Originally published on July 16, 2016 on a previous WordPress account.
After recently learning of a spectacular baseball card find of Ty Cobb baseball cards, I decided I wanted to learn a bit more about this tarnished-legacy baseball player from the ‘dead ball’ era. Since I didn’t want to rely on one source, I chose two books and both were wonderful.
I purposely waited to review this book until I had read both, War on the Basepaths: The Definitive Biography of Ty Cobb (Tim Hornbaker) and Ty Cobb: A Terrible Beauty (Charles Leerhsen). When purchasing, I couldn’t decide between the two so I hope this review helps you to decide.
Bottom Line Up Front (BLUF): I thoroughly enjoyed ‘War on the Basepaths,’ (4 stars) which I read first, but ‘A Terrible Beauty,’ (5 Stars) has more detail and apparent research to counter some of the more colorful Cobb History. Both books counter the tainted Cobb legacy of a racist, jerk, and spiker.
Regarding both narrators: I listen at 3x speed and neither narrator appealed to me more than the other. If narration performance is important to you, I really can’t help you decide. I gave both 4 stars for performance since I could clearly hear both without adjusting the speed.
Since I read ‘War on the Basepaths’ first, I almost felt like I didn’t need to read the other, but I committed myself to it and this review. Despite both books being about 15 hours (1x speed) the biggest difference is focus of the book. As previously mentioned, ‘Terrible Beauty’ provides more context and theory to Cobb’s upbringing, personality, motivations, and day-to-day life minutia. I felt that ‘War’ covered more baseball statistics but missed some key information that I got from ‘Terrible Beauty’ (e.g., circumstances around Ty’s Father’s death, post baseball life with 2nd wife, personal finances and wealth growth).
It was nice to listen to both books and I didn’t feel like it was repetitive; in fact the juxtaposing of the two books helped inculcate me to Ty’s life. Both books dispel myths of Ty’s alleged racism (which by today’s standard is Racism, but he grew up and lived in a different time (not excusable, but understandable)), his unpopularity with baseball contemporaries (see Field of Dreams quote), as well as the most enduring Cobb legacy as a spike sharpener and spiker of competition when sliding into base (until Rickey Henderson, Ty Cobb was considered the greatest base-stealer of all time even though two others had more stolen bases).If you have time, read both. If not, read ‘A Terrible Beauty.’