Genre: Sports, Biography, Nonfiction; Author: Al Stump; Publisher: Algonquin Books

Next time some sports-page moralist waxes indignant over the antics of a bad-boy athlete like Charles Barkley or Darryl Strawberry, and yearns for the good old days when jocks were gentlemen and scholars, hand over a copy of Al Stump’s Cobb. Whether your interest is baseball, American popular culture, or abnormal psychology, Stump’s vivid recounting of the life and times of Ty Cobb, a.k.a. ”The Georgia Peach,” can’t fail to fascinate. Cobb was, hands down, the most brilliant player of his era. But he was also almost universally hated by teammates and opponents, and subject to paranoid delusions and fits of ungovernable rage. In 1909, Cobb attacked a Cleveland hotel detective with a knife in a near-lethal scuffle. Fearing arrest, he had to be transported across Ohio incognito to play in that year’s World Series between Detroit and Pittsburgh. In New York a few years later, Cobb raced into the stands and assaulted a disabled heckler. In self-pitying moods, Cobb blamed the emotional trauma of his mother’s having slain his beloved father with a shotgun while he was still in the minor leagues. The elder Cobb, supposedly off on a business trip, was in the act of climbing in the bedroom window — presumably to catch his wife with a lover. (She was tried and acquitted.) The inspiration for the current movie starring Tommy Lee Jones, Stump’s Cobb vividly re-creates both the man and his era. A-

Originally posted January 13 1995 — 12:00 AM EST

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