Was Ty Cobb Racist?

Thursday, July 28, 2016

I am no aficionado, but even I "knew" that baseball legend Ty Cobb was a racist -- until I encountered this adaptation of a speech given as part of a "Sports and Character" program at Hillsdale College. A biographer, who started on that very same premise ended up changing his mind after both failing to find evidence for the idea and finding evidence to the contrary. Here's just a sample of what Charles Leerhsen, author of Ty Cobb: A Terrible Beauty learned:

Cobb himself was never asked about segregation until 1952, when the Texas League was integrating, and Sporting News asked him what he thought. "The Negro should be accepted wholeheartedly, and not grudgingly," he said. "The Negro has the right to play professional baseball and whose [sic] to say he has not?" By that time he had attended many Negro league games, sometimes throwing out the first ball and often sitting in the dugout with the players. He is quoted as saying that Willie Mays was the only modern-day player he'd pay to see and that Roy Campanella was the ballplayer that reminded him most of himself.
Not only did Leerhsen find that Cobb's personal actions failed to live up to the claim, which seems to have come from a "biographer" who played fast and loose with facts, but his background further suggests he had been raised with more enlightened attitudes about race than many other southern whites at the time. This piece is a long, but very interesting read.

-- CAV

1 comment:

Scott Holleran said...

This is a fascinating piece, which I read when it was reprinted in Hillsdale's edition. It's a good example of what one can do with writing and journalism. In this case, if the assertions are true, vindicate a great athlete.