On page nine of Ty Cobb: A Terrible Beauty, author Charles Leerhsen commits a sin that will go down in the annals of BYB history. Referring to sabermetricians as "baseball nerds," Leerhsen gives a quick synopsis of why Ty Cobb is one of, if not the greatest player in baseball history, citing team-dependent stats such as RBI and runs scored.
There. Now that I have my complaints out of the way, let me tell you why you need to buy this book. Ty Cobb: A Terrible Beauty is more than just a great story. Anything Ty Cobb-related will be interesting, as the fiery outfielder from Georgia has developed quite a reputation over the past century. Leerhsen's version of Cobb's life is a thoroughly researched masterpiece, one with a list of references and sources longer than many of the book's actual chapters. Leerhsen cites letters, newspapers, interviews, and numerous other data points in his quest for uncovering who the real Ty Cobb is (he even won a SABR award in the process!).
Without spoiling the entire narrative, Cobb appears to be much different than you think. The Georgia Peach was not a belligerent racist or uncoachable fiend, as other memoirs would lead you to believe, but a surprisingly intelligent individual who was decades ahead of his time in the baseball world. While Leerhsen's take on some of Cobb's misdeeds may be a bit rosy at times, he does a marvelous job of presenting the facts he has with as much context as possible.
From descriptions of the stadiums to the crowds to a rather hilarious breakdown of manager Hughie Jennings' antics in the first base coach's box, A Terrible Beauty takes you back to the turn of the 20th century, when baseball was still considered a kid's game, not a reliable source of employment. Professional baseball was practically a different game back then, and this book does a wonderful job of describing the trials and tribulations of players from that time period.
This isn't a book about the game at large, though. Leerhsen does an excellent job of keeping the story tightly focused on Cobb, with just enough extraneous detail to bring the entire picture into focus. From startlingly detailed accounts of the games he played in to a close description of Cobb's relationship with his parents -- and yes, the infamous tale of his father's murder -- this book truly has it all when it comes to Ty Cobb. I would highly recommend it to anyone with an interest in baseball history, and for Tigers fans, it's a must have.
Ty Cobb: A Terrible Beauty is on sale now.
Disclosure: I received a free copy of the book in order to write this review. This review is my honest opinion.