It seems fitting that the idea for Tyrus Raymond "Ty" Cobb to write his autobiography in serial form came from a dispute over a book with a Detroit newspaper.
The iconic outfielder/manager for the Detroit Tigers agreed to pen 36 articles for publication from December 1925 to February 1926 in the New York Evening Journal after he reportedly squelched the release of an unauthorized biography by the Detroit News. My Twenty Years in Baseball includes the complete series in the newspaper and a wealth of photographs. It is edited by William R. Cobb, who is not a direct relation to Ty Cobb.
The historical significance of the collection trumps the vital importance to baseball fans. This is Cobb in his own words -- no ghost writer was involved -- writing for a national audience through a major media outlet based in New York City. Cobb adeptly chronicles his ongoing career in Major League Baseball and delves into issues on the grand diamond of life.
"It's much easier for the man who doesn't have to think to say what the President of the United States SHOULD HAVE DONE," he writes. "If he had to tell the President what action he SHOULD take, he would probably be more generous, more thoughtful, anyway. First guessers are the men who make names for themselves.
"The man who is wise to his own ability is usually wise to that of his opponents."
Controversial signposts on Cobb's march to the majors are not sugarcoated. He discusses how family goals came into conflict with the signing of his first professional contract, the early disappointment on the field which ultimately led to a better opportunity in another uniform and a valuable lesson that was learned while eating popcorn.
Many stars come to life -- Hans Wagner, Pie Traynor, Babe Ruth, John McGraw, Connie Mack, Walter Johnson, Jack Chesbro -- but Cobb especially digs into the dollars and cents of the game, while having a keen sense on how to market each installment.
"It is much easier to go out and buy an experienced ball player to fill a certain job than it is to train one for the job. Even the big newspapers of this country would hesitate to send a cub reporter to cover a national convention," he writes. "As I have said before, I have never been able to see the humorous side of baseball, even though I can laugh at the reminiscences of others. I was so deadly intent on mastering the game and everything struck me so serious that I failed to develop a baseball sense of humor.
"My days on the diamond have been rather stormy, due to my high-strung and rather fiery temper. Later on I will relate some of these rather sensational incidents and will present my side of them, but not in this chapter."
Cobb is brutally candid on the hazing he suffered in his early days with the Tigers, with one picture showing the professional consequences to his main antagonist. He also presents an intriguing angle to the 1920 tragedy of Cleveland's Ray Chapman being killed by a pitch thrown by Carl Mays of the New York Yankees. Although his assessment on various facets of the game is outstanding, Cobb is at his best when he delivers solid takes on the best team he has seen and the greatest game ever played, along with grabbing a few lineup cards and penciling in an all-time team and all-star squads for the American and National leagues.
"I don't want this autobiography to be considered my valedictory," Cobb writes. "I could name many things that twenty years in baseball have taught me and made the effort worth while. I am not alone in this. These educational benefits have come to scores of ballplayers.
"Yes, after all. I think it pretty well worth while."
AHP Rating: 4.0 Balls
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