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The Questionable Al Stump, Ty Cobb biographer

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  • The Questionable Al Stump, Ty Cobb biographer

    Wonderful article in the new National Pastime by SABR - from the Georgia convention

    The Georgia Peach: Stumped by the Storyteller by William R. Cobb

    Starts out as a piece to investigate whether Cobb's father was killed by a pistol or a shotgun but ends up being a piece about Al Stump who in all liklihood pilferred Cobb's belongings after his death, sold them, forged Cobb diaries and is responsible for extenuating/creating many Cobb myths including the ridiculous movie version starring Tommy Lee Jones.

    Sad, sad truth to baseball history writing - Stump made up lie after lie that are still swallowed today and taken/cited as fact. William Cobb even talks about a conversation with none other than John Thorn that quickly went downhill because Thorn based some erroneous info on Stump's BS.

    The hobby is in serious need of a new Cobb biographer who can weed through all the fodder and rip out the kernals of truth and present the real story of the man whose memory probably like no other sports figure is riddled with half-truths, lies and innuendo.

    Any thoughts, perspective?

  • #2
    I have some comments about Ron's article. I would like to give my report on his report.

    It is apparent from Ron Cobb's research, that some of the harmful Ty Cobb myths originated with Ty's biographer, Al Stump. Such as the myth that Ty once killed a mugger, that he had a falling out with Ted Williams.

    It is also obvious from Ron's research that the big question is not whether Al Stump was an unethical sports writer, but was he an ethical person.

    I have read both of Al Stump's 2 books on Ty Cobb. 1961 and 1994. I also read his article on "Ty Cobb's Wild 10-Month Fight To Live", which was published in December, 1961, in 'True, the Man's Magazine', and came out in 3 installments.

    Ron Cobb gives us a very excellent and comprehensive debunking to many of the extremely harmful lies that Al Stump told and which became myths and lore of the game. Ron shows sensitive research skills and proves he possesses the requisite sensitivity in editing these issues.

    I wish to go over some of the main points pointed out by Ron, and discuss them in a deliberative manner.

    Here is a link to my post for Al Stump in my Meet The Sports Writers.---Al Stump

    When I read Al's 2 Ty Cobb books, certain of his comments jumped out at me. They just leaped off the page. They clearly showed that Al didn't like his book research subject. Here are 2 of his statements which attest to why I feel this way.

    "Gallico, a longtime sports editor at the New York Daily News who closely studied Cobb in his late career, felt that Cobb's weird conduct, both on and off the field, could have been signs of significant mental illness." (Cobb, by Al Stump, 1994, Preface, pp. 16.)

    "My respect for his greatness, my contempt for his vile temper and mistreatment of others, my pity for his deteriorating health, and my admiration for his stubbornness and persistence produced a frustrating mix of emotions." (Cobb, by Al Stump, 1994, Preface, pp. 17.)

    Ron builds his case gradually and thoughtfully. The main thrust of his premise is that Al Stump was a big reason why Ty's reputation and public persona, which were mixed before Al Stump came along, were dealt a devastating blow.

    My own research was that Ty Cobb had many, many friends in and out of baseball and I sought to document that fact in 2 of the threads on this Fever website. The Cobb Consensus and Ty Cobb Thread.

    Ron points out that Al Stump was the person who alleges that Ty Cobb killed a man. In his second 1994 Cobb book, on page 212, he claims that "Cobb believed he killed this mugger."

    Ty was dead since 1961 when Stump published this version in 1994. Nowhere in the 1961 book is there a death. Subsequent research by SABR member Doug Roberts and myself via Proquest newspapers have failed to turn up any confirmation of any bodies that might have been found in Detroit in the time period referred to.

    Stump further describes Cobb as intoxicated when he relates the incident to him.

    Another fabrication Stump told was that Ty and Ted Williams had a falling out over failure to agree on their second baseman on the All-Time Team. Ted himself refutes the allegation and insisted that he and Ty remained 'tight' up until Ty died. Ted asserts that the writer of that falsification 'was full of it'.

    Ron also suggests that after Ty died, Al Stump went into his home in Atherton, CA and stole a great many items that he claimed Ty told him he could have. Ron shows a note from Ty that allowed Al to have some, certain things, but apparently, Al helped himself to a vast array of Ty personal belongings, and later tried to sell them at auction.

    One of the most curious items was a 1946 diary, that subsequent research proved was not in Ty's hand-writing. Hand-writing analysts confirmed it was in Stump's own hand-writing! How bizarre is that!

    Ron's research answers a lot of questions for many Ty Cobb inquirers. It was Stump who wrote that only 3 people turned up for Ty's funeral. When the fact is that Sporting News ran a blurb, at the Cobb family's request, asking people not to show up. It was held only 3 days after Ty died. The family feared the media, and didn't trust them.

