem so possible. Leerhsen really demolishes Stump, in that book.”

Cobb Remains Complex

“I think there’s a difference between the version of Cobb that we have created, over the years, and the version that should exist,” Okrent added. This dichotomy makes it difficult to know who the real Ty Cobb was. Cobb’s behavior during his playing days will always be a source of debate. But baseball fans and scholars alike should examine multiple sources on Cobb, especially Leerhsen’s book, if they want a strong idea of his overall character.

Other scholars like Thorn remain unmoved.

“My position on Cobb is largely unchanged. I do not think that Ken Burns or anyone else who’s ever written about Cobb…has anything to retrench.”

People who share Thorn’s views will likely continue to see Cobb as an unstable individual. For others, while Cobb’s endorsement of integration signals the idea that he did not share the same views on race as many of his contemporaries did, they might argue that “a zebra doesn’t change its stripes,” and still may have harbored prejudiced views regardless of his comments. But that’s only true if Cobb was as bigoted as Stump claimed.

While I’d like to see Burns revise his episodes about Cobb based on Leerhsen’s scholarship, it’ll likely never happen. Burns’ Baseball is still an amazing series that I could never grow tired of watching. In fact, it’s the primary reason why I became a baseball fan. But Burns’ documentary isn’t a reliable source about Cobb. Baseball fans have the right to hold any opinion they want about any particular player. But if they balance Burns’ documentary with Leerhsen’s sound scholarship, as well as other biographies written by scholars like Charles Alexander, they’ll be in a better position to construct a solid and composed opinion of Cobb.

Cobb Will Remain A Highly Debatable Subject

In my opinion it’s wrong to assume Cobb wasn’t a good person. In a time when many were denouncing integration, Cobb was praising black ballplayers like Hank Aaron and Willie Mays. He left millions of dollars to charity in his will. He answered all his fan mail. Do these good deeds vanquish any of Cobb’s wrongdoings? Of course not. No one is perfect. But if we can’t recognize the good in people, especially when much of what’s been written about them is later discredited, we’re sending a message to the youth of America that we should only judge people by their transgressions and disregard the good they contributed to society.

Okrent is right in saying there’s a difference between the Cobb we have created and the version that should exist. But Thorn’s opinions carry just as much weight. Recognizing the good deeds that anyone performs later in life does not excuse any questionable acts they committed.

The Real Ty Cobb Was A Good Man

The real Ty Cobb wasn’t a saint, but he wasn’t a monster either. Thanks to Leerhsen’s biography, baseball fans can now see Cobb in a more honest light. Cobb was a legendary baseball player who played with ferocity. With that fierceness, however, also lay a genuine effort to be a good man.

Boston Red Sox Finally Sign JD Martinez

The Boston Red Sox finally closed a deal to sign JD Martinez. After weeks of speculation and negotiation, Martinez signed a $110 million 5-year deal starting in 2018. The question now is what position will Martinez take and what will his role be with the Red Sox?

Martinez previously played for the Arizona Diamondbacks and Detroit Tigers primarily as asign JD martinez designated hitter. Many are assuming Martinez will take the DH role for the 2018 season, which will free up Hanley Ramirez. The Red Sox suffered from a string of injuries from last season while John Farrell’s lackluster performance as manager didn’t strike confidence in the team either. Red Sox Nation is hoping Martinez’s bat will add much needed runs to the scoreboard.

Martinez hit .303 season average with 45 home runs and 104 RBIs last season, numbers that the Sox sorely need. While batters like Andrew Benintendi did well at the plate, others like Xander Bogaerts and Hanley Ramirez struggled. Steven Wright and David Price didn’t get much time on the mound either because of injuries. This combination of injuries and setbacks limited the Red Sox chances of making it to the World Series last season. But with Farrell gone, and Wright and Price healthier now, Martinez’s added bat will certainly increase their chances of winning another AL East title.

The Red Sox Sign JD Martinez, But Will It Be Worth The Price?

The Red Sox are dropping some serious money on Martinez. This amount is making some questions whether Martinez is a good investment, especially after David Price’s underwhelming performance over the last two seasons. The Red Sox signed Price two years ago for $217 million over seven years but his performance on and off the mound though has been less than stellar. While on the DL, Price made unprofessional comments about Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley after Eckersley criticized her performance during a game. But Price recently commented that “I could’ve handled it better last year, absolutely. But I didn’t, and I’ve moved on.”

