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Viewpoint / Letters : The Article on Cobb Painted a Devastating Picture of Alcoholism

August 10, 1985

The article on Ty Cobb is a devastating picture of the disease of alcoholism strung out to its full conclusion. The alcoholic life has been described as "self-will run riot" and if there was ever any doubt about Ty Cobb's real problem it should have been put to rest by that article.

The paranoia, the grandiosity, the violent and unpredictable behavior, even the incredible, almost superhuman will to succeed that made him the great ballplayer that he was, all this is contained in the profile of the alcoholic.

Even now, with our awareness of the alcohol-drug abuse situation and all the recovery programs available, similar behavior in today's ballplayers gets much the same treatment: as long as the guy performs well, he's tolerated; if he's a superstar, he's coddled; if he starts to blow it, he's traded; if he blows it often enough, he's gone.

In one way it may be best for the individual if his disease disables him sooner than later because disable him it will. And then he can seriously seek his recovery rather than continuing to rely on others who tell him he's just a sensitive guy who needs a change of scenery, a la Steve Howe and Alan Wiggins. Or that he's a superstar whose eccentricities are just the wonderful-horrible stuff of which interesting biographies are made, a la Ty Cobb. But, by then, of course, it's too late; all that's left of the poor bastard is a story to entertain and horrify the rest of us.

NED WYNN

Los Angeles

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