15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth are names that resonate at the summit of baseball history in much the same way that Washington and Lincoln look out from Mount Rushmore. Like much of history, my previous encounters with the legends of Ty and the Babe were from dry, dusty tomes. People who were excited about them when they played preserved their names, but it's not hard to see why people today aren't as excited about Babe Ruth as our grandpa was.
Tom Stanton has done a service to baseball fans everywhere in "Ty and the Babe." He has preserved the legends of these two great ballplayers in a time capsule of words that brings the era of Tyrus and George to living, breathing, rip-snorting life. We can almost see the green outfields at Navin Field and Yankee stadium. We can almost smell the onions on the hot dogs. We can hear the crack of horsehide against Ruth's Louisville slugger and we can feel the gasp of surprise from thousands of fans when they realize that Cobb has dashed from third base - HE'S TRYING TO STEAL HOME!
They were remarkably different:
Cobb - the son of a Georgia State Senator, baseball scientist, expert of the bunt, the sacrifice, the well-placed base hit and the stolen base. He was a master of baseball psychological warfare and believed that everyone in a baseball park who wasn't actively trying to help his team was a mortal enemy.
Ruth - the son of a Baltimore saloon-keeper who was in a Catholic School for delinquents when he was drafted to pitch for the Boston Red Sox. Some forget that Babe Ruth was one of the best pitchers in the American League before the exploding popularity of his titanic home runs pressured Babe into becoming an every day player.
Cobb resented the fact that Home Runs were becoming the rage in the roaring twenties. He always thought that the smart combination of timely, controlled hitting and aggressive baserunning was the way to score. Home Runs seemed barbaric in contrast, and Ruth was the engine driving the train of popularity of the long ball.
Ruth hated the fact that Cobb publicly portrayed Babe as a crude bumpkin while Cobb was the intelligent master.
Over the years they developed a gradual respect for one another - as men and as baseball players. We get a sense not only of the icons as real people, but also of how they changed over time, including the ways that they changed each other.
Stanton's work here is meticulously researched - an addendum gives details of every single game Ruth and Cobb played together. But he gives elegant life to pale statistics reminiscent of the way that Joseph Ellis brings the Founding Fathers to life in his award-winning books.
This is a must-have for baseball fans.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on May 15, 2007
Author Tom Stanton has provided us with a unique look at the rivalry that existed between two players, one representing the superstar from the dead ball era while the other represented the changing of the game to that of the slugger. Babe Ruth gave baseball a much needed boost with his ability to draw fans out to the stadiums with his ability to hit home runs following the infamous Black Sox scandal, and Ty Cobb believed the game of baseball that he symbolized was being threatened by this newcomer who posed a threat to his position and popularity in the game. Both Cobb and Ruth were initially bitter rivals fighting for supremacy of the baseball public. Each had their own way of playing the game suitable to the skills they possessed, and each had an ego that needed to be fed. Each was viewed as a threat to the other, and author Stanton provides us with a number of anecdotes involving games between Cobb's Tigers and Ruth as a Red Sox and Yankee. This is not a rehash of stories you have heard several times before. Cobb and Ruth came to have a mutual respect for one another as the seasons progressed. Cobb, for his part, never forgot the support he and Tris Speaker received from Ruth when scandal reared its ugly head following their retirement from their respective teams in 1926. Ruth described Cobb and Speaker as "the finest names that baseball has ever known." Cobb felt Commissioner Landis kept them unduly waiting before exonerating them of the charges causing Cobb to later purposely miss the group photo at Cooperstown in 1939 to avoid being photographed with Landis, who wasn't in the photo anyway. Speaker, as is well known, did show up for the photo of the game's immortals on that day. The final section of the book covers the best two out of three golf meetings Cobb and Ruth did for charity in 1941 when their rivalry was renewed with good-natured ribbing although each was still competitive enough to want to beat the other. A lot was taking place in the game at that time. DiMaggio was on his way to hitting in 56 consecutive games, Williams would become the first batter to hit .400 since Bill Terry in 1930, and Gehrig died on June 2nd. The text of the book is 238 pages long in addition to an appendix that includes how Cobb and Ruth did against each other in each of the games they appeared together. Also included is an impressive bibliography from which the author has done research. I would like to point out that Ruth also had to deal with a tense rivarly with Giants' manager John McGraw who viewed Ruth as an intruder in New York City in addition to the one he had with Cobb. I do not hesitate to rate the book five stars even though there are a few profanities sprinkled throughout the book that make me question whether I should order extra copies for some kids who might appreciate reading it.