Red Sox Fire Farrell, Varitek Reportedly Interested

The Boston Red Sox fired manager John Farrell today after a five-year stint with red sox firethe team. Seeing the Red Sox fire Farrell comes with mixed emotions from Red Sox Nation.Some fans credit him with the three AL East Divisions the Red Sox win during his tenure. Others, however, point to his last-place finishes in 2014 and 2015. Then there were the early exits from the playoffs this and last year. While Red Sox Nation reacted with mixed emotions to Farrell’s departure, those same fans rejoiced when they learned Jason Varitek reportedly wants to come aboard as the new manager.

 

 

 

According to NESN.com, Varitek has expressed his interest in managing the Red Sox. “Having been a part of the front office and having the ability to still get on the field everywhere that I go, I know I have more impact on the field,” Varitek was quoted as saying in the article. It goes without saying that hiring him would come as a very welcoming move. Varitek, a Red Sox Hall of Famer, was a tenacious Red Sox catcher and on-field leader. His spar with Alex Rodriguez in 2004 is immortalized throughout Boston. He is widely popular throughout New England. In fact, hiring Varitek would be enough to erase the frustrations most fans have in the wake of Farrell’s termination.

The Red Sox Fire Farrell After Five Rollercoaster Seasons

The Red Sox almost fired Farrell in 2015 but his cancer diagnosis likely kept the team from doing so. Regardless, while the Red Sox went on to win the AL East Division in 2016 and 2017, many in Red Sox Nation noticed that the team didn’t play with the zeal seen during the 2013 season. Many of the players have questioned Farrell’s leadership ability in recent months. Other fans have often wondered what Farrell was thinking when he’d start a weak pitcher, or send in an inexperienced hitter to pinch hit. These issues culminated in Farrell’s eventual termination. Personally, I think it’s a smart move. The Red Sox have been a boring team to watch for the last few years, and I think that had a lot to do with the fact that the players aren’t playing with the same enthusiasm that players in Chicago, LA, and Washington play with. Farrell wasn’t an inspiring manager.

Seeing the Red Sox fire Farrell opens up a lot of interesting possibilities for his replacement. Some say Hall of Famer Tony Larussa might come out of retirement and take over. Others say the Red Sox might take a chance on Brad Ausmus, who was recently fired by the Detroit Tigers. But Varitek? Most in Red Sox Nation wouldn’t have a problem with that. He’s fierce, competitive, and he certainly would make watching the Red Sox a lot more interesting.

I say go for it!

Let’s Just Go Ahead and Demolish Fenway Park

I have to start this piece by clarifying that I’m not really arguing that Fenway Park should be demolished. This is a satirical piece. But so many of you threw a fit after I wrote this piece that I don’t have a choice. Now, given the Red Sox concern about Tom Yawkey’s legacy, they should just go ahead and demolish Fenway Park. Why settle on a simple street name change? After all, Yawkey is arguably responsible for Fenway Park being the great place it is today. So let’s just erase it!

Yawkey bought the Red Sox in 1933 after inheriting $40 million from a rich uncle. Hedemolish fenway park immediately began work on renovating Fenway Park. Before his purchase, Fenway Park was a dump. Part of the park had burned down in 1926. It hadn’t even been that well maintained since it opened in 1912. Yawkey’s renovations included better seating (much of which still exists today). It also included the construction of what we know as the Green Monster wall. If it wasn’t for Yawkey, Fenway Park would have fallen into disrepair and eventually condemned. But since he was such a racist, maybe the Red Sox should just demolish Fenway Park to make sure they’ve done enough to distance itself from him.

Demolish Fenway Park And Build A New Racist-Free Ballpark!

The Red Sox could do what Patriots did and build a new stadium out in the middle of nowhere. That way they won’t have to risk seeing Yawkey’s name on anything nearby. Fans won’t have to walk past the Yawkey Center for Cancer Care. They won’t have to take the train to Yawkey Station. The Red Sox could better control how much exposure the fans will have to the charities sponsored by the Yawkey family. Think about it! A new stadium means the Red Sox can erase their past and start new!

