FILMichigan: Cobb

FILMichigan: Cobb

NOTE: I was prompted to dust off this Great Lakes Gazette story from August 19, 2013 after reading “Who Was Ty Cobb? The History We Know That’s Wrong,” by Charles Leerhsen. The article about the baseball great and the power of the press appeared in the March 2016 issue of the free, always-interesting Imprimis, published by Hillsdale College. Leerhsen is the author of a new book: Ty Cobb: A Terrible Beauty.

Ty Cobb played 22 seasons with Detroit (archive photo)

Ty Cobb played 22 seasons with Detroit (archive photo)

Cobb-rera? Home run hero Miguel Cabrera is being compared to baseball great and “Best Detroit Tiger Ever” Ty Cobb, whose story is told in the movie Cobb. Or is it?

Cobb: 1994, R rated biography of Ty Cobb starring Tommy Lee Jones and Robert Wuhl, with Lolita Davidovich (and Jimmy Buffett as the heckler). Screenplay by Ron Shelton, based on the book Cobb: A Biography by Al Stump. Directed by Ron Shelton.

As the Detroit Tigers advance through the 2013 season holding the top position in the American League Central Division, home run hero Miguel Cabrera continues to deliver win-clinching hits with just-in-time drama and excitement. The 2012 American League MVP and Triple Crown of baseball winner is giving Ty Cobb a run for the title of Best Detroit Tiger of all time. But overall nice guy and humble “Miggy” is no Cobb-rera.

 COBB.MV5BNzk2MzU1Mjg2M15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNDc4MzAwMQ@@._V1_SY317_CR11,0,214,317_At least not in the way that the 1994 movie Cobb portrays one of the greatest yet (supposedly) despised men in pro sports.
Tommy Lee Jones plays Tyrus Raymond Cobb, who was born in Georgia in 1886 and wore the Detroit Tigers uniform from 1905-1926 (he was manager from 1921-26). He slugged his way to batting and hitting records and was the top vote-getter among the first five inductees into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
The film begins in 1960. Wealthy, stock market-savvy Cobb, with one foot dangling over the death-bed at his luxurious Lake Tahoe home, has summoned sportswriter Al Stump (Robert Wuhl) to (re)write the “misunderstood” baseball legend’s story. At age 72 Cobb, called the most hated and hostile man in baseball, is without friends and has been rejected by his family.
One of the famous plays that contributed to Cobb's reputation---but it wasn't what it appears to be, according to the catcher Charles "Boss" Schmidt

One of the famous spike-first slides that contributed to Cobb’s reputation. But the play wasn’t what it appears to be, according to St. Louis Browns catcher Paul Krichell, who was at the receiving end in 1912.

The story follows Cobb and “Stumpy” to Reno, where the baseball great shows off his prejudices, and on to a Hall of Fame dinner in Cooperstown, New York. The two end up in Cobb’s hometown in Georgia, where Al decides how to write the story of the legend’s sorry life. He ghostwrites the autobiography My Life in Baseball: The True Record.

Years after Stump’s book and the movie Cobb, however, articles, including one at the Smithsonian and another by Ty Cobb historian Wesley Fricks, claim that Stumpy may have not only exaggerated the player’s flaws, but forged documents and concocted some of the anecdotes while ignoring the good things the man had done.

Example: Cobb, a supposed racist, threw out the first ball at the first home game of the Detroit Stars Negro League team in May, 1930 when they opened their new ball park, Roesink Stadium, in Hamtramck.

This Detroit Athletic Co. story by Dan Holmes busts Five myths about Ty Cobb.

Cobb died on July 17, 1961 and True Record was released a couple of months later. Stump’s 1994 biography is the version of Cobb’s life on which the movie is based.

Ty Cobb’s grandson, Herschel Cobb, Jr., remembered his grandfather differently than the earlier, widely published accounts and wrote his own story in the 2013 book, Heart of a Tiger: Growing up with my Grandfather, Ty Cobb.

The events of the movie Cobb take place long after the player’s time with the Tigers and the characters never set foot in Michigan, but they do mention Detroit a few times. Cobb appears in the old “D” uniform, and historic photos and film footage show the Georgia Peach demonstrating the style that helped the Tigers win pennants in 1907, 1908 and 1909.

So, although the movie wasn’t filmed in Michigan I just had to mention it because it’s baseball season, Cabrera is hot and the Tigers are on top.

And I happen to like Tommy Lee Jones.