I feel personally embarrassed because I am one of the few who read Lawrence Ritter's 1966 oral history The Glory of Their Times, which was much more complimentary to Cobb, yet seem to have been unaffected by it. Worse, Cobb actually did do something nice for my brother-in-law Ande when he was a boy in Atlanta in the 1950's. Had his picture taken with him; an autograph; ruffled his hair - I forget what. But my father-in-law always defended him on that basis, and I dismissed that as weak tea.
Time and again, what Leerhsen discovered through exhaustive research undermined the Cobb created by Stump, who didn’t source his work (“because he produced fiction,” as a contemporary said). Leerhsen could find no tangible evidence that Cobb hated blacks. On the contrary, he spoke in support of baseball’s integration when asked—and he wasn’t asked, as best Leerhsen can tell, until 1952. “The Negro should be accepted and not grudgingly but wholeheartedly,” Cobb said then. “The Negro has the right to compete in sports and who’s to say they have not?” On another occasion that year, he said: “No white man has the right to be less of a gentleman than a colored man. In my book, that goes not just for baseball but for all walks of life.” The virulent racist of legend, supposedly driven to derangement if even touched by a black man, attended Negro League games, threw out a first pitch, and often sat in the dugouts with black players. He came from a family of abolitionists. He endowed educational scholarships for students of all races.It made for a great bit in "Field of Dreams," and I am certainly familiar with all the accusations of Cobb sharpening his spikes. But if it's not really so, we can't keep it.