Okay that’s enough. I think you get my point. Listen, in no way am I defending Yawkey’s decision to be the last team to integrate. That’s a burden Yawkey’s legacy will have to endure forever. But while Yawkey could have done so much more to secure his legacy than just throwing money at charities, renaming Yawkey Way isn’t a step in the right direction. I’m struggling to understand the team’s motive here. Why do they want to change the street’s name now? If John Henry and Sam Kennedy are this concerned about Yawkey’s legacy, why did they wait until now to do something about it? Confederate monuments are coming down because they’re a lightning rod for white supremacy. That’s a legitimate reason and I fully support it. But what’s the team’s reason for changing Yawkey Way now? Is it a pre-emptive measure to keep protestors away before they can form?

What Will Renaming Yawkey Way Change?

Changing the street’s name won’t change history. If anything, it only drudges up old and painful memories, among other things. It puts the charities named after Yawkey in a very awkward position, which could jeopardize their missions. Furthermore, can one really argue that Yawkey Way is the same as a monument commemorating leaders who led a rebellion against the United States in an effort to preserve slavery? Perhaps we should look at Yawkey and use him as an example of what happens when someone doesn’t pay attention to social issues.

Continue to hold Yawkey’s legacy accountable, but don’t pretend everything will be okay if the city changes the street name. Instead of erasing something that wasn’t intended to evoke racism, look to it as a life lesson.

Sam Kennedy Leading Efforts To Rename Yawkey Way

The Boston Red Sox announced in August that they wanted Yawkey Way renamed. Their concern stems from a racist legacy left in the wake of Tom Yawkey’s ownership. As of today, a Boston Red Sox-themed Instagram page titled “bostonstrong_34” with a following of over 91,000 users posted that Red Sox President Sam Kennedy confirmed the team’s efforts to eventually change the street name. With Sam Kennedy leading the efforts to rename Yawkey Way, it’s clear that this change could come sooner than later.

In a book coming out on Yawkey titled Tom Yawkey: Patriarch of the Boston Red Sox,sam kennedy leading author Bill Nowlin explores the man that very few know or understand. In an article published by prosportsdaily.com, Nowlin stated that “I never once found any evidence that Yawkey was personally racist. Nor did interviews with several dozen Sox players, including Pumpsie Green and Reggie Smith, turn up any such a suggestion. I looked for a smoking gun, and couldn’t find one.” That doesn’t mean he was without flaws. In an e-mail message to me, Nowlin elaborated, “He owned 100% of the team, and on 24 hours’ notice he could have ensured the Red Sox had an African American ballplayer. The facts show that the team was institutionally racist up until at least 1959 – though it’s also only fair to note that so was every newspaper in Boston, and many other institutions as well.”

I recently discussed this topic in an earlier post. I wrote that the Yawkey Way name should stay in place. While Tom Yawkey owned the Red Sox when they became the last team to integrate, I don’t believe Yawkey himself was a true racist. Of course, this does not excuse him from any blame or responsibility for the team’s legacy under his ownership. While Tom Yawkey wasn’t exactly a Civil Rights Leader, he wasn’t a racist. So while Yawkey bears the responsibility for the team’s racist history during his tenure as owner, it’s difficult to place him at the same level as the KKK as many are insinuating. With Sam Kennedy leading the charge on this move, I am disappointed because I don’t think he thought about this idea very thoroughly at all.

Sam Kennedy Leading A Dishonest And Very Flawed Effort

Yawkey wasn’t perfect; far from it. But he was also a very generous man who didn’t collect on loans he gave to his players, both black and white. To me, this suggests that he may have evolved in his views on race for the better.

To rename Yawkey Way is to suggest that people can’t change. What’s the point of educating others about the dangers of bigotry if we don’t recognize the effect it has? Do we continue to call someone a racist even if they eventually changed their views? What do the stories about how generous Yawkey was towards players say about him? It certainly doesn’t excuse him from any responsibility regarding the team’s stance on integration before 1959. But it’s also not a good excuse to rename Yawkey Way.

Kennedy wants to rename Yawkey Way for the wrong reasons. He wants a scapegoat that he thinks will alleviate the focus on the Red Sox messy record on integration. He is also exploiting a very serious issue in America. He’s trying to make the team look like they care about combating bigotry in America. While I don’t doubt his sincerity, I feel he would have made this move years ago if he felt this way.