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Al Stump, Biographer for Baseball's Cobb, Dead at 79 : Journalism: The prolific Huntington Beach resident's second, frank work became the basis for the 1994 movie.


NEWPORT BEACH — Al Stump, a leading sportswriter and the author of an unflinching biography of baseball star Ty Cobb, has died, his family announced Saturday.

Stump, a Huntington Beach resident, died of congestive heart failure Thursday at Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian, his widow, Jo Mosher, said. He was 79.

During a long, prolific career, Stump interviewed and profiled subjects as disparate as Ernest Hemingway, Jim Thorpe, John Wayne and Bugsy Siegel. He covered the Charles Manson trial for the now-defunct Los Angeles Herald-Examiner and wrote for the U.S. Navy during World War II while aboard the aircraft carrier Hancock.

He wrote scores of features for publications ranging from TV Guide to Esquire, and seven books, including two about Cobb. And it was Cobb, one of the most acclaimed and most despised baseball players of all time, with whom Stump was most closely linked.

Stump, who was hired to ghost-write Cobb's autobiography, lived with the unpredictable, frequently abusive sports star for 14 months, a harrowing experience that later became the subject of Stump's second book about the baseball player, and formed the basis for the 1994 film "Cobb."

Several earlier chroniclers had been driven away by Cobb's rages and drunken excesses, but Stump endured them, more than once ducking whiskey bottles thrown by Cobb. The pair put together a sanitized version of Cobb's life that was published as "My Life in Baseball" after the ballplayer's death in 1961.

But the uncomfortable knowledge that the book was a whitewash--albeit at Cobb's command--gnawed at the journalist. A few months after Cobb died, Stump wrote a revealing, first-person account for True Magazine of the months he spent with the aging ballplayer, calling him "the meanest man who ever played baseball."

More than three decades later, the article became the first chapter of Stump's celebrated second book on the baseball player, "Cobb: A Biography." The work was named by the New York Times as one of the 10 most notable books of 1994.

In the film that followed, actor Tommy Lee Jones starred as Cobb and Robert Wuhl portrayed Stump, who served as a consultant and had a brief cameo.

Born Oct. 20, 1916, in Colorado Springs, Colo., Stump began writing about sports at the University of Washington, where he served as sports editor on the school newspaper.

After college, he worked for the Portland Oregonian, then began writing magazine articles, selling his first one to the Saturday Evening Post. After his stint in the Navy, he returned to sports reporting, writing articles for Sports Illustrated, Colliers and many others.

Stump is survived by his wife, a former writer for the Herald-Examiner, four children, two step-daughters and numerous grandchildren.

A boat parade will be held in his honor Jan. 21 at 1 p.m., starting at American Legion Post 291, 215 15th St., Newport Beach. His ashes will be scattered at sea with military honors, Mosher said. Ron Shelton, who directed the film "Cobb," is expected to give the eulogy.

In lieu of flowers, the family has asked that donations be made to the Al Stump Scholarship Fund, GDU Journalism Society, 3939 Glenridge Drive, Sherman Oaks.

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