    But initially, many of Ty's life-long friends wanted to be pall-bearers. Hornsby, Sisler, Stengel, Douglas McArthur, Spink, etc. Ron shows clearly that Stump was a sensationalist. He was deliberately trying for drama. Drama sells.

    But in Cobb's case, there was enough drama without having to embellish.

    Al Stump also apparently signed Ty's name to many artifacts and hoped he could sell them at auction. One of the artifacts was a shotgun. Stump claimed it was the same shotgun Ty's Mom had used to 'blow her husband's head off'.

    But Stump had no knowledge of any such thing. In fact, the research of Wesley Fricks proved that no such shotgun was used in the accidental killing of Ty's father. Newspaper accounts are all unanimous that the weapon used was a pistol. Many newspaper accounts confirm it was a pistol. And it was not on a second story either. The house did not have a second story. His mom shot twice through a ground floor window with a pistol. But Stump wanted the story to be a sensational dramatic story.

    So, it is starting to become clear that Al Stump is the origin of several Ty Cobb myths, all of which were detrimental to his reputation. And this from a man who accepted Ty's hospitality, was welcomed into his home, and was trusted to tell the truth.

    We owe a debt of gratitude to Ron Cobb (no relation to Ty Cobb) for taking Al Stump to task, and debunking several harmful Ty Cobb myths. There are several people who have striven to debunk the Ty Cobb mythology. Wesley Fricks, Ron Cobb, Doug Roberts, Marc Okkonen, Richard Bak, myself (Bill Burgess).

    It is to be hoped that the research of the above persons sheds new light on one of baseball's most controversial figures. And if one reads their work with an open mind, maybe Ty Cobb could become less controversial. In the end, truth will find a way to come out.
    Last edited by Bill Burgess; 09-07-2010, 08:59 AM.

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    • #3
      I too have read both of Stump's Cobb books. I became suspicious of the 1994 book when it said that Casey Stengel told Cobb that his years managing the Mets were some of the most difficult years of his life. Considering Cobb died in 1961, before the Mets ever played a game, it's pretty unlikely that such an exchange would've occurred.
      Baseball Junk Drawer

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      • #4
        ive heard that only 3 baseball people attended ty cobbs funeral, ive always wondered why that was. I assumed it was because he didnt have many people who liked him. But why did the sporting news tell people not to come to his funeral. I gotta say ive always wondered if baseball players really hated cobb but after reading the stuff bill burgess has it makes alot more sense to me why he got a bad name for himself with his teammates. Especially with the cliques in his early days and when he became a manager, those threads on cobb are pretty interesting, i cant stop reading em.
        "(Shoeless Joe Jackson's fall from grace is one of the real tragedies of baseball. I always thought he was more sinned against than sinning." -- Connie Mack

        "I have the ultimate respect for Whitesox fans. They were as miserable as the Cubs and Redsox fans ever were but always had the good decency to keep it to themselves. And when they finally won the World Series, they celebrated without annoying every other fan in the country."--Jim Caple, ESPN (Jan. 12, 2011)

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        • #5
          Something tells me I now have to track down Stump's work and give it a read. do you have the exact quote about the Mets? That's a real whopper.
          The Evil Empire shall strike back again!
          http://litbases.wordpress.com/

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          • #6
            i think bill burgess should be the new biographer for ty cobb
            "(Shoeless Joe Jackson's fall from grace is one of the real tragedies of baseball. I always thought he was more sinned against than sinning." -- Connie Mack

            "I have the ultimate respect for Whitesox fans. They were as miserable as the Cubs and Redsox fans ever were but always had the good decency to keep it to themselves. And when they finally won the World Series, they celebrated without annoying every other fan in the country."--Jim Caple, ESPN (Jan. 12, 2011)

            Comment


            • #7
              The L.A. Times reprinted (in 1985) the original 1961 Stump article from True.
              It starts with this glowing preface:

              "As Pete Rose closes in on Ty Cobb's lifetime hits record, more attention is being paid to the career of the man called the Georgia Peach. This article on Cobb's final months, written in 1961, was described by Bob Considine as "perhaps the best sports piece I have ever read." It won the Associated Press' Best Sports Story of the Year Award. Al Stump wrote this story for True magazine. Stump, 64, is a free lance writer who has had more than 1,000 magazine articles and 7 books published. He frequently contributes to Los Angeles magazine and lives in Pasadena."

              Here's the full piece:
              http://articles.latimes.com/1985-08-...3589_1_ty-cobb
              Say hello on Twitter @BSmile & Facebook "Baseball by BSmile"

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Bill Burgess View Post
                It was Stump who wrote that only 3 people turned up for Ty's funeral. When the fact is that Sporting News ran a blurb, asking people not to show up. It was held only 3 days after Ty died.
                Why would Sporting News run such an item?