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
As interesting as I thought this book would be, it is actually more interesting and engaging than I had anticipated. Tom Stanton takes us through the careers of Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth by taking us through their intense rivalry. This works so well because Cobb was considered, by far, the greatest baseball player of all time and epitomized the "deadball" era that emphasized base hits, base running with lots of stealing, and intense gamesmanship. The trash talking of our era would have seemed tame back then.
Ruth was a very fine pitcher who could also hit very well (an exceeding rare combination). There was even resistance to his wanting to emphasize hitting and playing everyday because he was so valuable an asset on the mound. As Ruth changed the game in favor of power and home runs, Cobb and the other veterans derided it as a fluke. However, as others adopted Ruth's style and the number of home runs exploded (and the ball became livelier), the number of people attending ball games exploded. The patrons decided which style of ball they wanted.
The older proponents of Baseball Science who loved the old style of play complained that the new fans understood nothing of the game and that the power game had changed things for the worse. What is undeniable is that the game was changed forever.
Stanton also helps us see Cobb and Ruth more as real human beings rather than as two-dimensional myths. Again, their competitiveness and their rivalry for baseball supremacy helps us understand them as flesh and blood men through the stories of their encounters. In the appendix, the author provides us with a short summary of every game that Cobb and Ruth played against each other. Fascinating stuff.
Both Cobb and Ruth were avid golfers of some skill. Ruth had a lower handicap, but Cobb never ever stopped competing no matter the situation. They had challenged each other to a golf match that finally took place, for charity, in 1941. There were three match-play events with the last being played in Detroit, Cobb's baseball home. This is another fascinating story and shows us these men after their glory days were behind them.
I also appreciate that Stanton takes on the wholly negative image that Cobb has in today's popular mind. This is in part due to a scurrilous writings of Al Stump and a movie made from his book. We should remember how he was regarded by the men who played with him and by the writers of his time. It is true that we judge baseball according to the lights of the power game, but to disregard Cobb's manifold achievements is to show disrespect to the history of the game. For heaven's sake, Cobb stole home 54 times! No one is even close.
I do wish that Stanton had taken a couple of extra pages and shown their records that both Cobb and Ruth held when they retired and who surpassed them and when (and which they still hold today). That would have been a helpful touch.
Stanton also provides us with a great bibliography of material of these two greats. I believe that once you read this fine book you will want to read more and this well done reading list will make that desire easier to fulfill. The index is also very usable.
If you love baseball or are even mildly interested in it or either of these two players, this is a book you will certainly enjoy and should buy and read right away. It will make for a few enjoyable evenings of reading and you will know these men better than you ever have before (unless you are a deep historian of the game). I know I was interested in reading it and it surprised me how much I enjoyed it.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
This is a strange little book. For one thing, it presents a far more positive picture of Ty Cobb than one often encounters. Second, golf becomes a key part of the relationship between two bitter antagonists--Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb.
Ty Cobb was an exemplar of the old fashioned "scientific" approach to baseball, bunts, stolen bases, sacrifices, etc. Babe Ruth was a harbinger of a new era--focusing on the home run.
Cobb versus Ruth, while they were in the major leagues together, had a pretty negative relationship. Cobb had little respect for Ruth; Ruth despised Cobb.
The book tells of their slowly evolving relationship, to the point where they expressed respect toward one another by the end of Cobb's career.
Their rivalry took a turn after their respective retirements. Both became avid golfers. They took part in a series of golf matches, where there was much greater camaraderie than when they played baseball.
