He had none that involved his abusive father, nor any of his alcoholic adulterous mother. But fond memories of his “granddaddy” Ty Cobb — the greatest baseball player of his time, and perhaps the most violent and fiercest as well — Herschel had plenty. And they were good.
On Tuesday at the Little House Activity Center in Menlo Park, Herschel Cobb, 71, will share those summer stories along with a free book-signing of his memoir “Heart of a Tiger: Growing up with my Grandfather, Ty Cobb.”
The 2013 CASEY award-winning work illustrates Ty Cobb’s fun and loving relationship with his grandkids. It’s a side of Cobb — who had strained relationships with all of his own children — that many baseball enthusiasts never knew existed.
“Undoubtedly, Cobb had a fierce temperament, and sometimes it manifested itself off the base pads,” Herschel said, aware of the stories of fighting umpires and groundskeepers.
“Many people say, ‘I never even realized that your grandfather could’ve been like this.’” Hershel said. “It never occurred to me that he could’ve been otherwise. His kids grew up as the children of the greatest baseball player, ever, Ty Cobb. I don’t think he wanted to repeat that with his grandchildren.”
The Narrows, Ga.-native Ty played in the major leagues from 1905 to 1928 predominantly with the Detroit Tigers, and later retired in Atherton. Herschel was only 8 when his own father died. But that death allowed for relationship with his grandfather.
“My grandfather stepped in and made himself available,” Herschel said. “I was lucky.”
The book also allowed Hershel to heal.
“Some of the painful memories of my father really began to pass. There’s real forgiveness,” he said. “My father was terrorizing. When he died, in a way, I knew I would live.”