Ty Cobb's reputation as baseball's biggest scoundrel is secure, but portions of it are undergoing something of a revision, with new research either casting doubt on or completely disproving some (though certainly not all) of the more notorious anecdotes about him. And now there's this, according to today's Wall Street Journal:
In the spring of 1929, Ty Cobb posed in front of the ruins of the Roman Colosseum with his three youngest children—Herschel, Beverly and James—and a beefy, mustachioed Italian guide. With his left elbow, Cobb nudged the guide, smiling at him as if to say Get a load of this, before raising his right arm in what seemed a classic fascist salute. The children mimicked their father.
That moment is drawn from more than three hours of home movies found in a garage a few years back by Kevan Roskam, Cobb's great-grandson. The footage, which Roskam said was in "perfect" condition, has been converted to a digital format, and the documentary company Roskam has partnered with hopes to have a film featuring them completed by the end of the year. Other home-movie scenes include Cobb skinning a black bear on a hunting trip, Cobb yukking it up with Japanese players on a goodwill tour, Cobb visiting landmarks around France, and of course Cobb swinging through Italy during the early Mussolini years (long before the dictator went, you might say, spikes up into the great beyond). Roskam says of the salute:
"It seems as though there is a joke or something said in jest," said Roskam, 37, who himself works as a cinematographer. "Because it's a silent film, we'll never know."