The book chronicles that strange evolution in their relationship.
There is a nice appendix, which chronicles those games in which they opposed one another. Interesting. . . .
An offbeat little book that ends up humanizing Cobb.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on May 19, 2007
What a fun book to read. I love how author, Tom Stanton, ties the history of the period with the baseball history he is highlighting. This truly made the story come alive for me and enhanced Mr. Stanton's already wonderful ability to tell a story.
And, what a story it is! I am someone who loves the game of baseball, but has a limited historical background. It was certainly interesting to read and learn more about the similarities the two men shared as well as the intensity the two brought to their rivalry.
For people of my generation, the legend of Ty Cobb is more of a myth than reality. Mr. Stanton has certainly helped me to understand this great icon in Detroit sport's history. It is obvious that Ty Cobb was much more than the standard "picture" that has been painted about him over time. This book brought out the human side of Ty Cobb and certainly brings life to that four-letter, numberless name I see immortalized in center field of Comerica Park. Tom Stanton tells a wonderfully entertaining story of two of my favorite topics, baseball and golf.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
No two figures loom over the game of baseball like Tyrus Raymond Cobb and George Herman "Babe" Ruth. Even those unfamiliar with the Great American Pastime would probably give a nod of recognition at the utterance of these titanic names. As such, they have transformed into legends worthy of mythology - and myths about them continue to perpetuate. The sport itself seems eternally intertwined with their contributions almost to the extent that baseball as we know it doesn't seem possible without them. They changed the game, and along with it American popular culture, forever. Not only that, the two were contemporaries and maintained a turbulent lifelong relationship on and off the playing field and, surprisingly, on the golf course. "Ty and The Babe" tells the story of this sometimes brutal sometimes touching love-hate relationship between baseball's towering archetypes.
The book begins, appropriately, in the verdant little city of Cooperstown, New York. 1939 saw the first batch of inductees enshrined into the Baseball Hall of Fame, among which were Cobb and Ruth. By this time both were already larger than life celebrities. Cobb had retired in 1928 and Ruth in 1935. Since then, each man had taken up golf as a kind of surrogate sport. Their athletic passions thus passed from the diamond to the rough, from bats to clubs, from high to low scores. Though neither putted professionally, they nonetheless maintained their chops. As memories of an old rivarly unfolded in Cooperstown, thoughts brewed within heads rife for new competition or for a settling of old scores. On that very day, Cobb challenged Ruth to a game of golf with these incendiary words: "I can beat you any day in the week and twice on Sunday at the Scottish game." Who could know that this blunt note, handed to Ruth classroom-style, would play a part in cooling one of the hottest duels in baseball history?
Part two of the book, called "The Baseball Years," outlines the careers of Cobb and Ruth with an emphasis on their game day confrontations. Their fierce antipathy became as legendary as their athletic prowess. Fans ate up the spiteful venom-spitting that occurred when the two played on the same field. They seemed to downright hate one another. This part of the book relates many tales about Cobb's and Ruth's often ugly confrontations. An appendix gives the nitty gritty details and statistics on how the two performed against each other in over two hundred games. Ruth first faced Cobb as a pitcher for the Boston Red Sox. Cobb, considered the greatest player of all time in 1915, didn't seem to notice. Only gradually did Ruth become the home run beaner we know today. Also, the book tells the fascinating story about how Ruth changed the game, something that Cobb resented for years. Cobb embodied the "science" of baseball: winning by hits, filling the bases, and by strategy. Ruth represented walloping the ball out of the park. Cobb took Ruth's brutal methods as an affront to his more brainy style, especially when Ruth's long balls started filling stadium seats and newspaper headlines, giving Ruth an unprecedented celebrity. This threw gas on the fire of an already flaming relationship.
