Tommy Lee Jones gives one of his best performances in his portrayal of Ty Cobb. Jones immerses himself in the role of one of the greatest baseball players ever. He's angry, racist, disgusting, and ultimately a sad broken man. Robert Wuhl, as the sportswriter hired by Cobb to write his biography, is Cobb's foil throughout the film; injecting a little more hilarity in his guise as straight man Al Stump. Very similar to his role on the HBO series "Arliss".
Instead of telling a straight chronological biography, Cobb starts in 1961, the year of Cobb's death. Riddled with cancer, among other medical problems, and sensing the end is near, Cobb hires Al Stump to write his biography, or at least a sanitized version of it. Stump agrees - while secretly writing a second biography to be published after Cobb's death - traveling with Cobb to a Hall of Fame dinner in Cooperstown and then down to Cobb's hometown in Georgia. Along the way, Stump learns that all of the legends about Cobb's temper and vile behavior are true. Although we are given some of Cobb's past via flashbacks and the stories that he tells, we are shown surprisingly little baseball. There's really only one scene of it in the entire film where we see Cobb faceoff with a pitcher (played by real life pitcher Roger Clemens and then steal a couple of bases with his famous high-spiking slide. I found this lack of baseball to be unsatisfying.
While this movie does a great job of showing what type of man Cobb was and Tommy Lee Jones delivers a great performance as the baseball legend, overall the movie never lives up to either the character or the actor. It wants to make a statement about heroes and reality, but it never really gets there. Cobb, the movie, isn't great, but Cobb, the man, as acted by Jones, is fascinating
Only the long dead Cobb and Al Stump himself know how much of this is fact and how much is fiction, but one thing is for certain, it makes for a damn fine tale and goes some way to explaining one of the most hated, yet loved, figures in baseball history.