                The reality has to be that this was done at the family's request, but the information as presented here - "the fact is that Sporting News ran a blurb, asking people not to show up" - makes me infer that Sporting News did it on their own, for whatever reason.
                X
                Archie Bunker: All I can tell you, Edith, is I'm surprised at you! Dragging me off to a moving picture like that! It was absolutely disgusting!
                Edith Bunker: Well, I'm sorry, Archie, how was I to know? I thought it was a religious picture, "Cardinal Knowledge!"

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by BaronSamedi View Post
                  Something tells me I now have to track down Stump's work and give it a read. do you have the exact quote about the Mets? That's a real whopper.
                  Sorry, I don't have the exact quote. I got the book out of my local library, so I don't have a copy to refer to. Google Books has the book in question, but the only section I can find that talks about Casey and the Mets doesn't have the quote. Perhaps Google Books has a later edition from after someone caught the error?
                  Baseball Junk Drawer

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Gary Dunaier View Post
                    Why would Sporting News run such an item?

                    The reality has to be that this was done at the family's request, but the information as presented here - "the fact is that Sporting News ran a blurb, asking people not to show up" - makes me infer that Sporting News did it on their own, for whatever reason.
                    You are absolutely right. I should have included, "at the families' request". I'll go back and correct that. Thanks for the head's up. Where's my proof-reader, RuthMayBond, when I need him?

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by BaronSamedi View Post
                      Something tells me I now have to track down Stump's work and give it a read. do you have the exact quote about the Mets? That's a real whopper.
                      Here are the quotes from the book.

                      "Aware of the formation of the Mets of the National League, Cobb disliked the idea. "They have about a dozen bosses and damned few player," he warned. "Don't touch it." However, the Old Perfesser did make a comeback with the Mets in 1962, lending his quaint personality to the most hilarious and inept band of losers yet to step on a major-league field. during the four seasons in which Stengel led them, the Mets finished in tenth and last place all four times. Finally they jumped all the way to ninth place. By then, Stengel had beaten his critics to it: he had retired, permanently. "What I needed with those Mets," he informed Cobb later, "was an embalmer." (Cobb, by Al Stump, 1994, pp. 264.)

                      So, what poster ian2813 asserted above in post #3 seemed to have been true. Stump, in his need to add context to support his book, crossed the line and added his own suppositions and made up quotes.

                      Al Stump had all the worst traits of a sports writer. Assumed things, stuck quotes in others' mouths who hadn't actually spoken them. That's not merely bad sports writing, that's unethical behavior, period.
                      Last edited by Bill Burgess; 09-14-2010, 04:41 PM.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Yeah, back when the 2nd book and movie came out I saw pieces come out here Stump said he was "atoning" for the glowing 1961 book and had stated that it had been ripped back in it's day for being too "one sided."

                        Ironically Robert Whul (Stump in the movie) has produced several revisionist American history shows for HBO using the Liberty Valance approach to why legends and myths exist. Perhaps Stump wanted to cash in on more Andy Warhol time so he went and printed the legend after printing the facts!
                        NY Sports Day Independent Gotham Sports Coverage
                        Mets360 Mets Past, Present and Future
                        Talking Mets Baseball. A baseball blog with a Mets bias

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                        • #13
                          What is the irony?
                          Was he merely an actor rather than writer, director, or producer for the Cobb movie?

                          --
                          The Cobb movie has been well-received, iirc.

                          At SABR40 in Atlanta last month, there was one evening showing of a one-man play, written and acted by Norman Coleman. Does anyone here know whether Coleman has researched his subject well?
                          Last edited by Paul Wendt; 09-07-2010, 11:57 AM.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Are you talking about the Cobb movie with Tommy Lee jones? That movie got a good review? I really didnt care for it too much. Not that my opinion matters but i thought they coulda done a better job with the life of Ty Cobb.
                            "(Shoeless Joe Jackson's fall from grace is one of the real tragedies of baseball. I always thought he was more sinned against than sinning." -- Connie Mack

                            "I have the ultimate respect for Whitesox fans. They were as miserable as the Cubs and Redsox fans ever were but always had the good decency to keep it to themselves. And when they finally won the World Series, they celebrated without annoying every other fan in the country."--Jim Caple, ESPN (Jan. 12, 2011)

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Paul Wendt View Post
                              What is the irony?
                              Was he merely an actor rather than writer, director, or producer for the Cobb movie?

                              --
                              The Cobb movie has been well-received, iirc.

                              At SABR40 in Atlanta last month, there was one evening showing of a one-man play, written and acted by Norman Coleman. Does anyone here know whether Coleman has researched his subject well?
                              Norm lives in my neck of the woods, out here in centrral California. He called me up and we met several times. I gave him some of my photos, and my work. I gave him links to my online work here. He sends me emails when he performs. I've not seen his performances, but he sends me glowing reviews. Norm is a very nice man. A real decent guy. I like him.

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