If you want to know why the hobgoblins of 1989’s Field of Dreams refused to allow Ty Cobb to play ball on their ghostly field, you have only to re-watch the classic 1994 movie Cobb, starring the inimitable Tommy Lee Jones.

Alas, one was the lovely, tear-jerking movie that men loved to bawl about. The other was an antidote to sugarcoated cotton candy about life and death that Field of Dreams provided.

Cobb set many records as a player. In the film written and directed by Ron Shelton and based on Al Stump’s famous biography of the baseball anti-hero, Cobb manages to set a yardstick of records that cannot be touched by “the children who play baseball nowadays,” as Cobb states in the movie.

If you are ready to throw Barry Bonds to Michael Vick’s dogs, you ought to consider Cobb. Why hasn’t Pete Rose invoked the name? He may be afraid of the demonic spirits that would attach themselves to his already bad luck streak.

Yes, folks, Ty Cobb managed to crack the original top-10 list of record-setters.  In the Ron Shelton movie version of his life, the star of the Detroit Tigers breaks every one of the Ten Commandments. And, that is no easy feat.

Here they are:

X.  Bearing false witness is lying under oath. Here he beat Barry Bonds by a mile. He allegedly lied about the Black Sox scandal, setting up the baseball commissioner with the threat of blowing the lid of baseball fixes if the league pursued the idea of prosecuting him. 

IX. Oh, he coveted lots of things, but usually found a way to achieve them. One he detested was Babe Ruth’s home runs. “I’d hit those things if I had to,” he reports in the film.

VIII.  He not only coveted many wives and girlfriends, but he managed to bed Lolita Davidovitch in one racy scene. Marriage was not a sacrament to Cobb.

VII. Not only did he beat his wife in this film, his litany of being unfaithful drove her to seek divorce finally for his adultery.

VI.  Let’s face it. Any man who sets the record for stealing bases, and especially home, surely squeaks by with breaking this rule.

V. Did Cobb kill a person, committing murder? According to Shelton’s screenplay, he pistol-whipped a man to death in a back alley.

IV. Honoring his parents was undermined by his contempt for his mother. It may have resulted in Cobb being the trigger man in the bizarre and unsolved murder of his father. Someone in the old family home used a shotgun to dispatch the man.

III. Cursing at God is such a common sin, that some may find it hard to condemn it, but when Cobb curses God for making him an old drug addict, this is a piece of work in the history of curses.

II.  Back in the early days of baseball, many cities and town felt playing baseball on Sunday was a sacrilege. Of course, Cobb had no problems with a professional game (especially with all that money involved).

I. Cobb probably had a few false gods up his uniform sleeve. He put baseball ahead of all else, and his records were most important of all. Yet, in the years subsequent to his playing ball, he made tons of money playing ball in the stock market.  In his mind, everything paled next to the almighty dollar.

Perhaps some of these sins were a stretch even for Cobb, but the fact is the allegations against him make the crimes of Bonds, Vick, Rose and hundreds of others, seem like minor ethical lapses of judgment.

Next time you are ready to cast a stone at the latest folly of a modern athlete, you may well want to pay homage to the “greatest ballplayer of them all: Ty Cobb.”

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