Al Stump is a famous sports-writer chosen by Ty Cobb to co-write his official, authorized 'autobiography' before his death. Cobb, widely feared and despised, feels misunderstood and wants to set the record straight about 'the greatest ball-player ever,' in his words. However, when Stump spends time with Cobb, interviewing him and beginning to write, he realizes that the general public opinion is largely correct. In Stump's presence, Cobb is angry, violent, racist, misogynistic, and incorrigibly abusive to everyone around him. Torn between printing the truth by plumbing the depths of Cobb's dark soul and grim childhood, and succumbing to Cobb's pressure for a whitewash of his character and a simple baseball tale of his greatness, Stump writes two different books. One book is for Cobb, the other for the public. Written by
Tad Dibbern <DIBBERN_D@a1.mscf.upenn.edu>
Tommy Lee Jones' well-received quip after receiving the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role in "The Fugitive" ("I have a confession to make--I'm not really bald") was connected to this film. Jones shaved his head to accurately represent Ty Cobb. In addition, Jones spent only a few minutes at the post-Oscars victory party for his triumph, because he had an early call to continue filming and wanted to (and did) get his work started on time. See more »
When stump asks for a stock tip he is told to buy coke stock as it is about to come out in cans and he says coke in cans I don't believe so. This movie takes place in 1960 and coke first came out in cans in 1955. See more »
Tyrus R. Cobb, the greatest ballplayer in his or any other era just by the statistics. Though both Ricky Henderson and others have eclipsed his base stealing record and Pete Rose took down his record for lifetime base hits, Cobb still has a whole lot more still standing including that .367 lifetime batting average.
He fought each and every athletic contest like Nathan Bedford Forrest going against the hated North. God help a pitcher who shaved the ball a little too inside or an infielder who dared get in his way.
Did he have to be the way he was to win ballgames? I doubt that very much. A whole lot of other athletes like Walter Johnson, Christy Mathewson, George Sisler, Honus Wagner ran up some pretty impresive statistics of their own without resorting to the violence Cobb did. The number of his contemporaries who showed up for his funeral you could count on one hand.
Ty Cobb was a typical product of the Populist South of the 1890s and his views on various types of people reflected all the prejudices of Georgia during that time. But he also hid a terrible family secret that no doubt twisted him beyond anything remotely humane.
What's not mentioned in the film is that Ty Cobb got in on the ground floor of something called Coca Cola. The owner of the Detroit Tigers where Cobb played most of his career was one Frank Navin. Navin was a bookkeeper for the original owners of the team and he sunk his life savings into buying a controlling interest and later getting partners who would be silent and let him run things. Navin's salary battles with Cobb were annual winter sportswriter fodder. Cobb didn't make his money in baseball, but was far luckier financially than nearly all of his contemporaries.
It's important to remember that this is not a biographical film. It is the story of sportswriter Al Stump's relationship with the dying Ty Cobb as Stump was busy living with him and getting inside his head to write his story. I read both Cobb's whitewashed version of an autobiography that came out just before his death in 1961 and Stump's later account.
Curiously enough Babe Ruth also had Bob Considine ghost write an autobiography the way Stump did for Cobb. That book was the basis of the Bill Bendix film The Babe Ruth Story. It's as Ruth would have wished to be remembered. Other more factual accounts of the Babe have since appeared and his legend hasn't dimmed any. I suspect neither will Cobb's.
Tommy Lee Jones gives a pluperfect portrayal of a Georgia redneck who happened to be the best baseball player whoever lived. Robert Wuhl is also very good as Al Stump and the months they had veer from the wildly comic to the tragic.
This is not how Ty Cobb would wish to be remembered. But given his life he's lucky the film and book were so favorable.
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