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Confidence and Self-Doubt: Can They Make Sense In a Man's Life? 

A Study in the Life of Ty Cobb -- for all Men

By Ernest DeFilippis
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Paper given at the Aesthetic Realism Foundation

2. What Is the Approval a Man Wants?

Tyrus Cobb was born in 1886 in the rural farm country of northern Georgia. Some years later the Cobb's moved to Royston, a town of about 500 people where his father who was a teacher, established and became principal of the local school. Later he bought a farm, started the Royston Record, a small weekly newspaper, won a seat in the state senate and became the county's first school commissioner. 

William Cobb had high hopes for his son - a career in law or medicine or as a military officer out of West Point. But though he considered these as possibilities Ty, wanted to play baseball. His father saw this as some kind of folly which would lead to a "pointless life."  In his biography of Ty Cobb, Charles C. Alexander writes: 

Tyrus could find no way to please this man who awed, intimidated and frustrated him, but whom he nonetheless loved deeply.
Cobb himself said, "It was the sweetest thing in the world to be fully accepted by my father." But I have learned from Aesthetic Realism when we make our opinion of ourselves dependent on how a particular person is to us, not on how fair we are, we will have to be unsure of ourselves, whether we get that person's approval or not because that person is being used as a substitute for the world, not to honestly like it. 

Ty Cobb wanted very much to prove himself to his father and also to himself. He felt he could do this on the baseball diamond. There is this in his autobiography: 

I started playing baseball because I loved the competition, the matching of muscle and wits...I hungered for competition....My overwhelming need was to prove myself as a real man...[I wanted] the chance to become more than another school boy and son of Professor Cobb.
Men have not seen good will as powerful. The beating out of others has looked more attractive and more what is called macho. Eli Siegel once said in an Aesthetic Realism class: 
The only person you should try to be better than is the person you are now. He is worth licking, showing up.
Cobb's whole life was badly affected by not knowing this. Shortly before his 18th birthday and the same week he was to sign a major league contract with the Detroit Tigers, something tragic occurred in the Cobb family. His father, while entering their house late at night through the bedroom window, was shot and killed by his mother who thought he was a burglar. What actually happened is unclear, and there was much speculation. Mr. Cobb may have been seeking revenge on his wife who, as rumor had it, was seeing another man. The year before, his father, who had become more tolerant of his son's playing baseball had sent him on his way with a, "Don't come home a failure!" Now when he felt he could really show his father he had got somewhere his father was no longer there. Cobb all his life was to think of this terrible happening with deep bitterness, and I think he used it to back up his case that the world was a place you have to fight and defeat. 

Continued  >>   "Eli Siegel on Baseball -- & Ty Cobb"



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Copyright 2005 by Ernest DeFilippis