Charles Leerhsen
Ty Cobb: A Terrible Beauty wins
the 2015 CASEY Award
for Best Baseball Book of the Year!

Read about it here

Excellent Feature on TY COBB:

When Pete Rose passed Ty Cobb on the
all-time hit list, their legacies seemed clear
By Jayson Stark

"The legend of Ty Cobb was messy and complex. But it was never fully examined until this year. Until the release of Charles Leerhsen's fabulous new book, Ty Cobb: A Terrible Beauty.
Isn't it amazing how actual reporting—a real and thorough search for the facts—can make us re-examine what we thought we knew, particularly about a man like this?"

Read the full article here

NATIONAL: MAD DOG UNLEASHED with Christopher Russo

Radio Interview, SIRIUS XM RADIO

Originally aired: Tuesday, June 9, 2015

NATIONAL: HIGH HEAT with Christopher Russo

TV Interview, MLB Network

Originally aired: Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Charles Leerhsen on High Heat

NATIONAL: MLB NOW with Brian Kenny

TV Panel, Interview, MLB Network

Originally aired: Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Charles Leerhsen on MLB Now


Radio Interview, NPR Affiliate WBUR-FM

Originally aired: Saturday, May 16, 2015

Charles Leerhsen on Only a Game

NATIONAL: OLBERMANN with Keith Olbermann

TV Interview, ESPN2

Originally aired: Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Charles Leerhsen on Olbermann


Radio Interview, NPR Affiliate WBUR-FM

Originally aired: Thursday, May 7, 2015

Charles Leerhsen on On Point

CHICAGO: The Download with Justin Kaufmann

Radio Interview, WGN RADIO

Originally aired: Friday, June 26, 2015

Charles Leerhsen on The Download

GEORGIA: Around the Big Leagues

Radio Interview, WAOK-AM, CBS Affiliate

Originally aired: Sunday, May 31, 2015

Charles Leerhsen on Around the Big Leagues

GEORGIA: A Closer Look

Radio Interview, NPR Affiliate WABE-FM

Originally aired: Thursday, May 28, 2015

Charles Leerhsen on A Closer Look

Excellent Feature on TY COBB:
in The Weekly Standard

Hero as Villain:
What You Know About Ty Cobb Would Surprise Him
By Geoffrey Norman

"Leerhsen summons up the days when baseball was young and innocent and, one thinks, filled with a kind of raw vitality that is missing today. There are passages in this book that make the game back then seem like so much more fun. Try to imagine the manager of some team today going out to the coaching box to 'blow a tin whistle, shake a rubber snake, or put down a parade of windup toys.' That same manager, 'as part of his attempt to distract the easily distractible southpaw Rube Waddell .  .  . briefly shared his coaching box with a dog.'"
They don’t make them like that—or like Cobb—anymore. And the real Cobb is more compelling than the one of legend and film."

Read the full article here

Excellent Feature on TY COBB:
in The Detroit Free Press

How Ty Cobb the Truth Got Lost Inside Ty Cobb the Myth
By Anna Clark

"Ty Cobb: A Terrible Beauty isn't a revisionist take that paints Cobb in wholly complimentary terms. 'I wonder if people think I just spent 400 pages bringing up myths and debunking them,' Leerhsen said. 'My allegiance is really not to Cobb, but to the truth, like it would be for any journalist.' What emerges is a clear-eyed portrayal of Cobb not as a tyrant and not as a saint. It showcases Cobb as a flawed and vulnerable human being who, after suffering a nervous breakdown his second season, came back to fearlessly embrace his talent in an era that was just discovering what it meant to love baseball."

Read the full article here

Excellent Feature on TY COBB:
in The New York Times

Removing the Fangs from Ty Cobb's Notoriety
By Richard Sandomir

“'It’s a warts-and-all biography,' Leerhsen said, laughing. 'But they’re warts, not tumors.'”
“'If you stick to the facts, and not the myth or the assumptions about someone born in Georgia in 1886,' Leerhsen said, “it’s very hard to make a case for Cobb being racist.'”
The book is not purely a defense of Cobb, to clear him of alleged sins, but a full biography of one of the early 20th century’s seminal players.
“'He was actually the most exciting player, maybe ever,'” said Leerhsen.