Part three of the book changes the scenery to the golf course. Following up on Cobb's 1939 challenge, the legendary duo played each other three times for charity. The old rivarly was reignited but by this time each had earned a friendly admiration for the other. Nonetheless, the games used the famous old animosity as marketing fodder. How Cobb and Ruth reconciled later in life is a touching story that suggests that even the fiercest competition has mutual respect at its foundation. Not only that, if Cobb and Ruth can come to terms, anyone can. The book thus demonstrates, via this famous clash of titans, that hope remains for reconciliation even in the most unlikely situations. Along the way, Cobb even gets vindicated as a rather nice guy, in stark contrast to his modern depiction as a heartless, brutal, anything-for-a-win ogre.
"Ty and the Babe" flys by with breezy prose, just enough detail, and fascinating historic photos. Fans of either player will find much to relish in the book's 240 pages. But the book goes beyond baseball. It examines the lives of Cobb and Ruth and helps to answer questions such as "what did they do after they retired?" The quick answer: they stayed in the spotlight by healing a seemingly unhealable personal rift. Though both will be remembered mainly for their feats on the field, they had full lives off of it as well. "Ty and the Babe" tells the story.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on May 16, 2007
This could very well be the best baseball book to come out this year. Tom Stanton does a great job of shedding light on a rivalry between two of baseball's bests and in the process, he dispels some of the mistruths out there about Ty Cobb and how horrible of a person he was. When you finish this book, you'll have a newfound appreciation for both Cobb and Babe Ruth.
The first part of the book goes through many of the times Ruth and Cobb faced each other on the field and it shows the transitiion from a bitter rivalry into a almost friendly one. The second half of the book then deals with a three match golf tournament between Ty and the Babe in what is a fun twist to a great story. All of Tom Stanton's books are great, but in this one, he shows what a meticulous researcher he can be by dealing with a period of time that's almost lost to us all.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on July 6, 2007
GREAT FOR BASEBALL -- AND GOLF -- FANS: Face it, not many people confess an equal love for both sports. I've always been a "baseball -- first, last and always" type fan. That's why Tom Stanton's TY AND THE BABE surprised me so much.
Imagine a slugger like Barry Bonds versus a pure hitter like Ichiro Suzuki about 30 years from now. Not on the diamond, but the golf course! Once-intense athletes and enigmatic personalities transferring their remaining skills, attitudes and philosophies to a new sport. That's what I imagined as I read Stanton's insightful recreation of a little-known momentous encounter between baseball legends more than 60 years ago. Yes, Stanton made me like golf. At least, this tournament had the same drama and charm of a Mid-Summer Classic. I suspect golf fans would be just as charmed by his accessible reports of Cobb's and Ruth's baseball years.
Other reviewers have rightfully praised Stanton's ability to look beyond the stereotyped depictions of both stars. Most importantly, the author hasn't penned a fawning love letter to either Hall of Famer. He depicts both Ruth and Cobb as fascinating but flawed PEOPLE.
A superb historical detective, Stanton has given new life to an overlooked chapter of American sports. I can't wait for his next work!
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on May 28, 2007
I have now had the pleasure to read three of Tom Stanton's four great baseball books, and once again, he has written a classic.
Earlier this year, I read Al Stump's biography of Cobb and was shocked with its accounts of a deeply troubled and often violent man.
Unfortunately, this and many other writings perhaps portrayed Cobb in an unfair manner. Stanton's account cuts through these myths and provides a seemingly fairer portrayal of his career and life after baseball.
The comparisons and contrasts between Ruth and Cobb, as well as the great stories of their careers and rivalries as players, and then as adversaries on the golf course after baseball make for some great reading.
Thank you Mr. Stanton for bringing justice to the legacy of one of baseball's greatest.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on May 18, 2007
As I was reading T and the Babe, I kept thinking what it must have been to play baseball and live in the early 1900's. I didn't know that Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth had such a rivalry to be number one. This book describes that rivalry and at the same time describes how baseball was played and how it evolved into more of a power game. The rivalry between Ty Cob and Babe Ruth is developed throughout the book and the personality of each player is described. As a follower of baseball, I realized that Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth were good but I did not realize how good they were and that such a rivalry existed. This book made me appreciate Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth as two great players who had the drive to be the best. Tom wrote a outstanding book that brought back memories about how baseball was in the early 1900's.