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1959-1960 Ty Cobb Biography Correspondence - With Two Cobb Handwritten Letters

  • Sold For: $2,963
  • Year: 1959
  • Auction: 2012 spring
  • Lot #: 894
  • Auction Category: Autographed Baseballs/Flats/Photos

In 1959, Ty Cobb, who was in failing health and dealing with the ever-pressing issue of his own mortality, decided that the time was right to finally tell his side of the story regarding his life in baseball. With that goal in mind, he began negotiating with two publishing houses for the rights to his autobiography. In typical Cobb fashion, however, he kept his negotiations with each of the two publishing houses secret, never letting either of them know that they were in competition. This archive of letters and correspondence chronicles the negotiations between Cobb and one of his literary suitors, John E. Walsh, an editor with New York publisher Prentice-Hall. When Walsh originally sold this collection of material, he included a one-page signed letter to help put the archive in its proper historical context, and also to offer his own personal assessment of Cobb's underhanded dealings throughout the entire process. In part:
When Ty Cobb died in the summer of 1961 he took with him my blessing. I say this even though the year before he died I became probably the last victim of his old-time slashing tactics. Publishers for years had been trying to sign Cobb for his autobiography but without success. The personal story of his twenty-three years in baseball was certain to be a big seller. The trouble was that during his thirty-two years of retirement he had refused all offers. When, late in 1959 as a young editor with a New York publisher (Prentice-Hall), I was given the chance to discuss it with him, drinking with him, listening to his endless talk on every conceivable subject, and following him to his hospital bed in Georgia, the withered old Peach neatly spiked me and sent me bloody from the field while he romped on toward home. It turned out I was not the only editor he was talking with about his autobiography. Also active in the negotiations was an editor from Doubleday, though neither of us knew about the other's involvement. Cobb saw to that...Late in the afternoon, believing I was at last to get the great Cobb's signature, I was taken back to his hospital room. His advisors standing round, he sat up in bed and in a quiet but strangely belligerent tone informed me that he was refusing my offer. "I'm not going to sign with you," he announced with a touch of triumph in his eyes that puzzled me. He didn't say much more, didn't explain, and refused further discussion. I departed within a few minutes feeling crushed. It was weeks later that I first heard about the Doubleday offer.. .My Life in Baseball - The True Stor y, written with leading sportswriter Al Stump, and with a foreword by Gen. Douglas MacArthur, appeared some ten months after Cobb's death. It was a good book, and I felt glad that fate had allowed Cobb to complete it. But for the young and hopeful editor that I was then, the whole incident stayed with me for a long time as a rather brutal experience .
Accompanying Walsh's letter are two handwritten letters from Cobb to Walsh regarding a possible book deal (one dated 11/28/59 and the other 1/13/60), three telegrams from Cobb to Walsh, one telegram from Walsh to Cobb, a letter to Walsh (dated 11/13/1959) from writer Jimmy Jones, in which he first proposes the idea of a Cobb autobiography (Jones relates that he just spent a great deal of time interviewing Cobb for a magazine article, and Cobb indicated that he would be conducive to writing a book with Jones as his collaborator), and copies of correspondence to both Cobb (3) and Walsh (2) relating to the proposed book. Cobb's first letter, which is five pages (on four separate sheets) and written on his personal "Menlo Park, California" letterhead, is a rambling missive in which he discusses his reasons for writing the book and the high standards he has for it. In part: "I come from a small town in Georgia, I have neve r rated myself high, Innately I happen to be on the modest side...Now there are a lot of things that need correcting. I do not mean an alibi book, but in certain instances I now feel an urge to correct the record in the evening of my life...there are some things, no one has been told, before, my lazy youth, during baseball and all, I have reserved this to and for myself in case I ever wanted to use it. I do think a meeting is more productive, where I can state my desires as to the quality of a book, briefly to do the bes t boo k on a ballplayer that to date has been done...Sincerely Ty Cobb." The blue-ink text and signature grade "10" overall. In his second letter, two pages on his "Glenbrook, Douglas County, Nevada" letterhead, Cobb relates that he has been slow to respond because of health issues. He closes by writing "...I will be stopping at Roosevelt Hotel, there in N.Y. and if you wish to discuss the matter of my doing a book please contact me and I will be at your disposal. Thanking you, I am, Sincerely Ty Cobb." The green-ink text and signature grade "10" overall. Together with the original mailing envelope, which bears Cobb's handwritten return address on the reverse "T. R. Cobb/Royston, Ga."
All of the documents in this collection display moderate handling wear and are in Excellent condition overall. The story of Ty Cobb's life in book form, as we see here, was quite an ordeal for all involved. Years after the publication of Cobb's autobiography My Life in Baseball - The True Stor y, writer Al Stump wrote his own book detailing the trials and tribulations he had while collaborating with Cobb. That story was later brought to life in the 1994 film Cob b, starring Tommy Lee Jones. This is a fascinating archive of material relating to the ultimate publication of Cobb's autobiography, which was the last major project of his life. LOA from James Spence/JSA. Reserve $500. Estimate $2,000+. SOLD FOR $2,963

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