Read the full article here

a Full-Page Welcome in THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW Summer Reading Issue

By John Williams

"Leerhsen’s correctives are convincing, particularly his evidence against two of the more serious and persistent criticisms of Cobb: that he purposely endangered opponents by filing his shoe’s spikes to an extra-fine point before flying around the bases; and that he was notably racist, even for his time, with his many physical altercations often fueled by that animus."
"The book isn’t just the testimony of a character witness; it’s also a detailed...recounting of Cobb’s playing career, and the creative hitting and baserunning techniques that made him the game’s best player. 'It wasn’t until Elvis,' Leerhsen writes, 'that another Southerner so captivated the entire nation.'"
"Any story set against the world of early professional baseball is full of whimsical detail, and this one is no exception."
"This biography takes the crudely drawn monster away, and in place leaves a more common figure in the world of sports, the player who is 'at once the dreaded enemy and the biggest draw.' Leerhsen gives him to us incomplete but human, rather than as a myth served up whole."

Read the full review here


How Ty Cobb Was Framed as a Racist
By Kyle Smith

"Cobb, contrary to legend, was not a Southern redneck but an upper-middle-class boy, often derided for acting aristocratic in the locker room, where he would read literary novels and biographies of Thomas Jefferson and Napoleon. Both of his parents were genteel. His father, a state senator and 'something of a public intellectual' in Leerhsen’s words, once broke up a group of men plotting a lynching and was an outspoken advocate for the public education of black Americans."
"You might call Cobb the inventor of Moneyball — roughly, the idea that baseball is about smarts. 'He didn’t outhit the opposition and he didn’t outrun them,' said a teammate. 'He out-thought them.'"

Read the full review here


By Allen Barra

A Terrible Beauty is not only the best work ever written on this American sports legend: It’s a major reconsideration of a reputation unfairly maligned for decades."
"Leerhsen’s version of Cobb reads true because, for the first time ever, he is presented as a fully rounded human being with a sense of humor and a genuine capacity for making friends (even Babe Ruth, whom he criticized as a player) as well as enemies."
Ty Cobb: A Terrible Beauty is the first book to make me feel that I missed something by not seeing him play."

Read the full review here


A Fresher, More Thorough View of the Georgia Peach
By Bob D'Angelo

"Charles Leerhsen's ground-breaking, thorough and compelling new biography"
"Leerhsen dispels many longtime opinions of Cobb with a fair, balanced look at the Detroit Tigers’ Hall of Famer"
"This biography is the most complete, well-researched and thorough treatment of Cobb that has ever been written. Leerhsen’s writing is smooth, veering from serious to occasional cheeky first-person observations...Leerhsen is not an apologist; he reports on many of Cobb’s character faults. But after reading Ty Cobb: A Terrible Beauty, your opinion of the player and the man will have changed."

Read the full review here



Charles Leerhsen on The Heavy Hitter Network

Charles Leerhsen Interviewed by Biographile

An Off-Base Caricature: Ty Cobb's Reputation as Baseball's Bad Boy
By Scott Porch

"I thought I was going to find fresh examples of him being a monster," Leerhsen said, "but I quickly found that he was a completely different person and that this weird thing had happened with his story that had something to do with our love of monsters and villains. People would rather have the wild and crazy story than the truth."

Biographile: The book is subtitled A Terrible Beauty, so let's start with the "terrible" part. What’s the source of that?

Charles Leerhsen: Cobb’s philosophy of the game was to create a mental hazard for the opposition. He was terrible if you were on the other side. He was always trying to worry you, disrupt you, get you off balance mentally...He played with a physical wit and sometimes was a Charlie Chaplin-esque or Buster Keaton-esque character on the bases.

Read the full interview here

as One of "The Top Ten Sports Books for Spring"

"The legendary Tigers outfielder of the early 20th century, who may have been the greatest hitter in baseball history and is often depicted as a violent racist, comes across as less odious and more interesting than his sinister reputation in this energetic biography. Former Sports Illustrated editor Leerhsen (Crazy Good) depicts the Georgia Peach as a two-fisted man of seething ambition, prickly hauteur, and hair-trigger temper who fought just about anyone: opponents, teammates, a disabled heckler in the stand, an elevator boy, and a waitress. Leerhsen cogently argues that stories of his attacks on African-Americans are greatly exaggerated while his occasional statements of racially progressive views are ignored. Leerhsen also dismisses allegations that Cobb gratuitously spiked basemen. This Cobb is no thug but a reflective, well-read baseball intellectual who combined athleticism and strategic cunning into remarkable on-field dynamism, blending superb batting, hell-for-leather base-running—he once stole second, third, and home on three consecutive pitches—and subtle psych-outs that gave opposing teams nervous breakdowns. Leerhsen wraps his penetrating profile of Cobb in gripping play-by-play rundowns and a colorful portrait of the anarchic 'dead-ball' era, when players played drunk and fans chased offending umpires from the field. This is a stimulating evocation of baseball’s rambunctious youth and the man who epitomized it."

