Al Stump decides to submit the authorized version of Ty Cobb's autobiography to the publisher.
Sportswriter Al Stump (Robert Wuhl) is called on to help write the autobiography of legendary baseball star Ty Cobb (Tommy Lee Jones). Cobb was a baseball star in the 1910's and 20's, who set multiple records and is generally regarded as the greatest player of all time. Cobb is also considered the most hated due to the abusive way he played the game. With his health failing, Cobb wants to set the record straight about his reputation before he dies. Most people consider Cobb an angry, racist, misogynistic, abusive drunk. After Stump begins to spend time around Cobb, he quickly realizes that those people are correct.
Cobb wants his book to be a baseball-only book, without any mention of his family or his off the field problems. Stump believes that nobody would be interested in that, and he wants to write the whole story about Cobb. Since the publisher gave Cobb the final say in what does and does not go into the book, Cobb won't allow it. Stump then decides to write two books. One will be the authorized autobiography that Cobb wants, while the other will be an unauthorized version that he will write after Cobb dies.
After spending several weeks together, Cobb is beginning to treat Stump like a friend, but Stump doesn't want to be Cobb's friend. The duo decide to attend the Baseball Hall of Fame ceremony in Cooperstown, New York, then travel to Cobb's native Georgia to see his estranged daughter. When all of Cobb's baseball friends shun him at the Hall of Fame, and his daughter refuses to see him, Stump sees that he is being treated as a friend by Cobb because he is, in fact, Cobb's only friend. Because of this, Stump starts to question which version of the autobiography he will submit to the publisher. Since he is not sure, he continues to write both versions.
One day, while Stump is sleeping, Cobb comes across the notes for the unauthorized version of the book. An enraged and drunken Cobb gets the loaded gun he always carries and goes to kill Stump, but then he starts to vomit up blood. Knowing that his time on Earth is near an end, Cobb decides to check into the hospital. After Stump wakes up, he finds a letter from Cobb telling him where he went, and also sees Cobb had found his notes. When Stump visits him in the hospital, Cobb tells him that if he chooses to write the unauthorized version of his story, don't leave anything out. Tell the world everything about Ty Cobb. Knowing that their time together is over, Stump returns home to finish both books. Shortly after finishing them, he learns of Cobb's death.
The movie ends with Stump talking with some of his sportswriter friends, who are constantly asking him questions about the real Ty Cobb. Stump thinks back to his time with Cobb, and it's then he decides to honor his memory by choosing to submit the authorized version of the autobiography.