Alvin John Stump
October 20, 1916
|Died||December 14, 1995 (aged 79)|
|Alma mater||University of Wisconsin|
|Occupation||Sports writer, author|
|Spouse(s)||Jo Mosher (m. ?–1995)|
Alvin John "Al" Stump (October 20, 1916 – December 14, 1995), was an American author and sports writer. Stump spent time with Detroit Tigers' Hall Of Fame baseball player Ty Cobb in 1960 and 1961 collaborating on Cobb's autobiography. My Life In Baseball: A True Record was released shortly after Cobb's death. From this research, Stump later went on to write at least two books and at least one magazine article on Cobb.
Cobb: The Life and Times of the Meanest Man Who Ever Played Baseball and Cobb: A Biography were follow-up pieces written over thirty years after Cobb died. Both books, represented by Stump as a reflection on his time with Cobb, have now been discredited as sensationalized and, in large part, fictional.
Early life and early career
Stump was born in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He began his sports writing career while attending the University of Wisconsin. Stump became a war correspondent during World War II, after which he wrote about sports for True and Esquire magazines and worked as reporter for the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner and The Los Angeles Times.
Work with Cobb
Stump spent approximately three weeks with Ty Cobb over eleven months researching the ball player's life. Cobb's autobiography that Stump co-authored, My Life in Baseball, came out a few months after Cobb's July 17, 1961, death and painted the former Tiger in a sympathetic light. Stump said afterward that he found Cobb rather difficult to work with most of the time. Long after the publication of Cobb's autobiography, he claimed that Cobb's editorial control over the autobiography resulted in the book not telling the truth about Cobb as Stump saw it. During a visit to the Cobb family mausoleum in December 1960, Stump alleged that Cobb told him about the murder of his father, and pointed the finger at his mother.
Thirty years later, however, Stump published a new book (Cobb: The Life and Times of the Meanest Man in Baseball), which offered a very negative portrait of Cobb. In 1994, this book was used as the basis for Cobb, a film starring Tommy Lee Jones as Cobb and Robert Wuhl as Stump. The film was a box office flop, earning a little more than a million dollars before being pulled from theaters. Stump's 1996 book on Cobb, Cobb: A Biography, was a reworked and expanded version of the 1994 book published after Stump's death.
Accusations of forgery and falsifications
In 2010, an article by William R. Cobb (no relation to Ty) in the peer-reviewed The National Pastime, the official publication of the Society for American Baseball Research, accused Al Stump of extensive forgeries of Cobb-related baseball and personal memorabilia, including personal documents and diaries. Stump even falsely claimed to possess a shotgun used by Cobb's mother to kill his father (in a well-known 1905 incident officially ascribed to Mrs Cobb having mistaken her husband for an intruder). The shotgun later came into the hands of noted memorabilia collector Barry Halper. Despite the shotgun's notoriety, official newspaper and court documents of the time clearly show Cobb's father had been killed by a pistol. The article, and later expanded book, further accused Stump of numerous false statements about Cobb, not only during and immediately after their 1961 collaboration but also in Stump's later years, most of which were sensationalistic in nature and intended to cast Cobb in an unflattering light. Cobb's peer-reviewed research indicates that all of Stump's works (print and memorabilia) surrounding Ty Cobb are at the very best called into question and at worst "should be dismiss(ed) out of hand as untrue".
On an episode of Freakonomics Radio in 2012, sportswriter Charlie Leerhsen, who was working on a new biography of Cobb, agreed that Stump inserted sensational misconduct into Cobb's life story to generate good copy. In a written response, Stump's son John argued that his father was accomplished and respected, and Cobb could be both offensive and admirable. He also couldn't see a motive or ability for Stump to commit the alleged forgeries.
When Leerhsen published his biography of Cobb in 2015, however, he concluded that Stump concocted stories about Cobb in order to boost sales. The autobiography of Cobb had failed to sell. Leehrsen concluded that Stump invented stories about Cobb for his subsequent articles and books in order to make money. Because Stump's forgeries had not yet become public his stories were accepted by a public enamored of the fictional Cobb created by Stump. Stump had in the past, however, been banned from publication in multiple newspapers and magazines for making things up.
Articles and books by Stump
- The Spies: Great True Stories of Espionage (Fawcett Publications, 1949) with Bard Lindeman, Gene Caesar, Andrew St. George, Geoffrey Bocca, and Norman Moss
- Champions Against Odds (Macrae Smith, 1952)
- My Life In Baseball: A True Record (New York: Doubleday, 1961) ghost-written with Ty Cobb
- "Ty Cobb's Wild 10-Month Fight To Live" (True-The Man's Magazine, December 1961)
- "He Parachutes With One Leg – A Marines Fight To Stay In The Corps" (Saga Magazine, Macfadden-Bartell Corp, NY, January 1, 1964)
- The Education Of A Golfer (Crest, 1964) with Sam Snead
- The Champion Breed: The True, Behind-the-Scene Struggles of Sport's Greatest Champions (Bantam, 1969)
- Cobb: The Life and Times of the Meanest Man Who Ever Played Baseball (Chapel Hill, NC: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 1994)
- Cobb: A Biography (Chapel Hill, N.C.: Algonquin, 1996)
- William R. Cobb (2010). "The Georgia Peach: Stumped by the Storyteller". In Ken Fenster and Wynn Montgomery. The National Pastime: Baseball in the Peach State (PDF). Cleveland, Ohio: Society for American Baseball Research. ISBN 9781933599168. Archived (PDF) from the original on 24 September 2010. Retrieved 2014-08-05.CS1 maint: Uses editors parameter (link)
- "Web article on the movie Cobb". Archived from the original on 16 November 2006. Retrieved 2006-10-25.
- Van Gelder, Lawrence (December 18, 1995). "Al Stump, 79, Sportswriter and Chronicler of Ty Cobb's Life, Dies". nytimes.com.
- Tyrus R Cobb with Al Stump (1961). My Life In Baseball: A True Record. New York: Doubleday.
- Cobb, William R. (2013). The Georgia Peach: Stumped by the Storyteller. William R. Cobb. p. 67. ISBN 1628408030.
- Stephen J. Dubner (July 19, 2012). "Legacy of a Jerk". Freakonomics Radio Podcast (Podcast). Retrieved 2014-08-05.
- Stephen J. Dubner (January 2, 2013). "More on Ty Cobb From His Biographer's Son". Freakonomics. Retrieved 2014-08-05.
- Leehrsen, Charles, Ty Cobb: A Terrible Beauty, Simon and Shuster, p. 393-399.
- Leehrsen, Charles. "Who Was Ty Cobb? The History We Know That's Wrong". Hillsdale College Imprimus. Retrieved 26 April 2016.