a Starred Review in KIRKUS

"The former executive editor of Sports Illustrated explores the idea that Tyrus Raymond Cobb (1886-1961), perhaps the greatest player in baseball history, was also a violent, racist, roundly hated person. Leerhsen (Blood and Smoke: A True Tale of Mystery, Mayhem and the Birth of the Indy 500, 2011, etc.) began his journey through the life of Cobb accepting the conventional wisdom. The intentional spiking of opponents, the ugly accounts of racism, the overall dirty play—these and other conceptions have, as Leerhsen shows, infected much of the writing about the Hall of Fame player known as the Georgia Peach. But throughout his text, the author reveals that he found a very different Cobb, and he does not hesitate to slam those writers (principally biographer Al Stump, whom he brands a liar) who have created and passed along those odious tales. Leerhsen charts Cobb's rise from his Georgia boyhood to the summit of professional baseball to his becoming a millionaire, through endorsements and investments. He praises his work ethic, study of the game, and inventiveness. And, yes, he finds plenty of evidence about fistfights and a fiery temper. However, Leerhsen does not accept either the intentional spiking stories or the racism, pointing out several times that Cobb was an outspoken advocate for integrating professional baseball. Although informed and often eloquent about Cobb's hitting and spectacular base running, he seems less interested in Cobb's defensive prowess, and he does seem to prefer the pro-Cobb interpretation in controversial incidents, like a late-career gambling charge. But why not? Others have assumed the worst; now Cobb has an advocate, one who's actually read all the old newspaper clippings (some of which flatly contradict common "knowledge"), visited the terrain, and interviewed as many relevant people as he could find. Cobb was indeed a bruised peach but, as the author shows convincingly, not a thoroughly rotten one."


Tyrus "Ty" Cobb (1886–1961), who spent most of his career with the Detroit Tigers, has long been a divisive character in baseball history, at once known as the greatest hitter who ever put on a pair of spikes and played with ceaseless grit—and also a cantankerous, racist. Leerhsen's (Crazy Good) magisterial reexamination presents a detailed view of Cobb culled from actual research rather than hearsay. While the player was certainly no saint, his often-quarrelsome nature was directed toward all, and the author maintains that Cobb's rural Georgia roots do not presume racist beliefs, as has been said. Thanks to exhaustive research, we now have a more realistic and sympathetic view of Cobb. Leerhsen uses press clippings and first-hand accounts from teammates to reveal that there is little evidence Cobb was a bigot, and his progressive family encouraged education and gentility. As a southerner, Cobb suffered from preconceptions as most players during the 1920s were from the Northeast. Leerhsen places his subject in context, describing the violence and drunkenness exhibited by players, management, and fans of the era.
VERDICT This is an important work for baseball and American historians as Cobb was one of the country's first true superstars. How he dealt with fame, a new byproduct of the modern age, serves as a useful social history.
—Brian Renvall, Mesalands Community Coll., Tucumcari, NM

Advance Praise for

“No matter what you think of Ty Cobb, you’ll want to read Charles Leerhsen’s fascinating biography, as he dispels rumors, exposes frauds, and challenges everything you thought you knew about the most controversial individual ever to play the great game of baseball.” (Kevin Baker, author of Sometimes You See It Coming)

“Superbly reported, wonderfully written and often quite funny, Charles Leerhsen’s Ty Cobb: A Terrible Beauty is a highly enlightening and highly enjoyable book. A new Cobb emerges—many-faced and passionate—in this important, original view of a figure well installed in baseball lore. This is a first-rate book by a first-rate writer."
(Kostya Kennedy, author of 56: Joe DiMaggio and the Last Magic Number in Sports)

“Surprise! It wasn’t the Georgia Peach who was prejudiced (especially), it was us, against him. Leerhsen’s feat of research brings the real Cobb home at last.” (Roy Blount Jr., author of Alphabet Juice)